How Brands Will Connect With Consumers In 2010

Take a look into our crystal ball for the New Year.

2009 has been a year for upheaval in the advertising world.  As we head into the second decade of the second millennium, products, services, and their agencies have more resources at their disposal to help optimize their ad spend, and generate ripples that both leverage and often create culture.  At the same time, they are contending with changing demographics, cultural perceptions and the ongoing maturation of digital media.   There will be many indicators (the Census being the most obvious) that will help lay out the road ahead, but here are some themes that we see as being key in the new year. Cheers!

Content and Storytelling Will Remain Relevant…

But experiences and context will dominate. Sure, I can tell you a story, but  it will  resonate far better if I allow you to experience/interact/empower that story. In a time where consumers are drowning in information and messages, the value of any particular message has decreased, experiences have become the holy grail of the quest towards brand advocacy.

Mobile Poised To Dominate (And Mature)

The implications for the proverbial “third screen” sure look good. With recent reports indicating that in as fast as 5 years, twice as many users will access the Web on their mobile vs. their desktop.  Once this happens, the world of mobile will hit critical mass as a true, measurable playground for brands. Though still experiencing growing pains, expect less fad, and more functional applications as brands optimize the platform and all it’s associated technologies in 2010. Here are a few quick themes to expect:

  • “Augmented reality, applications and rich-media ads will likely be areas of focus in the new year.” (Mobile Marketer Daily)
  • The U.S. mobile web (WAP) will reach 100MM unique users/month (Millenial Media)
  • Geofencing to heavily influence experiential marketing (Millenial Media)

Popular Culture Is Still Important

But pop culture is relative. In a recent post, our leading strategist Brian Chiger offered up the following point:

Certainly, great advertising should become part of culture, but amidst conversations of sustainable brands, increased consumer targeting, fragmenting media, and interest-driven attention, is pop culture immortalization really the ultimate metric of success?

In short, brands shouldn’t chase their tail by overzealously trying to achieve  mass (doglike) credibility through advertising, but rather use their resources to target more niche pockets of consumers where advocacy can be achieved much more rapidly and genuinely. This approach allows brands to grow organically and authentically.  As these smaller segments grow in size and their ideas begin to generate awareness influence, they will take the brand with them allowing it to become an integral part of a “new mainstream.”

The Road To A New General Market

Ethnic is going mainstream. The insights extracted from urban-minded consumers that are “part of mainstream culture, but also separate from it” are becoming increasingly valuable, as the meaning of  what “mainstream” and “general market” refer to is reevaluated.

This reevaluation raises questions about how we handle cultural marketing and consumer research: what will the role of “multi-culti-comm“ be once multi-cultural consumers are considered part of the mainstream? Are the insights we gather better harvested through demographic or psychographic understanding of the consumer? Do we look to lifestyles or thoughtstyles for the most accurate profile of our consumer…or a combination of them both? The results of the census will (hopefully) make this less cloudy, but expect brands to make further strides in their positioning and marcom strategies to account for the ongoing shift.


This year we learned that even the great Google  is too slow. The addition of “real time search” by Google, Yahoo!, and Bing implies that certain bits information (breaking news, event reporting, etc.) is increasingly time-sensitive.  But real-time isn’t just for search.  We now demand real-time information in our day-to-day interactions as well.  Mobile applications have been developed to serve all kinds of data (and win any kind of pub argument).  The just-in-time-for-Christmas announcement of Google Goggles is more than another application of AR- it’s advancing the notion of search by leaps and bounds. The importance is more than just the advent of the utility, it’s the discovery and interactions that occur as a result of consumers’ newfound wealth of knowledge.

Nice To See You, Confidence!

Have you lost some weight? With consumer confidence apparently on the rebound, the machine that is the US economy should begin flourishing again….right? Yes…..and no. The spending habits that many have incurred during the recession might have some permanence. The results of a recent Advertising Age poll show that 63% of respondents feel the recession will have a lasting effect on spending, and for good reason. Our society is embracing frugality and sustainability like never before, and living within ones means is the general consensus- brand need to take this behavioral shift into consideration and know that certain luxuries will have to play second fiddle to more attainable goods.

Obviously, the above only represent a handful of the themes and stories that will be purveyed throughout the marketing ecosystem in 2010, but there are a few takeaways that shine through; the pervasive presence that digital has within the lifestyle of the consumer (including the volatility with their decision-making processes, media consumption habits, and approaches to product-discovery) will only enhance throughout the next 12 months. You don’t need to read the trades, or refer to ad spending forecasts to realize this, simply look at the people on your left and right chances are, one of them is interacting with a brand via smartphone right now.