Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saving is cool again. Is that bad news for marketers?

If you’re smart, agile, integrated and niche-focused, we like your chances. Thought leader predictions for 2010.

No doubt about it. Americans are starting to save more. In October, they saved a whopping 4.4 percent of their disposable income, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. To put that into perspective, that’s almost double the average annual savings rate of 2.7 percent for the past 10 years. The rate dipped to near zero at several points in recent years, according to a story last week in the Wall Street Journal and many economists expect the savings rate to increase further from here.
Whether you call it pragmatism, fear, or the reverse consumer confidence index, U.S. consumers and businesses are hording more of their cash than they have in a long time and that has profound implications for marketers.

Experts say the economy is on the mend from the worst recession in half a century. But many say businesses of all kinds are skeptical that American consumers will return to their spendthrift ways anytime soon. They see consumers emerging from the brutal economic climate with a new mind-set: careful, practical, more socially conscious and less prone to ostentatiousness.

“Much as the 1930s shaped the spending habits of an entire generation, many companies now anticipate a shift in consumer behavior that persists even after jobs and growth get back closer to normal,” the Journal said. John Quelch, a Harvard marketing professor, thinks Americans will discover more cost-effective ways to live, and those coping mechanisms become engrained.

We don’t agree.

While consumers and business purchasing managers are scrutinizing every expense they possibly can, we think the “new normal” will return to the “historical normal.” That means American consumers – the world’s savviest shoppers and best-trained bargain hunters – will unleash a torrent of pent up demand as they start to see fewer foreclosure signs in their neighborhoods, more folks back to work and their 401k’s start to show signs of sanity. And that will trickle down to business in every sector.

Why smart marketers will win

This is where smart marketing comes in, especially if you have a medium to long-range sales cycle. You can forget about sitting back and taking orders when the “all clear” signal emerges from the U.S. economy. By then it will be too late. Competitors who get the business are the ones who have been steadfastly marketing and adapting throughout the downturn, keeping both the brand awareness and demand generation spigots reasonably on stay top of mind with their customers and prospects.

Marketing predictions for 2010

We’ll share ours with you next week. In the mean time, George Simpson of Online Media Daily had these pearls from his panel of experts. Click for full article

• “2010 will be the year of data-driven TV -- which will come of age in 2010 -- will only extend that dominance."
• “Brand dollars will accelerate their shift to online, driven by the scale of professional online video content and the rise of technologies that enable real-time demographic targeting."
• “Agencies will become more active and skilled in acquiring audiences through data partners -- separate from their purchase of media."
• "In 2010, advertisers will figure out that they can significantly boost campaigns by augmenting with innovative mobile phone and social networking solutions that more fully engage consumers."
• "The shift of ad dollars from standard display ads to social marketing programs that deliver engagement will be most notable as marketers shift focus from clicks to engagement and from CPM and CPC to cost per engagement metrics."
• "The marketplace will realize that the market for conversions relies on retargeting, which everyone does, leaving lots of people scratching their heads with 'OK, now what do we do to move real dollars online from brand marketers?'"
• "The subscription model for content will re-emerge as a viable business, because content publishers are having trouble standing on paid ads alone."
• "It will be the year of the niche. Mass is dead. A focus on being nimble and resourceful are the keys to winning in 2010."

Stay true to your brand and stay smart, focused, agile, integrated and niche-focused. More easily said than done in 2010. But if your continued to market throught the downturn and who got your new media experimentation out of the way when your rivals went into budgetary hibernation mode are going to win. And your're going to win big.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Study: Ad Spending Plans Returning to Pre-Recession Levels

But, consumers tightfisted as Cyber Monday fails to rescue a bleak Black Friday. Is a prolonged ‘saving spree’ on the horizon? Google CEO defends practices vs. newspaper industry and online video surges.

Ad executives are more optimistic about their budgets than at any time in the past two years according to new research from Advertiser Perceptions Inc., a media industry research firm that tracks the long-term confidence of advertisers and agency media-buying executives. The Ad Perceptions index currently stands at a positive four percentage points, its highest level since the autumn of 2007, when the index stood at positive eight percentage points.

The most recent survey, fielded in November, shows that ad spending sentiment is now improving for every medium tracked, even for some traditional media such as newspapers, magazines and broadcast, which continue to have an overall negative index. The outlook for most electronic media, especially online and mobile media, is well in the positive range and also continues to improve.

The positive index for all digital media - both online and mobile - went from 40 percentage points in the spring 2009 survey to 55 percentage points in the just-completed fall survey. The positive index for cable TV jumped to 11 percentage points from one percentage point last spring. Traditional media are still in negative territory, but improving, researchers said. For example, broadcast television stood at minus eight percent; magazines at minus 19 percent and local newspapers at minus 35 percent. Bleak readings, bit significantly on the mend from the last time they had their temperatures checked.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece earlier this week, Google CEO said the Internet wasn’t destroying the news industry as much as forcing adoption of a more efficient business model. Borrowing from Rupert Murdoch, Schmidt wrote: “It's understandable to look to find someone else to blame. But it is complacency caused by past monopolies, not technology, that has been the real threat to the news industry.“

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday consumers cautious this Holiday season

Online shopping sites reported a surge in sales and traffic on CyberMonday (the first Monday after Thanksgiving), surpassing the tepid results achieved by bricks-and-mortar retailers so far this Holiday season. Online shoppers spent 11 percent more than they did a year ago, according to CoreMetrics a Web analytics company that tracks online shopping behavior in the U.S. But the average size of each purchase was down 14 percent from last year. Researchers say this indicates that Web merchants are facing the same bargain-hunting/comparison shopping consumer mindset that traditional retailers have faced so far.

Despite today’s drop in the official national unemployment rate, which was the first improvement in the jobless rate in 24 months, “the U.S. consumer is still too depressed to buy us a quick end to the recession,” laments Forbes columnist A. Gary Shilling in this week’s issue. “Consumers have no choice but to begin a decade-long saving spree as depressed home prices and high unemployment rates are temporing their willingness to take on debt of any kind – if they can even get it -- from personal credit cards to home equity lines.

Is the job market really coming back? Click here for a fairly well balanced range of opinions from Wall Street Journal online discussion

Online shopping may account for 10 percent of Holiday shopping this year, up from five percent to seven percent in previous years according to Forrester Research, which indicated the shift to online shopping, fueled by deal seekers in a recession, may come at the expense of traditional stores later in the Holiday season. It’s also important to note that a heavy shopper turnout at this time of year does not necessarily translate into heavy sales. Last year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday traffic hit record levels but the 2008 Holiday retail season was one of the worst in decades according to a New York Times report earlier this week.

If you sensed it was even more crowded than normal at your local mall over Thanksgiving weekend, you’re not alone. According to the National Retail Foundation (NRF), some 195 million consumers visited U.S. stores and Web sites last weekend, up from 172 million the previous year, but the average spend dropped to $347 from $372 the NRF said as “shoppers can continue to expect retailers to focus on low prices and bargains throughout December.

Media royalty was fed by advertising until Google blew that game apart

In case you missed it, David Carr’s thought-provoking piece “The Fall and Rise of Media” in MOnday's New York Times is worth a quick read. Instead of just another piece bashing traditional media, Carr neatly dissects traditional media’s appeal for ambitious young people, its surprising ability to extend its lifecycle beyond its logical expiration date, and how it is currently dealing with its long overdue day of reckoning. Rather than blaming Google, Facebook and Craig’s list for finally fixing an unaccountable advertising economy that “was built on inefficiency and excess, Carr points to a new future “which is not a bad deal if your ignore all the collateral gore.” Ambitious young people will still flock to Manhattan to remake world, Carr quips -- “they just won’t be stopping by the human resource department of Conde Nast to begin their ascent.” For every kid he sees wandering the entrance of the media world looking for an entrance that has long since closed, he sees another kid “who is a bundle of ideas, energy and technological mastery, who is not just knocking on doors but seeking to knock them down.”

Viewing of Online Video Streams Up 26 percent in October

The Nielsen Company today reported overall online video usage and top online brands ranked by video streams for October 2009. Year-over-year, unique viewers, total streams, streams per viewer and time per viewer were up, led by a 26 percent growth in total streams.

October 2009 vs October 2008

Unique Viewers**********138.6M (+14.8%)
Total Streams**************11.2B (+26.2%)
Streams per Viewer********81.0 (+ 9.9%)
Time per Viewer (min) 212.5 (+ 23.8%)
Source: The Nielsen Company

In a related note, Nielsen announced Tuesday that it would start counting online television viewership in its overall rating measurement for which an estimated $70 billion in ad spending is predicated. More next week.

From where we sit, it looks like the 2010 media buying climate will be in lockstop with the 2009 Holiday shopping season – a great deal of bargain hunting and comparison shopping with few long-term commitments and a lot of second-guessing. Measurable value will trump fancy packaging and there will be buyers’ remorse aplenty.