2011: The year marketers will get tactile

The past year has seen some significant changes across the industry, as marketers faced the recession by trialling ever more innovative approaches to customer engagement.
Most noticeably, it was the year that the digital revolution truly took off, with a huge rise in brands crossing the boundary into social media. This signified the breaking down of barriers between brand and customer, and the start of a real two-way dialogue.
There has also been a subtle power shift in the customer’s favour. Increased competition means that customers are more selective about which companies they associate with and the messages they will pass on to their peers.
This means that marketers need to work harder to be heard above the noise, and also to tailor messaging to an individual rather than a demographic. This has led to the resurgence of more traditional media such as direct mail. This channel’s ability to deliver highly personalised communications is in tune with the customer-centric approach that has marked much of this year.
But what will 2011 hold? I see the coming year as the year of all things physical and tactile, with the rise in stock of experiential marketing, point of sale and direct mail. Also, experiences like events with a value exchange – come to an event in the park a la Smirnoff and their Nightlife Exchange…but tell us something about you, will become more popular. This way, as well as making a physical, creative impact, you can collect prospect data that can be used to target consumers in the future with relevant offers.
Questions have been raised over the stampede to pure online based communications and pure eCRM activity over the last few years. But a recent study shows direct mail is back as the consumer’s favourite direct channel and this makes it imperative that brands serious about delivering sales, building their brands, and engendering customer loyalty, look beyond online to a more combined online and physical communications strategy.
Also, following WPP’s recent results, which reveal an increase in the popularity of traditional media, I expect this trend to continue as brands focus more on brand building after concentrating on survival in 2009. Indeed, we have seen from our research on confidence within the marketing industry, increased popularity among marketers across all marketing media, not just digital.

Mark Thomson is media director at Royal Mail

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