Thursday, December 14, 2006

Digital trends for 2007

Every columnist gets sucked into making predictions.  When you get it right, you remind people; when you get it wrong, you keep quiet - after all, nobody else is likely to notice.  Here were mine for 2007, and four years later, I'm pretty happy with them...

As we career headlong into 2007, pausing only to put on a little weight over Christmas, it’s difficult to find the time to step back from the day to day pressures of work to look forward a little.   Beyond this week’s sales figures, next week’s reports – an idea of what the big themes are going to be.

Well fret no longer, here are three top digital trends for the marketing world in 2007 – three areas I expect to see grow in significance next year, for you to cut out, keep, and perhaps use in emergencies as wrapping paper.

Consumer-generated advertising
Apple might have sued their evangelists, but most marketers view CGA as a real opportunity.  From ads which allow users to personalise the content before sending it to their friends (see the emailable trailer on, to encouraging users to create ads from scratch (see, where companies place advertising briefs for consumers to fulfil), what’s becoming apparent is that this is a new world.  Of course some will see its significance as the chance to save on production budgets – but there’s a bigger game being played here. 

Becoming part of the conversation between consumers is an infinitely more powerful place to be than handing down the tablets traditional advertising-style.  This is about encouraging and facilitating consumers to become a part of the process rather than simply being dumb recipients of the message from on high – and that’s potentially hugely valuable to brands.  Check out, for dozens of short films made by brand fans to see what I mean.

Consumer co-created products
On a similar note, the web is increasingly building a role as a customer insight mechanism for new product development.  Although it started with the open source movement – thousands of individuals co-operating over the web to produce software – it’s a trend that conventional manufactured goods companies are signing up to. lets customers design their own t-shirts, and vote for others.  Jones Soda ( encourages consumers to design custom labels for their bottles. is P&G’s ongoing mums’ feedback site, with focus groups, surveys and discussions providing a stream of NPD consumer input.  From using message boards to glean feedback on products, to websites that allow consumers to design and buy their own bespoke versions of products (like Lego Factory), companies are inviting customers in, and gaining a competitive edge by doing so.

Keeping it real
In the future, it’s been said, there’ll be nowhere to hide for bad products.  The power conferred on the consumer by the internet means they now have a voice – and they’re using it.  From the much written-about Kryptonite bike lock saga, to Wal-mart’s flogs (fake blogs), marketers are discovering that they can’t pull the wool over peoples’ eyes any more, either with poorly performing products or with disingenuous promotions.  The latest example is – a video showing what happens when a consumer discovers his iPod battery only lasted 18 months, and was then unreplaceable.

Often, when people talk about marketing, they mean just ‘promotion’.  And when they talk about the internet as a marketing medium, they make the same mistake.  McCarthy’s four P’s framework set out what he saw as the four key variables in crafting a marketing strategy back in the ‘60s, and we’re seeing now that the internet is impacting on every one of them. 

The last ten years have seen massive growth in the internet fulfilling on just one of those P’s, and that growth isn’t going to let up.  But the interesting development in 2007 will be the accelerating exploitation of the web for the other three.

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