Thursday, December 18, 2008

Observations in Rome

Last week I spent a few days in Rome with clients and colleagues of mine from all over the world. It was not surprising that most European marketers are talking about the effects of the financial meltdown and its impact on consumer behavior. Our discussion did not just focus on the reduced consumer spending in most European countries and the projected small to negative GDP growth projection for 2009 but it expanded to the key issue of  understanding how consumer’s mindset has changed and is still changing. 

No one pretended to have all the answers, but I heard a few interesting observations:

  • Consumer’s values and their attitudes towards shopping are changing dramatically. It’s not being positively perceived anymore to purchase a lot of badge value brand names. This behavior is replaced by a new admiration for being frugal and smart about spending which is becoming a new badge of honor. Trend researchers have called this the new “Frugalista” mindset. This consumer will still spend money but only with a clear quality and value mindset. And this individual is proud of being frugal.
  •  The topic of Green products and initiatives are not disappearing as we have seen in all other previous recessions. The Consumers’ focus on Green is here to stay despite all the financial constraints and worries. And this seems to be true on a global level, even in China and India. The value “Green” becomes an intrinsic quality element of any kind of product and service. Consumers are not willing to trade off anymore price and green, they are expecting good value products with Green qualities.
  • Marketers are focusing significantly stronger on In-Store Marketing activities and the competitive fight in the “last mile” of interaction between consumer and sales person, independent if the brand is being sold in a telecommunications store or a grocery. This trend will probably further accelerate over the next few years since marketers will see a higher ROI than marketing investments in early sales funnel activities. 

Consumer Insights and trends are becoming more and more global, especially when events are so global that they are affecting consumers worldwide in a similar manner. 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Students in a Recession

Yesterday I had the pleasure to talk about my work at the Medill School of Northwestern University in Chicago. It’s always good to see that there are a lot of young students eager to enter the marketing universe, especially in these tough economic times. 

I learned a few things:

  •  After presenting some of my more recent Web Analytics initiatives one Medill professor asked a very smart question: “How much do you think on a scale of 1 to 100 have we mastered Web Analytics as a discipline?” After thinking for a few seconds I said “20”. There is still so much to be learned and understood within Interactive Marketing and how to measure the impact of Online Programs. We still don’t have even a standard and simple way of measuring Unique Visitors to Websites. There are a lot of siloed approaches across a wide range of very different companies (e.g. Microsoft, Digitas) to advance Web Analytics but it still feels like an open green field.
  •  The Medill school is doing a lot of work around “Integrated Marketing”. My argument that we do need a new theory of “Integrated Marketing” found some interested listeners. My observations is that over the last ten years our discipline has put “Integrated Marketing” in the center of our thinking but our progress is much less that we all assume. My plead to the students was to enter the field with fresh thinking, new methodologies, and out-of-the-box views, so our marketing discipline can make some real progress over the next years in building a new theory of “Integrated Marketing”.
  • I was positively surprised that most analytical minded students in the audience understood that analytics needs to center around building data driven stories, and not the most complex algorithms. The modeling and analytical work is just a tool to tell the smart and insightful story but not the centerpiece of our work. But you still need to know how to build a multivariate regression analysis and much more. 

Despite the rough economy, it’s a great time to be a marketer and innovate of how brands interact with consumers and how consumers build and change brands.