What brands will be hot in 2010 and why?

Adam Broitman: At the risk of sounding trite, the world has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. The way we live and the technology we use is bringing people closer to one another, and closer to the products and services we consume. Armed with more information than ever, consumers are becoming more discerning in their product choices and are less influenced by vacuous marketing efforts.

The phrase « want better marketing, create a better product » has never been more relevant. Innovative brands with utility at their core will, in my not-so-humble opinion, gain traction. I hope to see brands such as Zipcar and Fiat gain traction. Tech companies that help shape the way we consume media and understand the world around us, such as Apple, Google, and Amazon, will undoubtedly grow stronger. The last few are a bit more obvious; one less obvious prediction for a brand that will grow stronger will be Camper. You will have to email me for my reasons, as it would take too long on this forum.

Daniel Flamberg: CROCs will leverage the inherent qualities of the product and the huge affinity for the brand using social media to overcome bad business and financial choices.

Adam Kleinberg: Brands that realize it’s the experience that matters will sizzle in 2010. Branding is not just what you say. It’s just as much who you are and what you do. There are a handful of companies like Starbucks, Virgin America, Pandora, and Zappos that define themselves by the experience they provide at every point of contact with a customer. Those brands will win.

Jim Nichols: Microsoft will benefit from a whole mess of stories about how they have turned around and are delivering great, high-value products. After years of being attacked in the press for lackluster offerings and turtle-slow response times, they are going to get real credit in the business press for products like Bing and WIN 7.

Which brands will make the best use of new media and how?

Broitman: It is tough to predict who will have that « ah-ha moment » this year — a moment at which brand stewards realize they have not been properly handling new marketing channels such as mobile, social, and search. (I know search is not new, but the lack of search sophistication by many marketers never ceases to amaze me.)

The one thing that I can predict is that there will not be an overnight sensation in brand marketing, as brand stories need time to grow more credible (and you cannot buy quick credibility). Brands that have experimented in 2009 (e.g., Nike, Ford, and Pepsi) will certainly be best positioned for new media success in 2010.

Kleinberg: The common thread between new media channels is that consumers engage with brands on their own terms. The brands that break through will be the ones that create relevant value. For instance, Traction did a campaign to launch the Adobe Photoshop for the iPhone app that netted over a million downloads in a week. Why? Because it’s relevant to the consumer who wants to enhance their photos and relevant to the brand that wants to introduce those customers to Conversely, it’s the brands that try to treat everything like direct response that will fail.

Lori Schwartz: Typically it was the brands that were trying to reach the younger demographic that were playing the most with new media, but now we are seeing a wider generational use of new media, particular to life needs and services; now marketers can expand the use of new media to reach older audiences.

What will be the biggest shake-up on the brand side for 2010?

Flamberg: GM and Chrysler will fail again, squandering vast sums along the way. Obama will demand our money back from GM. Financial services marketers will be more heavily observed and regulated. Lending and credit card practices will attract class-actions suits and congressional scrutiny that will threaten their existence.

Nichols: Google will suffer significant search share losses for the first time ever. Almost double digits of share. And as a result, we’re going to see real innovations at a much faster pace from both Google and its competitors. It’s time that search changed « on internet time. »

Agencies and people

What agency (or type of agency) do you think will break out in 2010 and why?

Broitman: As larger digital agencies struggle with « The Innovator’s Dilemma, »  nimble specialty shops will gain traction. We have already begun to see this transition in action with Wrigley’s recent agency shake down. This may not be the case with media shops, but economies of scale do not have the same effect when it comes to creative shops. Brands will be looking to agencies for more innovative solutions and as many of us know, it is harder (not impossible) to be innovative in rigid corporate structures.

Flamberg: Several creative digital boutiques will arise to challenge the all-too-bland big agency creative online. It’s a fair bet they’ll come out of gaming and animation and grab a fair amount of attention.

Kleinberg: 2009 was a year of reckoning for many agencies. I’m getting lots of calls from clients saying « our last agency did a great job, but they don’t get interactive. » Traction increased billings by 125 percent last year because we generate ideas for brands and then think interactively about how consumers will experience them. It’s the agencies with digital DNA that can think strategically like traditional agencies that will thrive in 2010.

Nichols: I hesitate to be a broken record on this one, but we really are nearing the point where agencies are actually going to have to provide great ideas and/or great strategic thinking. Most don’t do either, focusing instead on making money through efficient execution. Agencies that have 80 percent-plus of client hours going to execution are going to find themselves really hurt this year by the proverbial « freelancers in a garage somewhere. » As well they should be.

What should agencies do more of this year that wasn’t done in 2009?

Flamberg: No. 1: Strategic thinking aimed at delivering business results for clients. No. 2: Measure the business value of social media and develop cases that suggest that social media can deliver improved business results, not just brand awareness and affinity.

Clark Kokich: Agencies need to help clients build brands that do something, not just stand for something. Agencies are very comfortable helping clients formulate effective messages. But clients want agencies to help them create customers and service them through compelling experiences. Clients want agencies to help them participate in the social world. To do those things, agencies need to change their mindset to empower brands by creating great experiences, not just messages.

Nichols: Agencies need to become a real resource for brands in the area of social media. Identifying platforms to help them analyze the socialsphere, providing a layer of insights reflective of their role as brand stewards and « the voice of the consumer, » and (here’s the painful bit) developing, shaping, and refining campaign ideas based upon consumer input and ideas.

What will be the biggest shake-up on the agency side for 2010?

Flamberg: More consolidation by clients. Fewer agencies serving big clients. Death of more small agencies. Marginalization of those without significant digital capabilities.

Nichols: Many more companies are going to crowd-source advertising and campaign ideas, as well as product and product improvement ideas. The trend started by Procter & Gamble and others is going to become genuinely mainstream, reflecting the reality that no small specialist team has a monopoly on ideas. But the role of experts won’t go away; rather it will evolve to one of helping to identify the best consumer ideas and shaping them into powerful and compelling brand platforms.

State of the industry

In the context of the current economic climate, what trends in digital marketing spending do you expect to see in 2010?

Broitman: Marketers are moving toward quantifiable efforts more than ever and proving dollar-for-dollar ROI is becoming more popular. One trend that I hope is short lived is a scenario where the awareness pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction, and as a result, creativity is stifled due to too much measurement. As a quant geek, I love to measure everything, but as a storyteller, I know the importance of creative; the two don’t always play nicely together.

Flamberg: Tight-fisted clients will vet every new spend. Refreshes will be extended. Repurposing and repackaging content will be the order of the day.

Dave Morgan: 2010 will be a tough year for advertising and marketing. Unfortunately, I believe that the post-stimulus economy is very likely to bring us a double-dip drop. Digital will fare better than other channels. But it could be a tough year.

Nichols: The buyers are changing. More and more of the money is being spent by generalist agencies and marketers versus digital specialists. The mainstreaming of digital. Our industry has been slow to evolve its information sources to reflect the needs of these well-heeled new buyers.

David L. Smith: Much more video. Incorporation of real-time search, giving search another growth spurt, although not necessarily for the same companies, [and] applications as the « new rich media » becoming standard ad units.

State of the industry, cont.

Which industries will shine in their digital marketing efforts in 2010?

Flamberg: Porn, gaming, entertainment media, and telecom.

Morgan: Consumer electronics, distance education, and local retail could all shine this coming year. Each has some secular growth drivers.

Nichols: I expect a big advance in digital media utilization by local companies. Well beyond search.

Smith: Tech will lead the way. Companies like Cisco, Intel, and HP understand how to spend their way out of a down cycle.

If you could make one change to the interactive marketing industry, what would it be?

Kleinberg: I’d shift the ROI conversation from one of measuring cost to one of measuring value. Agencies are perceived as commodities by many marketers right now. It’s because of the scrutiny around what now can be measured easily with digital technology. However, the very real, but intangible value that smart, creative, strategic agencies can provide is overlooked because it might not neatly fit into a spreadsheet.

Nichols: That we consistently act consumer-centrically rather than vehicle-centrically.

Schwartz: Faster uptake on creating metrics around new platforms, new behaviors. A willingness as an industry to move toward standards and evolve old thinking on measurement.

Smith: Systems integration. Enable publisher systems to communicate with agency systems. Of course, in order to do that, they both have major retrofitting of their own systems, and there needs be a lot of across-the-table collaboration.