Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Key to the Future? Managing the Unknowable

Turkey day food for thought. Microsoft search deal with Newscorp could backfire. TV still relevant. 2010 marketing budgets show signs of life.

It’s no secret the Web’s explosive growth has been driven by the principle of the open playing field. Using collaboration and open source tools, the small guys can take on the behomoths by using their smarts, speed and savvy. But Microsoft, arguable lacking several of the aforementioned S’s, wants to use its muscle to tilt the playing field in its favor if a proposed deal with News Corporation comes to pass.

In case you missed it, Microsoft is in discussions with News Corp to remove links to its news content from Google’s search engine and display links exclusively on Microsoft’s ambitious new Bing search engine. Web pundits think this kind of a deal could induce major media and tech companies to start choosing one over the other which is about as good for consumers as the cable tv model is. Even worse, this scenario creates a whole new set of hoops for Web users to navigate.

According to Comscore, Bing has gained about 10 percent of the search market in its first year – an impressive showing, but still miles behind Google which handles about two thirds (65%) of the total U.S. search queries performed. Yahoo, ranked second (`19%), has lost about 10 percent of its market share since Bing entered the scene.

While we salute Microsoft’s aggressiveness and its aspirations to break up the Google-opoly on the Web, we side with the experts who say the Internet historically favors players who share tools and information, rather than building barriers to it. If there’s any positive outcome to the latest Miscrosoft initiative it will be that all the major search players will have to continue to improve their offerings in order to hold on to their market share.

Marketing budgets claw back to life

Despite the budgetary carnage inflicted upon marketers in 2009, nearly 40 percent of the 376 marketers surveyed by BtoB magazine plan to increase spending next year. Almost half plan to keep budgets steady and only one in eight (13%) plan to cut them next year. Of course, what marketers report in surveys differs greatly from how they actually open their wallets it’s an optimistic sign nonetheless. It’s no surprise that online marketing will continue to siphon off dollars from traditional media with e-mail marketing, search, social media, video and Webcasts garnering the largest increases. Researchers say customer acquisition (and marketing on the cheap) will continue to be dominant drivers of the B2B marketing landscape as measuring ROI will get a lot more attention than branding for at least another year. We’re betting that when the economy finally rebounds in late 2010 or early 2011, marketers will continue to give online the seat it deserves at the table – because they see its wholistic merits, not because it’s cheap.
Click here for more stats and analysis from BtoB.

Thriving in era of uncertainty

If you get a chance over this long Holiday weekend, check out Howard Sherman’s piece in BtoB: “When Uncertainty Is Normal”. Howard’s take is that business has never been more complicated, demanding or high stakes. To succeed in marketing and in business operations, companies will need skills their top dogs aren’t always comfortable with: “collaborative thinking by smart people.”

You need to help clients/customers accept ambiguity. You need to adhere to a nimble framework. You need to restore internal relationships, especially if your organization has dramatically downsized or restructured and rebuild trust with all of your stakeholders including customers, investors and prospects. Right on, Howard.

Research confirms: TV still draws audience

A new survey by Nielsen Company says that despite the Internet, iPhones, twitter and facebook, we’re actually watching more television not less – an average of 4 hrs and 49 minute/day for average American, up 20% from a decade ago (4:06). Nielsen says U.S. TV viewers broke another record -- increasing their consumption last year. The media research company said U.S. viewers watched 4 hours and 49 minutes of TV per day for the 2008-2009 season -- when looking at live viewing plus seven days of DVR playback.

That's up four minutes -- or 1.4 percent -- from the previous season. Why the rise? Nielsen says the gain came from more television sets in homes and more channels available for U.S. viewers. In addition, DVRs have increased the overall TV usage total: live and playback. It also appears that viewership improvements came in non-prime-time dayparts.

So if you're still agonizing about how to budget for 2010, just expect the unexpected and Strategically Stumble(tm) through it faster than your rivals.

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