Why did The ARF call this year’s conference succeeding in the new normal? How different is this year’s industry agenda from prior years or are we talking about the same stuff? The ARF annual conference agendas can be thought of as a chronicler of what the pressing issues are to the marketing and media communities. Because we keep all of our old brochures, I was able to look at the 1995 program. Here is a list of fifteen critical topics today that the industry wasn’t talking about at the ARF conference 15 years ago.
1. Mobile. Not mentioned in 1995 because it wasn’t thought of as an advertising or entertainment medium. Now mobile is at the top of everyone’s list to understand and measure better.
2. Set top box data. A compelling opportunity to get the granularity needed for media properties on the long-tail
3. Social media. Nuff said
4. The human. In 1995, we were focused on the consumer. As Stan Stanunathan from Coca-Cola says, when you focus on consumers you get incremental ideas. When you focus on humans you get breakthroughs.
5. Listening. Not a term the research community was using. Today it is central to generating future-focused insights and there were numerous presentations that leveraged the concept of listening.
6. Insights. In the 1995 brochure the word “insights” appeared only 4 times while the word “research” appeared 179 times. In 1995, we were still focused on the activities and craft of research.
7. Storytelling. This was the agency domain and only recently became a part of research impact
8. Sub-conscious mind. Especially on the biometrics panel, the idea that certain feelings, reactions, etc. are simply not accessible via the conscious mind. How do people make decisions? The model of the rational consumer has been forever overthrown.
9. Shopper. Shopper insights and shopper marketing are important parts of driving brand growth. They weren’t talked about at an advertising research event 15 years ago.
10. Long-tail. Amazon was just being founded in 1995 and before that, physical stores had limits to the choice they could offer. Unlimited choice via online retailers and media has created a level of market fragmentation never before seen.
11. Online research data quality. Online research didn’t really exist in 1995. Online research is such a dominant mode that the quality of the data must be beyond question.
12. We research. In 1995, each respondent was still a separate entity and not encouraged or even allowed to talk with anyone else. Now, firms are attempting to capture the dynamics of social interaction on individual choice in both quantitative research and communities.
13. Online and mobile video. Barely touched on in 1995 but now is a major force that every TV network needs to integrate into a 360 experience with their media properties. At first thought to be a threat to TV, now online and mobile video are thought to actually enhance engagement with the media property and increase TV viewing.
14. Multicultural is the new mainstream. We WERE talking in 1995 about how to conduct valid research among Hispanics but now it is mission critical. Non-Hispanic whites will be the minority in the US in 30 years and this has already happened in a number of major markets.
15. New business giants have emerged since 1995 that have changed the way people live their lives. The list includes: Google, Facebook, Twitter, My Space, LinkedIn, Flickr, Apple iTunes/iPhone/iPad/stores, Hulu, Youtube, Foursquare, Huffington Post, Techcrunch, Zappos, Fox News, Skype, Wikipedia, Firefox, DirecTV, Tivo, XM radio, NetFlix, Pandora.
Our lives are forever changed and are forever changing…truly there is a constantly changing new normal where the past is less and less predictive of the future. Marketers must use new approaches and adopt a new corporate culture to become fast-learning organizations, or they will find their opportunities in the new normal defined by a future that is not of their own making. Please take a minute to look at the video the ARF prepared, with the help of Thinktopia, entitled, “Inspiring Better Brands”.