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Small Business Digest


7 Branding Trends for 2008

Experts are projecting new directions for companies planning to build their brands in 2008. 

Trend #1. Next era of online advertising rises

The value of search advertising comes both from the ability to target someone interested in an offering and pay for performance. As a result, the average cost of a sale for paid search is $26.75 per order, compared to $71.89 for a banner ad. No wonder US advertisers spent $8.3 billion on online advertising in 2007, up from $7 billion in 2006.

This era will explode if Google, which controls an estimated 70-85% of the paid-search advertising market, completes its acquisition of DoubleClick ( Imagine what marketers will do with the offspring of the marriage of the largest search query database with the world's largest online behavioural database.

The latest era, now just out of the blocks, is social advertising, where advertisers will be able to piggyback on the social interactions on online users.  Already, movies, books and companies have been putting up profile pages on MySpace (, and then accepting "friend requests" for advance or "insider" information. Facebook ( users can treat brands as their "friends," and each online interaction with the brand can be communicated to their own circle of friends. USAToday achieved an amazing 380% increase in new reader registrations when it added social media services such as discussion forums, story recommendations, reviews and more. A companion trend is social shopping, which involves sharing shopping wish lists, experiences and purchase tracking.

Trend #2: Google's OpenSocial

The Internet is becoming too much like the real world. Everybody is part of a different community, with very little interaction among the Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn (, Orkut (, Ryze ( and almost every other online community of interest. For corporations, manufacturer employees find it hard to link with suppliers, and everyone feels six degrees away from customers. This both makes it harder for communities to attract new members, complicates our desire to enjoy the best of each community and puts barriers between customer and supply chain relationships.

Google has launched a potential solution to this problem called OpenSocial ( This will expand business and personal networks, enhance peer-to-peer branding and give companies greater insights into customers. In technical terms, OpenSocial is a set of web APIs for building social applications. The most immediate effect will be to build bridges across the various social Internet communities so that, for example, popular Facebook applications can run on other sites.  OpenSocial will also help brands build and expand bridges to customers.

Trend #3: The handphone opens up

The handphone can connect a person's life via voice, text messaging (SMS), and email. It can store contacts, calendars and calls. It can even track a person, thanks to GPS. Handphones in the US are a generation behind those In Europe and in Asia, with useful features like call timing crippled by carriers. Switching carriers can be very difficult. Roaming fees can bankrupt Bill Gates.

Compare this to the rest of the world. In many countries in Europe and Asia, a wave of the handset can pay for subways, coffee and newspapers. Carriers can be switched by just inserting a SIM card. In Europe, roaming fees are capped at 0.49 euros (about $0.73).

Android by Google and the new spectrum have the serious potential to transform handphones into advanced work and personal tools in the same way that broadband and the browser transformed the World Wide Web. The opportunities for branding are immense. High-speed video on larger screens. Easier content sharing among networks. Barcodes on ads to enable immediate information access. User reviews on restaurants people are walking past.  Multiplayer games. And that's without even thinking hard about the subject.

Trend #4: Crowd sourcing and open source branding

Today, crowd sourcing (using the public to solve a problem) is becoming an integral part of open source branding, which provides the strategic framework for viral marketing, word-of-mouth and reputation management. Consisting of asking customers or other broad audience to solve a problem carry out a task, crowd sourcing represents the ultimate form of brand engagement.

Advantages of crowd sourcing are numerous. It lowers the risk of product introductions, since potential buyers have a stake in the outcome. Messaging stands a greater chance of being relevant, dynamic and authentic. And what better way to engage customers in a brand than to give them a hand in its creation?

Trend #5: Widgetization of the Web

Need a knife? Or do you need chef's knife, carving knife, paring knife, serrated knife, utility knife, boning knife, filet knife, cleaver knife, santo ku knife, steak knife, mincing knife, oyster knife, de vein knife, clam knife, grapefruit knife, cheese knife, chestnut knife, tourne knife, peeling knife or one of dozens of other knives?

In many ways, widgets are like specialty knives. They do but one thing, but do it really, really well. Widgets generally provide specialized information, like package tracking or a traffic updates. Widgets are bolstering social media applications like MySpace and TypePad, and YouTube, Slide and other sites receive much of their traffic from widgets. For example, a YouTube video becomes a widget when it is added to a non-YouTube page. In many cases, widgets drive more traffic to sites than search engines do. Ultimately, widgets may write the obituary for portals.

Widgets come in three categories:
* Content: Provide information, such as news, weather or stock tracking
* Utility: Provide functionality, such as search, maps and chat
* Personalization:  Enable customization, such as countdown clocks, music, photos, etc.

Widgets can exist on a desktop, Web site, aggregation site, or even be incorporated into an ad. Widgets enable both engagement and affiliation. For example, Purina has a widget that shows the latest pet-related news. With a widget from Adidas, consumers can share inspirational stories based on its "What Impossible Is" campaign, as well as shop for sneakers. Google has widget-based advertising called Gadget Ads, plus a home page that can be customized with widgets called iGoogle. Widgets can link customers to companies more closely. Widgets can communicate price changes, deliveries, new products and other information that must be frequently updated.

Like other aspects of digital branding, measurement is possible with download tracking, RSS feed volume and widget-tracking services from comScore. Site views are an additional metric; HotOrNot's Facebook widget doubled traffic at the people-rating site. In fact, look for "widget branding" to become the marketing buzzword of 2008, and "blidgets" - widget versions of blogs that can help broadly disseminate blog content- to become Blogs 2.0.

Trend #6: Out-of-home advertising

The oldest form of advertising is getting a facelift. The outdoor advertising industry boasts about its reach and low-cost. "More people can view one particular billboard than the Super Bowl!" says the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. Media Dynamics says the cost of a TV impression is $15.20, while a billboard impression is $2.15.  But the claim of superb reach and low cost has been undercut by outdoor advertising's lack of measurement. Traditional traffic counts or diaries suffer numerous weaknesses. As a result, in most countries, outdoor advertising accounts for less than 5% of total ad spend.

But that is changing. The out-of-home advertising marketing expanded at a 10.6% clip in 2006, compared to overall advertising industry expansion of 6.4%, according to PQ Media. Global Industry Analysts projects that the world market for out-of-home advertising will reach $30.4 billon by 2010. Such growth will be fueled by four changes:

* New places
* Ads that can change instantly (digital billboards or LCD screens)
* Custom, personalized ads
* Better measurement

Trend #7: Rise of Islamic brands

Although Muslims make up approximately 20% of the world's population, and are as well known as the Japanese for their affinity for luxury brands, there are no Islamic brands on Interbrand's list of international brands. But backed by the increasing economic clout of the Middle East and Muslims worldwide, plus increasing marketing sophistication, Islamic brands will inevitably emerge, especially in the areas of food, finance, transportation and telecommunications. Potential candidates include Emaar, Genting, Mobile Telecommunications Company, Vestel, Saad Group and Emirates. Additionally, look for Western brands to start incorporating Sharia  ( compliance into their branding, and looking at their advertising and messaging with a more culturally sensitive eye. This is especially true for banks, since Islamic finance is the fastest-growing area of banking.

Article adapted from post by Nick Wreden at

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