Thursday, December 8, 2011

Digital Marketing in 2012: Year of Application

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With less than a month to the new year, how will digital marketing shape up in 2012? What challenges and expectations do advertisers and agency professionals need to look out for next year?

To put it simply, 2012 will be the year of application. With all the changes in 2011, applying all you learned would be the key theme for 2012. Here are four areas to consider:

1. Mobile. 2011 may be the start of the mobile marketing era. However, advertisers and agency executives are still working to integrate mobile more effectively with an overall marketing plan. From better online and offline integration to measuring mobile ROI, there’s huge room for improvement in these areas.

Mobile marketing is no longer one of many marketing channels to choose from. With consumers spending much more time on mobile devices, it will become indispensable in all marketing campaigns for 2012. The key challenge for advertisers and marketers is how to leverage the “persona,l” “portable,” and “interactive” elements of mobile and integrate them to your overall marketing activities. Just like how online marketing used to be considered an option in the marketing plan, consumers’ media habits will dictate the direction and mode of marketing. Therefore, marketers need to consider the role mobile will play in consumers’ lives and find an effective way to integrate it into the marketing mix. In 2012, I look forward to seeing more and better case studies of integrated mobile marketing campaigns!

2. Deeper ROI. This year, advertisers have started to ask for more measurement metrics, mostly based on price, “cost per click,” and “conversion rate.” With heavier investment in digital marketing, advertisers will naturally require even more direct and efficient return on the business. “How much money can my investment bring?” In Western markets, they have worked out a system to count the return, and some media agencies in China have also highlighted its importance. Take the bank business for example, apart from promotions, digital marketing can help an enterprise in its day-to-day marketing and customer service. Would it also be possible for the bank to leverage digital marketing to provide more services to clients to enhance their loyalty and preference? Could this be done using a software or app to integrate all services with payment notice? Such functions could not only reach the clients, but also help with the bank’s core business, such as reducing dead debts. An open platform that enables clients to manage all bank accounts (at least with a reminder function) may be surprisingly welcome. Isn’t it the best return?

3. Research. Although digital marketing ad spend increases year by year, advertisers do not pay enough attention to marketing research. In the past, when we have a $2 million budget in digital, it does not seem cost-efficient to spend $0.5 million (25 percent) on research. But now, with digital investment usually exceeding tens of millions a year, spending $2 million on research would only occupy 4 percent in the $50 million investments – bringing deeper understanding on the future trends and consumer insights. Wouldn’t it be better to work out more effective investment decisions based on reliable research results? Digital marketing still lacks an industry-acknowledged standard like TV audience ratings. Advertiser-initiated research would help to collect data and figure out a way for their own digital marketing metrics.

4. Integrated marketing. This topic is not new and has been discussed again and again. Constrained by execution, current cross-media integrated marketing is more like a combination of all media, which is actually not integration – but the first step to it. We can see an OOH ad is used to promote the company’s microblog or mobile app, and TV commercials will include a link to search or an official website. All these attempts only combine the various media channels. But once we understand the concept of how to combine various media, then we can start thinking about how to leverage each of these channels to integrate them into the entire marketing plan. For example, when planning for digital marketing on outdoor ads on bus shelters (or subway stations), we should include consumers’ waiting time into the plan and choose the best way to present the OOH ad. With the iPad becoming more popular, what format and how should we engage consumers on this platform? All these emerging trends require more comprehensive research, bold ideas, and more effective executions. What I may predict is: once realized, cross-media integrated marketing will not let advertisers down. In the coming year, I believe more advertisers will pay attention to these emerging platforms and step into the blue ocean of digital marketing!

From a strategic viewpoint, social media, mobile, video, and search will continue to be the four key trends in 2012. However, with the increasing number of new technologies and formats popping out, the challenge for all advertisers and agency professionals is how to apply them effectively in your marketing plan. Whoever can think of a way to overcome this challenge will herald a new wave of digital marketing. Infinite possibilities await. Let’s strive together!


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