by: Idris Mootee

The proliferation of brands and channels and fragmented media is forcing companies to rethink their marketing strategies. Proliferation is happening all around us everyday and I am watching the growing fragmentation of customer micro-segments. Social media has allowed the mushrooming of micro-communities everywhere. Intensifying competition and corporate desperation for growth together with the supply and demand chain innovations have encouraged today's companies to target ever more demanding customers within ever smaller segments.

The product, pricing and service options available to customers of consumer industries have grown significantly, from packaged goods to financial services, with the exception of a few (home furnishings is one of the few exceptions). All of these factors have dramatically driven up the complexity and cost of marketing while boards and CEOs are pushing their CMOs to improve the return on marketing expenditures. No wonder many CMOs I talked to said that a major restructuring of marketing models is imminent.

In this crazy business environment, marketing is ready to be reinvented. No one is sure to who is taking the lead to drive this change. Collectively ad agencies, media owners and clients have no clues about what's next (Media players are the worst). The revolutionary and disruptive impact of emerging technologies is creating new behaviors that drive marketers crazy. From TV prime time to YouTube and from advertising to advocates. Where is marketing going next?

The internet, cognitronics (building an interface between the brain and the computer) genotyping  (classifying population segments based on genetics) and biointeractive materials (high technology sensors for living systems) are just some of the developments, which will be next to create a profound impact on marketing. They demand our long-held assumptions be challenged and re-examined as the quiet revolution turning into a tsunami.

The sad thing is that many marketers and their ad agencies still consider their discipline as just a series of tools, processes and techniques and the output is some striking visuals and a set of messages. They are so behind-the-curve. They need to know that we now live in a Google-Youtube-iPod-iPhone-MySpace-eBay-Flickers-Twitter-Walmart world.

Here's what I think will be the key trends that further pushes marketing to the edge (not in any particular order):

Virtual Corporate Personality - For years, large corporations have been trying to act as big corporations and becoming more and more "faceless". The need for organization to have a "humanized" face (or interface) and touch is becoming important. This is not just about executives' blogging, it is about putting a face and brings this face into the virtual world. I have been thinking a lot of about this and I have some interesting ideas.

Private Search Network - The personal media revolution results in exponential increase in the amount of consumer generated content. This leads users to search beyond the algorithm for new ways of searching what they need beyond just text and images. A method for this is collaborated social search, where people are sorting content on the web, creating their own groupings and sharing that with others. As a result of that you get Private Search Network which you need to be a member or be invited to get access. Marketers may have to pay to get access to these groups.

Widget Everywhere Marketing - Widgets will becoming a new marketing tool as it is an effective way to add value and be able to link it to some marketing messages or simply create a service. As more and more new technologies will allow open participation for anyone who wants to create a widget. (Facebook is taking that approach and many will do the same)

Automated Tagging - One day almost everything will be tagged and tagging will become more sophisticated. It will extend into products and services and even customer testimonials. Or even product origins or usage etc. The task of tagging will be automated and that will create a new level of challenge and opportunities for any search engine. I have seen a few interesting business plans from VCs of this idea last few weeks.

Social Media Optimization - SMO is slowly evolving into a movement in the online world. Primarily being driven initially by those search marketing folks, I think SMO will continue to get broader use from marketers interested in building traffic as well as buzz. Optimization and follow by measurement will be next.

I might add a few more next week.


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