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.

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