But we’ve taken care of trend-spotting for you. Here’s what we’ll be paying attention to in 2011:
1) Commerce goes social. Many brands have already figured out that offering special deals to their Facebook fans pays off at the register. But other brands such as Victoria’s Secret, JC Penny, 1-800-Flowers.com and Delta Airlines have taken that one step further: Their Facebook pages allow followers to buy products directly through the social network. Streamlining a consumer’s experience will be a top priority for marketers in 2011—that’s why social media offers the perfect blend of brand engagement and commerce.
2) Social groups get the goods and dictate the price. With the meteoric rise of Groupon’s popularity in 2010, group buying went from an under-the-radar phenomenon to an over-the-top $6 billion enterprise. Building on that trend, sites such as Uniqlo’s Lucky Counter (link) offers merchandise that decreases in price—and in real time—as more people buy it. And that encourages buyers to spread the word to their networks of friends and family members.
3) No one will care about words like “traditional” and “digital.” Instead, make way for the new integration as agencies create campaigns that seamlessly blend different types of media to attract consumers exposed to content on a variety of platforms and devices. This might sound deceptively like old news. But the agencies that win big business in 2011 are the ones that defy pigeon-holing.
4) Facebook rules the Internets. As more of those ubiquitous little “Like” buttons crop up alongside every piece of content on just about every site, our online experiences will be increasingly dictated by social recommendations. And as more people suffer from social media overload, many marketing experts believe that Facebook will be the only one that matters.
5) Brands become media companies. In a world of information overload, brands will start to churn out relevant content that consumers can actually use—or they’ll produce content geared at entertaining their audiences. Take Best Buy’s latest publishing venture, for example: The electronics retailer is experimenting with a “multichannel network filled with original editorial content spanning everything from how-to videos and gift guides to new-technology primers and behind-the-scenes looks at popular movies,” according to Ad Age.
6) “Ad time” succumbs to real time. Instead of planning annual marketing efforts, many brands will opt instead for constant creation and implementation of ideas to better respond to consumers’ engagement with advertising. Here’s what Ad Week’s Rich Gagnon has to say: “Real-time planning means video of all lengths, and production values will be developed and deployed with increasingly more speed. Additionally, real-time insights and analytics will constantly inform all aspects of communications planning, not just online media.”
7) Apps are everywhere. And they move beyond mobile devices by leaping onto our desktops and even our web-enabled home appliances. Word on the street is that apps will also impact our driving experience via “smartphone-linked in-car apps that allow drivers to check tire pressure, download music or keep up with their Twitter feeds.”
8) Banner ads become more multi-faceted. Instead of just serving as a link to a brand’s homepage, advertisers will experiment with making them more engaging. The banner ads of 2011 will stream video, allow users to bookmark them for later use, and offer card-linked deals and discounts consumers can redeem via credit card after they’ve clicked.
9) QR (quick response) codes go quotidian. According to Nielsen, 31% of U.S. mobile subscribers have a smartphone—a number that’s expected to skyrocket by year’s end. And that means they have access to any number of QR reader apps that allow them to snap a photo of a particular barcode and link to more information and special offers. Expect QR codes to go mainstream, as more brands experiment with how they can connect with consumers.
10) Tell us a transmedia story. People have craved stories since the dawn of time, but technology offers a variety of ways to heighten the narrative experience and new opportunities for brands to connect with consumers. And that means that brands will have to tailor-make content that appeals to a particular audience through a variety of mediums. One story no longer fits all.
11) Will 2011 finally be dubbed the “Year of Mobile”? In the advertising business, this line is akin to the boy who cried wolf—after all, so-called experts make this proclamation every January. Still, it’s pretty hard to deny that the energy surrounding mobile innovation is contagious. As the commercial director for Microsoft’s advertising in the U.K., Chris Maples predicts, “The increased trend for mobile users to access social networks via their handset rather than a PC or laptop will provide advertisers with increasingly sophisticated location-based opportunities. Apps will also evolve as marketers discover news ways for advertising to become part of the ‘always connected’ user experience.”