by Jonathan Gardner

Digital marketing is a discipline in flux. We face an onslaught of shiny new technologies and platforms that promise to “change everything.” Marketers are creating similarly breathless headlines, proclaiming the next revolutionary devices/apps/social networks.

Yet, even smart marketers don’t know what changes the future will bring; but they do need to be aware that their industry is changing every day. For instance, to reach consumers marketers need to be increasingly mobile, engaging, relevant and aware of the contexts in which we currently operate.

I don’t pretend to know the future. But the decisions and products of Apple, Amazon and other innovators will affect how we live in the years to come. As we anticipate our connected, Minority Report-style future, here are five big marketing ideas to embrace now to get ahead of the curve.

1. Location Services

Consumers are out there and many want you to find them. Location features of social apps such as Foursquare, and Path are potential goldmines of important consumer data. The near field communication (NFC) technology in products like Google Wallet is just starting to show its potential. And while privacy issues surrounding location services will need to be resolved, consumers are still demanding that marketers understand all of their daily contexts and find ways to make their lives easier. If the rumors are true and the iPhone 5 has NFC embedded, expect these features to go from leading edge to mainstream.

2. New Ad Formats

While new online video and mobile platforms are — unsurprisingly — attracting a lot of heat, their marketing spend is still way out of whack, compared to the amount of time consumers spend there.

Don’t just throw money at these new channels. Instead of pre-roll video ads and other “forced view” options, look to user-initiated solutions that respect the user’s time and interests. Research new ad formats that help brands look beyond clutter and “banner blindness,” such as in-image ads, which integrate brand messages elegantly within relevant content.

3. User-Generated Curation

User-generated curation (UGC) is powered by content discovery apps such as Pulse, Flipboard, Fancy and Foodspotting. Content producers and merchants provide the feeds, and consumers tweak them to suit their interests and contexts, filtering data and curating personalized information platforms.

These models can help brands become relevant to consumers and provide the next great opportunities for marketers. For instance, Pinterest has received applause from consumers and marketers alike, and has demonstrated the power that personal curation and relevance can have for engagement.

4. Advertise by Format

Everyone is excited about mobile’s potential, and tablets present appealing platforms or consumer engagement. If you’ve decided to advertise on mobile apps, what are you going to do with the user after you get him or her to tap? Will you use the platform to its full potential? Or will you roll out the same old display strategy you’ve been using online, praying that users will choose to interact with your ad?

It’s time to get creative and imagine the new possibilities. Media industry guru Ken Doctor points to innovative advertisers who take advantage of the iPad’s unique format. “What’s better for an insurance company like Liberty Mutual than threatening you with disaster (tornado, earthquake, flood) and then, by simply tilting your iPad see the damage magically disappear,” he poses.

5. Integrated Marketing

Being relevant to your customer in every context improves brand recall and enhances engagement. Ditch the silos in your advertising strategy (e.g. this is what consumers watch on TV vs. on their phones) and focus on the most important thing — your customer.

In this increasingly interconnected world, consumers are not necessarily thinking in terms of silos. Research shows that 72% of consumers want to be engaged with an integrated marketing approach, but only 39% are receiving that. Google found that consumers had 74% brand recall when the advertiser’s integrated strategy carried across mobile, TV and online.

While the world is not yet seamless, QR codes and “bridging” apps like Viggle deliver second screen relevance, and can help marketers unleash multiplatform, integrated relevance.

Today’s profound advancement in tech and media is changing how we interact with and filter our world. Smart marketers can succeed by engaging with the trends that are resonating most with the emerging consumer of today.



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