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6 Marketing Trends You Can No Longer Ignore

Just this past month-ish alone, the next big things in marketing have descended on Kansas City.

The Kansas City Direct Marketing Association (KCDMA) hosted its annual symposium in late January, bringing in a full slate of national campaigns and data-driven insights from the likes of JibJab Media, CXPA, The Integer Group, the University of Houston, Barkley, Consumer Orbit, Pinsight Media+ and Dairy Queen. 

And then, just a week later, the Resilient Summit staged another marketing smorgasbord from the experts on sharing and the collaborative economy, headlined by Jeremiah Owyang of Crowd Companies and reinforced with insights and research from Edelman Digital, TechShop, the city of Nashville, Peers, and our own and Sprint Accelerator.

So, enough of the name dropping. What do established and growing business have to learn from these buffets of branding and marketing treats? I will hold back no more.

Here are a few key takeaways on personalization, data-driven marketing, millennial marketing and the sharing economy shared by these smart folks—and links to where you can dig in for more.

Make It Really Personal.

Alessandra Souers with JibJab Media

JibJab takes personalization beyond the Dear Insert Name Here. Souers shared how JibJab uses variable data to shape its StarringYou eCards, with results that increased JibJab’s click rates. Its email process utilizes PIE, Personalized Image Engine, software that allows the recipients’ emails to include faces from their own JibJab accounts.

Her advice: Think about how you can immerse your users and customers into your product, how you can make it an experience that’s relevant to where they are and what they need. From real-time countdowns to weather-savvy promotions, take the time to know your customer and then include him or her—literally, figuratively, visually, geographically—in  your marketing campaigns.

Act on Data.

Roberta O’Keith with Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) and GE Power & Water - Air Filtration

“We think we know what customers want,” O’Keith opened. “So we market to them without understanding what they need.”

Using a marketing study conducted by GE Air Filtration as her diving board, O’Keith dove deep into the importance of data as a strategic tool, guide and even necessity for marketing. GE used segmentation and targeting to build profiles of their customers and understand who would be profitable and how tailored messages could resonate with their needs. The objective: understand customers key needs and what drives them to purchase products.

Mix Beer and Oranges.

Rocky Longworth with the Integer Group
@pantryninja  @integergroup

So Longworth’s stomping ground is the grocery store. As vice president of insight and strategy at the Integer Group, a global promotional, retail and shopper marketing agency, he, well, does that: works with grocery stores to promote the products his company represents.

So for the sake of argument, let’s assume your company doesn’t do that. What can the Pantry Ninja teach you?

First, shoppers and consumers are the same person, but their motivations and behaviors differ.  People who are shopping for your brand, whether it’s on shelf or in a search engine, are ready to seal the deal. Even in a “noisy” environment. They are keyed to purchase. But consumers are looking to be seduced. Shoppers are pragmatic. They are out of “toothpaste.” Consumers are emotional. They wonder how good their teeth (re: they) will look if they choose your brand.

His advice: understand each personality’s path to purchase—and understand the context in which they purchase it. For Longworth, that means understanding the cycles of the grocery store and building the sales cycle from that. Where do you customers make their purchasing decisions? How do they make them? (Think of the affinity of Blue Moon beer and oranges, for example.) How can you use that context to guide their choices?

Place your product in the purchasing environment and use that setting to determine what barriers you can remove.

Market to a Millennial.

Jeff Fromm with Barkley
@jefffromm @barkleyus

So, how about we stop thinking of millennials as a homogenized group that responds to the same market triggers? Can we do that now? Pretty please?

That’s Fromm’s argument (perhaps without the begging) for approaching the post-Star Wars generation. They’ve aged up into a respectable demographic diversification.  With some 80 million residents in the term, millennials have matured into folks of different interests, lifestyles and education.

The things that bind: born of the sharing generation, they are co-creators of your brand. Own that or get left behind. And they gravitate toward brands that are something plus. (See Warby Parker, Chipotle and Toms.) For them—and full disclosure, this is my favorite quote for 2014—it’s about storydoing, not storytelling.


Jennifer Cohan and David Armano with Edelman Digital
@jencohan  @armano @edelmandigital

Social media already dropped spoilers for this plot twist: the relationship between customers and companies is changing. The socially empowered consumer is putting pressure on brands to be transparent and engage in a two-way conversation. And at the center of that demand: “sharing.”

Edelman Digital conducted a consumer marketing study to discover what exactly consumers mean by “sharing”—do they really want brands to share, what do they want them to share, what brands would need to do to meet that demand and what value there is for business to actually do it.

Edelman Digital identified 16 sharing behaviors for brands across 6 dimensions, talked to 11, 000 folks in 8 countries about 212 brands across 12 industry sectors and discovered that:

  • 90% of people want brands to share
  • 10% thinks brands are doing it well right now
  • People reward brands that share—by trying, buying, and recommending their products.


That's a pretty gaping gap of opportunity between what’s important to people and what brands are delivering.

How can brands share? There’s a hierarchy. Sharing dialog—listening, asking questions, inviting consumers to share stories and experiences—that’s easy entry. Consumers put more stock in companies that share their values—think charitable giving and transparency in manufacturing--and share their products—circle back up to personalization and collaboration.

Shake It Up.

Jeremiah Owyang with Crowd Companies
@jowyang  @crowdcompanies

The recommended shaking is for your business model, to help it get ready for the collaborative economy.

But first, back up. What is a collaborative economy? It’s a new economic model that promotes shared ownership and access among people, startups, corporations, and governments. Think bartering on steroids.

The big question for companies is this: what role do they play when people get what they need from each other?

Owyang created his new company to help others brands and companies figure this out. And some companies already have:

  • Uber and Lyft help passengers connect with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services
  • SurfAir is about sharing the cost of jet, shared flights
  • AirBNB enables the crowd to be a hotel
  • Lending Club enables the crowd to be a bank
  • Yerdle helps folks trade products, building up credit, everything is free
  • LiquidSpace helps you find meeting rooms, office rentals & co-working spaces booked by the hour or for the day.

It’s a big change, made possible by access to technology, cheaper resources, the need for economic survival—and Owyang (and others) predict it will have an economic impact on companies. In fact, VCs already have sunk more than $2 billion in these collaborative companies.

How do you prepare your company? Cue the business model shake and the collaborative economic value chain. Owyang’s recommendation: let go of your business model to gain the market.

  1. If you sell products, think how you can transform them into services.
    Examples: Netflix, SalesForce/Adobe (subscriptions over software), Toyota/BMW (“Instead of selling 1,000 BMWs, we want to sell one BMW 1,000 times.”), Dollar Shave Club.
  2. If you sell services, transform them into marketplaces.
    Examples: Toms (see link above), Patagonia’s Common Threads Partnership  with eBay, DesksNear.Me
  3. If you have marketplace, create a platform.
    Examples: co-funding ideas with KickStarter, co-designing products with Nike, co-developing inventions with Quirkly and Home Depot, co-customizing with Etsy, co-production with 3D printers, co-storage of products with Lockitron, co-deliver with Deliv, co-manufacturer with Christiana Bike

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