Buckle Up

As I write this, I am fresh off of a much-needed vacation in the Rockies. It was great to spend a couple of days with my family, and at the same time, have some “digital down-time”. I did not check-in to a single campground using Foursquare, so sadly I am not on the road to becoming the major of a campground anytime soon! Nor did I access Twitter or Facebook multiple times a day. In fact, I even went a couple of days without checking e-mail. *Gasp!*

In reducing my digital intake, my vacation allowed for some time to reflect on the digital and social media madness that seems to have encapsulated my life – both the positive and the negative aspects.

There’s no doubt that my life has changed as a result of social media. Thanks in particular to Twitter, I have formed a variety of new friendships, with great people whom I otherwise likely would never have connected with. From a learning standpoint, my RSS feed is jam packed with amazing articles that are abundantly rich in information about the changing business landscape. It seems that innovation, particularly in terms of new products and services, and changing business practices, is now happening at breakneck speeds. Mass collaboration, conversations and connectivity are changing everything. I have an open mind, and am excited about the future. I sense that, as a result, my career will evolve in a manner I never thought possible a few years ago.

At the same time, I wonder what the true costs of our increased connectivity are? More and more often, we seem to hear about people needing to go through a “digital detox”. A few years ago, people debated whether they should bring Blackberries with them on vacation, devices that made them accessible to employers and clients 24/7.  Now, look at the plethora of ways in which people are connected to the Internet – there are more channels that need to be disconnected. With cars (see the MyFord Touch) and appliances becoming Internet enabled, will it even be possible to escape digital life in the future, short of going on a back-country adventure into the middle of nowhere?

I wonder if a new profession is going to evolve? Digital Life Manager? Digital Therapist?

I still think I need to work on balancing my online connectivity with time I need to spend off-line. This last week reminded me of that.

However, using a human lifespan analogy and starting from when the Internet truly became accessible to the public, the Internet is really only just emerging from it’s teenage years. What kind of ingenuity and collaboration are we going to see over the next decade? What businesses will arise?

Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun ride. But don’t forget, it’s OK to step out and take a breather along the way. Sanity is a good thing.

Looking Forward to 2010 and Beyond

This post is also published on the BCAMA marketline blog.

Ten years ago at this time, on New Year’s Eve 1999, there was a significant amount of uncertainty worldwide regarding potential computer failures. Ah yes, the infamous Y2K bug. It was also a time for reflection and anticipation, particularly given that it was not just the dawn of a new year, but also a new century.

It is amazing to look back and observe the innovation and changes that have occurred over the past ten years.

From a marketing standpoint, we have witnessed a number of things, including:

  • The rise of Google and the importance of search engine optimization. “You are what Google says you are”. Try typing in the name of your own brand, or heck even your own name, and see what you get. As many as 59% of online consumers now use search engines as a source of researching product information. How did I find that stat? Well, using Google, of course!
  • Media fragmentation. Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of available methods for communicating brand messages to target audiences. A recent global study revealed that, for the first time, the Internet is more popular medium than TV. Now, more than ever, companies need to figure out who their target market is, and determine the best methods for engaging them.
  • Social media. Some companies, such as Starbucks and Ford, have done a great job at leveraging social media to truly engage consumers, deepening relationships and enhancing loyalty. However, it seems that many companies and their respective agencies are still trying to grasp the power and potential strategic applications. See Motrin and Toyota. With countless blogs, and tens of millions of people using social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, social media is here to stay. Your customers are talking about you. Have you joined the conversation?
  • The long tail. Made possible by the Internet, and popularized by Chris Anderson in a 2004 Wired magazine article and his book “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More”, companies such as Amazon have achieved success through a niche selling strategy of selling a large number of unique items in small quantities. This has resulted in some new marketing techniques, including the strategic use of word-of-mouth and viral marketing.
  • Mobile access and smartphones. Smartphone usage and WiFi access is increasing worldwide, and so is mobile commerce. Consequently, companies must consider optimizing their websites for mobile access. Opportunities also exist to develop marketing strategies involving mobile applications and augmented reality.

These are just a few highlights that came to mind, as you know there are scores of others.

As I write this, on New Year’s Eve 2009, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds for marketing and advertising. However, there is also significant opportunity for companies to thrive  – leveraging new mediums and technology to grow awareness for their brands, as well as engage and deepen relationships with consumers.

The computers did not stop working on January 1, 2000, and the sky is not falling right now. Far from it.

It will be interesting to see what the next ten years have in store. What are your predictions? Please feel free to share your thoughts here. It would also be great to hear your insights on the decade that just passed.

Wishing you all of the best for a successful and prosperous 2010.