Friday, 1 January 2010

2009: A year in review - and our predictions for 2010

2009 was a challenging year for marketers. This time last year we were talking about the collapse of Woolworth's and still recovering from the shock of Lehman Bros; the banking crisis was in full swing and we were surrounded by fear and uncertainty.

Fortunately, we seem to have been spared the worst fears of the naysayers. Whether this is because of, or despite, government intervention divides opinion and we will all get our chance to record our point of view in 2010.

In a tough and uncertain climate, marketers were called on to perform in a way that we haven't been for some time. The pressure for short-term, measurable results financed with slender budgets overpowered any sense of long-term planning and brand building. We rushed head-long into social media, not I suspect, because we knew how it would work, but because it was trendy and cheap.

In the office, we had to improve relationships with sales and finance to ensure stakeholder buy-in and a seamless progression from concept through to delivery: it is bizarre to think it might ever have been any other way.

Unfortunately, little progress has been made with improving marketers' sense of self worth. The hand wringing continues, with many marketers bemoaning their lack of influence at senior levels within their organisations, yet seemingly unable to devise a strategy to put it right.

On a more positive note, the summer months saw The Marketing Eye engaged in the debate about marketing automation. Led by the US, this still has some way to go in the UK, but it is encouraging to see people trying to harness technology to support sound marketing principles.

Our involvement came about via this blog, which has proved popular in many countries and has a particularly strong following in the US. The appetite for new content in the US appears insatiable. Our post on the differences between B2B and B2C marketing still attracts more than 100 readers a month and a plethora of comments.

The year saw fewer than normal corporate re-brands, but the controversy they created was no less heated. AOL, Kraft and MSN where amongst those that offered us evolved identities. Starbucks sent bloggers into a spin with their experiment with un-branded coffee shops in Seattle.

The big story of 2009 was, however, the explosion of Twitter, which came of age with the revolution in Iran. Twitter is still growing and is now finding its natural level. We have still to see the first Twitter-born brand, but the growth in the personal brands of people like Stephen Fry and Ashton Kutcher suggests the potential is there. Compare the Market is the best example we have seen in the UK so far of Twitter being incorporated into a broader marketing strategy, building the personality of the brand via the incomparable meerkat, Aleksandr Orlov.

As a business, The Marketing Eye has come of age too. We have new people, new offices, and a recently appointed Chairman designate who will help steer the business towards its full potential. We are firmly set on a road to growth and the final few weeks of 2009 were spent immersed in strategy and operating models. Our goal is to grow the business four-fold by 2012, which we will achieve by hiring the best marketing people and staying true to our philosophy of 'every client is our only client'.

So what will 2010 hold for us? As a business, we will take on more staff, enter new markets and strengthen our internal processes so that we can continue to put customers first. For the world of marketing, our crystal ball reveals the following:
  • Twitter will continue to grow globally: its value for search and news will be realised. Marketers will still struggle to harness it for commercial purposes - but will keep on trying

  • The shift towards spending on digital marketing vs. off-line will increase, probably because it is cheaper, not because it is proven to be better

  • There will be some renewed growth in branding. Businesses that have neglected their brands over the past couple of years will now be finding that a revamp of the external and internal brand is overdue. At a visual level, an updated identity will signal renewed optimism as we claw our way out of recession. The business case will still have to be made and investment will be hard won

  • Marketing budgets will nudge gently upwards as we come out of recession or as businesses start to adjust to, and accept, the 'new normal'

  • A change in Government seems inevitable. As a marketer, I'm interested to see how the parties make use of new and old media to win our votes. As a businessman, I want to know which is the party for business.

What were your main marketing memories of 2009 and what do you predict for 2010? We'll be interested to hear your views. Whatever your role and wherever you are, may we take this opportunity to wish you a happy and healthy 2010.

Happy New Year!