As December comes to a close, it’s time again for us to try our hand at crystal ball gazing and make a few predictions for 2012. We’ve consulted with our team and scoured the web to showcase the top marketing trends we predict will be worth watching in 2012. Here they are in no particular order:
1. Social Media Gets Supersized
According to the Zodiac calendar, 2011 was the year of the rabbit, but in the marketing world it was the year of SOCIAL, and we’ve still got a long way to go. Twenty-twelve will bring more attention to the ROI (return on investment) of social, and an increased focus on the benefits of participating in social media. Companies need to have a presence where their customers are gathering online, because the conversation will happen with or without them and it’s probably best to be part of it. When customers grant you permission to share and dialogue with them in their social circles, there is a definite value – but this value varies from business to business.
As budgets shift towards digital, traditional media will need to adapt to be more measurable. It’s easier to measure the impact of a social media campaign through engagement, clicks and impressions, but the same can’t be said for print based media, yet. Print is not dead, but it might need to evolve.
2. Augmented Reality (AR) will Become the “Cool” Marketing Tool
AR is nothing new, but 2011 marked the integration of AR into more campaigns. These were full of unique and fun surprises that currently reward only the most tech-savvy of consumers.
For example, Starbucks created an app called “Magic Cup” that allowed smartphone users to scan their beverages and selected holiday merchandise and have a cute animation play for them, which you could share on Facebook & Twitter. What’s the biggest problem with this promotion? No one seemed to know about it when we asked, not even Starbucks employees. Twenty-twelve will see brands use AR in new and surprising ways, with a focus on ease of use and simplicity.
Disney Parks has also entered into the AR ring by setting up a spot in the middle of Times Square. Guests were able to interact with characters like Mickey Mouse, Pluto and Captain Hook via AR on the big screen atop the Disney Store.
We predict that in this coming year, AR technology will become more integrated with special events and even on consumer packaging. How cool would it be to scan your package of gum to activate an exclusive short film, or even an interactive contest that somehow integrates with your surroundings? It will be interesting to see how it’s used…
3. Mobile Optimized Sites
If you’ve ever attempted to navigate the web on your mobile device, you have probably experienced confusion, frustration, anger, followed by abandonment. Fingers crossed, things will get better in 2012. Expect to see a massive shift towards mobile optimized sites in 2012. No longer will users need to pinch and zoom while navigating a big website on a small screen. No longer will mobile users be left waiting for heavy sites to load slowly on their device. You may already see the most savvy brands adapting their sites for a rewarding experience on hand-held devices.
According to Mashable, by 2014 mobile web usage should surpass desktop web usage. Now is the time to launch a mobile optimized version of your web site. What does a mobile site entail? It strips out all the bells and whistles and gets straight to the point with big, easy to push buttons and simple, clean interfaces. It is designed to be used and viewed on a 4 inch screen. For examples of excellent mobile optimized sites, visit American Eagle or Amazon on your smartphone.
4. QR codes will find their niche
Quick Response (QR) Codes are two-dimensional bar codes which quickly direct scanning devices to a website, or specified set of information online. In 2011, we saw a lot of marketers jump on the QR code bandwagon without any clear instructions or objectives.
In 2012, marketers will begin to understand the ins and outs of these powerful tags. Consumers need to be rewarded for their scanning efforts, whether that’s a special video otherwise unavailable, or getting a special coupon or prize might be revealed only by those scanning the QR code. QR codes are supposed to save time and effort, and without a clear benefit for participating, consumers might not care enough to participate. Placement is paramount. An example of poor QR code placement is using them on ads appearing in subways, which are WI-FI and 3G dead zones 90% of the time. In addition, so many codes lead to websites which are NOT mobile optimized.
In the next year QR Codes and scanners will become more standardized. It’s likely 2012’s newest smart phones will come with QR Code scanners included. This will hopefully remove the confusion about which app to use for these funky square barcodes, eliminating current barriers to adoption for QR Codes.