Circos Brand Karma

Official Blog of Circos

Goodbye 2009, Hello 2010

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The one-to-many branding paradigm favored and perfected by advertising agencies utilizing traditional media changed irreversibly in 2009 with social media going mainstream.  Hundreds of millions of people shared their brand experiences in social networks, generating exabytes (EB) of raw content about brands in text, photos, and videos in all languages (1 EB = 1 billion GB, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes).  The world economy also accelerated business changes: giants had to be nimble or fell, small players had to differentiate to survive.  Everyone, including all of us at Circos Brand Karma, had to do a lot more with less.  Though recovery is widely forecasted to begin sometime in 2010, we all know that the twists and turns aren’t over.  As we close 2009, here are our parting thoughts on what to expect in 2010 based on what we saw this year.

Relevant Engagement is the new paradigm in branding — for too long brands have talked at consumers, with social media going mainstream, now customers are talking back.  The amount of time people spend on social networks like Facebook and Twitter make them places where brands should interact with consumers.  These interactions can not be forced; like dating, brands must be attractive to the consumers they want.  Authenticity is one of the most attractive quality a brand can have with its online fans and friends.  See my post on Taming the Social Media Beast for what to do, and what not to do.

Don’t bore me: commoditization is your enemy, and you can no longer afford to be just like everyone else.  People look for reasons to spend their dollars on your brand.  In other words, what defines “value” for consumers includes what your brand does that no other brand can do.  I wrote about this recently in my post about Finding Your Brand Differentiators.  And a word of caution for those who have relied on price as their primary differentiator: whereas in an economy with ample demands you can do that to attract business, in this economy where there’s an overabundance of availability and supply, using pricing as your primary competitive strategy might actually kill your business or prevent you from recovering because you can’t raise your price back up.

The demise of traditional retail travel agents is greatly exaggerated; the savvy travel agents will find a new niche and be even more relevant.  All the information available on the web can become an info-glut problem for travelers doing research.  According to Forrester Research the satisfaction level of online booking has gone down in the last 2 years.  This presents an opportunity for the traditional retail travel agents to filter out the noise and serve as a friendly and trusted voice to frustrated customers.  Further, while booking point-to-point travel is fairly efficient online, complex itineraries that include multiple stops or special needs are still difficult, if not impossible, to book online.  Robert Cole recently wrote an excellent post How Smart Travel Agents and Agencies Rise from the Ashes which is a must read for every traditional retail travel agent AND suppliers, who should explore what they can do to foster an even more intimate relationship with traditional retail travel agents to give their shared customers an easy way to have a holistic travel experience.

Who will come out on top in the battle between Brand vs. Search? Search has become an integral part of the discovery strategy, with billions of dollars being spent yearly on SEM, mostly benefiting Google, the dominant player in this space.  Getting a higher search result placement organically is also a vexing issue confronting brand marketers who don’t have the traffic of say… Expedia.  Executives in the Board Room are already questioning whether 1) it’s wise to rely on search as the primary driver of brand discovery and website traffic, 2) is the industry overall feeding the G beast to become ever more powerful by training consumers to always go to Google first, and 3) if all competitors are optimizing for search, has Search marketing become “tax” and therefore, non-differentiated?  To which we answer 1) No, 2) Yes, and 3) Yes.  To wean themselves off Search, some brand owners have already moved budgets away from SEM/SEO to develop favorable awareness the old-fashioned way: by creating exceptional experiences for customers who then positively recommend the brand to their friends.  Except this time around, by leveraging social networks, the word-of-mouth takes minutes not months, and the page on the other side of the click is not Google or another OTA, but their own branded site.  Bravo to them, and to all who do this in 2010!

Say hi to Facebook, your new Frenemy. Much as Google has helped your business in the last few years, Facebook will help in the years ahead.  Yes — it’s still run by a 25 year-old, but the team that surrounds him is also serious about making money now… which means that there are lots of opportunities for you to benefit from their focus to monetize the online attention of over 350 million users worldwide.  Facebook will become the new titan in distribution (you can check out Facebook’s impressive current stats and think of the possibilities).  So if you haven’t done it already, it’s time to set up a fan page on Facebook for your brand and start engaging with your fans.  At a minimum treat Facebook as an extension of your CRM.  For some extra credit, you might want to consider Twitter as well, though if you could only focus on 1 social network, start with Facebook.

Have you thought of HR lately? The new branding paradigm, where social media is a fundamental pillar alongside well-crafted agency/brand communications, requires an update to your corporate policies  For example, how, if ever, do you expect your employees to participate?  If you’re a hotel management company, how do you ensure brand integrity when a property goes rogue locally?  Who in the organization should be responsible for brand perception in social media?  Where do you find the talent that can understand and bridge how you think v. how the social network thinks?  Because social media has become mainstream, 2010 will present scenarios that will put your HR and corporate policies to the test.  You must be proactive about setting expectations and diligent about learning from your own and other people’s best practices or epic fails.

And last but not least, Cloud Computing isn’t just for startups anymore.  The amount of computing power and storage that is now available at bargain basement prices has helped startups like us keep operating costs down.  But now that most of the security and reliability issues have been ironed out, cloud computing is a game changer enabling technologists everywhere to innovate cheaply.  This means that there will be more disruptive technologies coming faster on the landscape.  But it also means that your IT departments might need to migrate its technology from the client/server model of the last 10 years to the new, more powerful AND cost-effective distributed computing model to stay current.  Since technology is the backbone to most businesses, it behooves brand owners to have at least 1 person in the IT department whose head is “in the clouds” to ensure that backbone isn’t becoming quickly obsolete and more expensive to maintain.  Ouch.  But consider this: legacy technology systems have a way of sucking budget away from other departments when its migration is not carefully and proactively planned.

And… that’s a wrap for 2009.

From all of us at Circos Brand Karma, we wish you happy holidays and a prosperous new year.  See you in 2010!


2 Responses

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  1. i really enjoyed reading this keep up the good work

    Keneth Esquiuel

    March 13, 2010 at 9:30 am

  2. Hey, wow, this is good stuff, keep up the good work.Greetings


    April 3, 2010 at 3:10 am

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