I recently gave a presentation to an MBA class at the Simon School of the University of Rochester.  I told the students that this was the most exciting time in my lifetime as a marketer.  And I wasn’t just blowing hot air — I really believe it.  If you look at my top marketing trends for 2011, several have changed significantly and this is exactly why marketing is so much fun; there’s a lot happening and it’s keeping us on our toes.

So here’s what I see in store for 2012:

  1. Customer is Still King!The customer is still king. This one is left off many of the lists that I’ve seen, but, as good marketers, we should remember the customer is behind all of these trends.  We have to get rid of our “campaign mentality” and learn to think about engaging customers with meaningful dialogue and relevant, timely information.
  2. Big data is getting bigger. I said last year that the line between technology companies (a.k.a “Big Data”) and marketers is blurring.  We have all heard that the amount of digital data is doubling every two years.  What is important is looking at these customer interactions over time.  But it doesn’t have to be just big technology companies that can harness the data and use it for marketing.  New technologies and cloud computing have opened up all sorts of possibilities for smaller marketers as well.
  3. SoLoMo – a new and powerful combination. You might think I’m being overly inventive by getting social, local and mobile combined in one trend. Google’s Matt Cutts coined this term but it’s probably better explained by a recent example on Black Friday of this year.  The New York Times reported that advertisers lured customers away and stole competitor sales while they were waiting on line to make a purchase – an awesome combination of social, local and mobile all being used together.
  4. Cloud computing helps marketers too. I recently wrote a blog post describing this trend in more detail.  Cloud computing helps marketers by giving us more accessibility to new technologies, reducing costs of marketing infrastructure (like servers and storage), easier scalability and low barriers to entry, which enables a more uniform playing field.
  5. Show me the money. Dave Frankland from Forrester Research (www.forrester.com) recently called the tight budgets we’re seeing “post-recession austerity.”  I look for this trend to continue in 2012 as marketers face tight budgets and increased demand to show ROI.  That’s especially true with emerging media like social, which has matured and now needs to be evaluated for return on investment just like other channels.
  6. Email’s death is greatly exaggerated. Spam filters and the threat of an opt-out registry haven’t dampened the growth of email.  In a recent interactive marketing forecast, Forrester predicted that email spending will continue to grow by 10% during the next several years, but marketers will focus the campaigns more using analytics.  Our B2B clients echo this forecast as we continue to see more dollars earmarked for email and lead generating programs.
  7. The world has gone app crazy. The proliferation of smart phones and tablets has made us (and me) go app crazy.  And it’s not just applications like Facebook, Twitter and Angry Birds; people are using them for business applications.  For example, I used the app Evernote to store clipped data and emails in order to write this blog post.  George Colony, the CEO of Forrester, recently proclaimed that the internet was dead and that applications are taking over.
  8. Attribution is the holy grail of marketing. Last year I took a bit of a leap by including touchpoint attribution as one of my top trends.  When I explain to marketers that attributing success to the right channel or channels is key to effective use of marketing dollars (especially with more and more multichannel campaigns), their eyes light up and the quest for more information on attribution begins.  In a recent study by Unica, marketers said their top two priorities are “turning data into actions” and “attributing success to marketing.”
  9. Content marketing takes off. We’ve known than relevant content has always been important to drive web traffic, but blogs, case studies and white papers are now being considered an important part of the marketing mix.  As social media matures, marketers will need to provide visitors to Facebook or Twitter with meaningful content to get fans to return.
  10. Right touching – right time multichannel marketing. This is a bit complicated to explain in a cursory fashion, but conversations and customer interactions that are taking place in social media are being harvested by social listening platforms.  These dialogues are being turned into campaigns that drive the right offer to the right buyer at the right time.  Sounds simple, huh?

So there you have it: my take on 2012.  While these trends may or may not be around next year, I can assure you that the changes we’ll see in 2012 will make our lives as marketers very exciting.


Research for this article was gathered from Abnormal Marketing, Seattle pi, Business 2 Community and CMO.com.