Digital marketing predictions for 2012

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Last year I talked about the rise of legislation, the growth of mobile devices, connected TV, HTML and the blending of social media into a far flung range of departments like HR.

I could have done better. I think, though, I did fairly well. The weakest prediction may have been the rise of the connected TV as we’ve actually seen some chipset makers back out of that for now. Equally, we did see Microsoft’s Kinect go from strength to strength.

As always predicting digital marketing for the year ahead is a bit of a fool’s game. I’ve been doing this long enough to know year ahead predictions are about as stable as Europe’s economy. After all, bonus points to anyone who predicted a Spotify app store and did so 12 months ago? Who would have predicted that Apple’s attack lawyers would come sniffing around this post just because I used the phrase “app store” in a generic sense.

I am a fool. I’m going to have a bash at predicting digital marketing trends for 2012.


My headline prediction for 2012 is the almost desperate need to drag ourselves out of the discount culture.

It’s a nightmare and we’ve done it to ourselves.

I don’t buy anything from my local shopping centre unless I’ve a discount code or a deal. It’s easy for me to shop like that because it’s so easy to get discount codes and deals – and if one isn’t available this week then I just need to wait until next week, perhaps a little longer, for one to appear.

We need to move to a loyalty culture.

I know loyalty schemes do not always create loyal customers but on a purely business model level they make more sense. Rather than discounting to reward a disloyal customer, a loyalty scheme discounts only once the life-time value of the customer warrants it.

Loyal customers are the goal. The blending of social across the channels; especially offline, is perhaps the most direct way brands have to achieve this. After all, it’s better to have a community base who buy from and support you than a fickle customer based who judge you.

Cross-platform and real-time Display

Display has gone from being very ungeeky to being uber-cool (yes, in my world geek = cool). The number of cocktail lunches in which RoS Display media deals are bartered is on the steady decline. Good. On the rise are ad exchanges, demand side platforms and real-time bidding. The PPC skill set is rescuing Display.

We’ll see more of this in 2012 and I predict the growth will be in cross-platform display technology. Sticking with the trend I cited in 2011 the fragmentation of devices (especially the rise of the tablet) will mean that Display solutions will go cross-platform in other to thrive.

I’m going to be cheeky and tuck in a note about PPC in here – the gap between PPC and Display will narrow dramatically in 2012. It may close. Job titles like “Head of Biddable Media” will be handed out.

More legal woes
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Europe, America and pretty much every government will tinker more with the workings of the Internet. Whether it’s SOPA , the ePrivacy Directive (different in each country) or some new horror unleashed by the Luddites – we will have to deal with it.


I think video will roar in 2012. Video chat will certainly be one to watch. We can thank Google+ Hangouts for this, the Kinect, improvements to Skype and Facebook as well as the rise of smart phones that make video calling easy and desirable. Hello Facetime.

I think there’s already inequality in the supply and demand of video ad inventory. I think this will become an issue in 2012 – but it might also be solved in 2012. There’s an opportunity there for a clever platform or three.

The last sub-prediction for video is that we’ll see it used more often in corporate responses. If there’s a brand disaster or some other event – it’s easier and makes more sense for brands to use video to address the issue. Video is more emotive than some dull PR statement and, increasingly, it’s easier to amplify.

Voice and gesture

Will keyboards decline? Some say so – but I find it hard to imagine an open plan office in which everyone is trying to shout at their computers. We can’t all pretend we work in a stock exchange.

At home and on mobile devices, however, I predict we’ll see a rise in both voice control and spatial/gesture based interactions. This will impact everything from the concept of “keywords” through to the battle for the living room as the big players jostle for control.


Okay, I predicted HTML 5 last year and although it did surface on some occasions – most notable on mobile apps, especially those looking to get around certain draconian app store rules – I think it was understated. HTML 5 didn’t even official mature this year.

Even if the W3 aren’t bold (sorry; strong) enough to rubber stamp HTML 5 in 2012 I’m certain that more marketing managers will be aware of it and very aware of the possible drawbacks to launching a three year, HTML 4, build project in 2012.

Internet. Everywhere.

I’m not going to predict even more smart phones and tablets. That’s a given. I also think connected TVs will surge in 2012 – certainly overtaking the ill-fated 3D TV family.

I think the trend will go further. It’s the Internet. Everywhere.

For example, one 3D trend that may well take off in 2012 is 3D printing. I think 3D printers will become cheaper, more easy to get hold of and I think we’ll see more devices like Berg’s Little Printer and utilities like the Twine will continue to develop impressively.

The Twine, after all, needed to raise some $35,000 via Kickstarter. The project isn’t over yet and more than x10s that amount is safely in the bank.

Signal SEO

SEO will become far more resource intensive. In order to move the needle at all SEO campaigns need to work harder and address more quality signals than ever before.

I talked to Econsultancy about the impact of social signals. That’s just one collection of signals. Google has patents out on behavioural understanding, real-time and freshness are certainly important and given the predictions above we’ll see more value been given to portable content –ie, content that works well on desktop, mobile and other connected devices.

This may challenge some agencies and in-house teams. In order to address all these new signals SEO campaigns need to be more detailed. If we look to the hip trilogy of “earned media, owned media and paid media” – successful SEO campaigns have to score critical hits in all three of those categories and does not tidily live in either one.

SEOs care about creative work. They’ve done so long before Matt Cutts coined the term linkbait years ago – and they certainly cared about creative work afterwards. In 2012 creatives will care about SEO.

A good year for affiliates and performance marketing

Affiliates will have a good year.

Not all of them - some will be Pandead. The others, however, will find that CPAs remain robust, the cost to advertise will fall and there will be brands very happy to push the risk of spend elsewhere.

That said, I think there will be some squeeze of overrides and other network based fees as more technology based alternatives move in to lower the cost of running affiliate programs.

Equally, digital agencies will have to work hard in order to show the value they bring to a campaign. Some of that value will certainly come from blending solutions and services - such as intelligent blogger outreach that empowers bloggers with effective and legal ways to earn money and acts as an important blogger recruitment method for merchants. PR agencies, already fighting off social media agencies, may well find affiliate agencies are busy setting up events and wooing bloggers as well.

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