Here's a funky New Year's resolution for you: I intend to make fewer decisions on my own, and instead outsource them to people I don’t even know.
I don't think I'll be alone in doing so.
2008 will likely see lots more online services that measure and rate a variety of products and services, for both consumer and business buyers. There'll be better ways to share and access this information, too, like more real-time services, and more distributed interfaces (mobile phones become mobile check-on-everything devices). Think restaurant reviews, only for everything. Or Twitter with a purpose.
Eventually, no decision will ever get made without the involvement -- feedback and context -- of prior decision-makers.
But even in the short-term, I predict consumers are going to actively search for, and use, content that is statistically relevant, and dependable, as a basis for choosing what they buy. I will get sold to a lot less in 2008, and focus that time on buying from trusted businesses instead.
Kinda puts the value of some inane viral video or heavily visited chat room into perspective, eh?
One of the challenges for marketers in 2008 will be to find ways to translate brands into the content relevant to prompting this consent.
It'll have a lot less to do with brand marketing, whether done digitally or not, as propaganda about branding will become less relevant to decision-making. This could represent a 180 for all of the marketing that is migrating online. Vague emotional attributes will become even less important (as if they ever were important to begin with, other than with the agencies that got paid to dream them up).
The most rich, engaging marketing for a hotel (or tech widget, or whatever) is irrelevant if the consent upon which I'm making my purchase decision is based on real corporate behaviors and consumer experiences. All the many millions spent on using digital media to tell me things about brands (that I don't really need) or targeting branding at me (that I didn't really want) will, perhaps, start changing (or yielding to) a different model.
So, while we'll hear lots more in the marketing and advertising trades about engagement with brands, I think the emerging trend will be toward enabling purchase decisions.
Just being online, talking, or sharing will start to suggest less value, while working with real communities -- however organized, around entertainment media, products, travel destinations, politics, religion, regions, whatever -- will get more important. There are many ways activities can contribute to developing and maintaining purchase consent, far beyond prompting the view or clicks that presently measure interactivity.
2008 may see the beginning of the next phase in this development.