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Predicting a Year of Sincerity in 2012

Andy Coville · January 4th, 2012

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope 2012 brings you joy, health and prosperity. This is a pivotal time in so many ways: America is choosing a president. We’re trying to do the best for our pocketbooks and the planet. And technology is reshaping our world.

As always, we’re thinking short and long term about what’s coming next in business, technology, media and social change to ensure our clients’ communications strategies resonate.

Here are just a few thoughts from Brodeur Partners associates as we kick off January:

‘SEO’ abuse is dying. Long live content

SEO, at least in its most cynical form, will lose relevance.

Search engines will give more weight to sticky content that is shared by real people, and less weight to spammy, content-farmed pages overstuffed with keywords.  That means great content will increasingly trump SEO.

And since sharing will drive search results, be on the lookout for search engines to prefer emotional content (the kind people like to share) over the boring yet factual content people have traditionally associated with search engines.

Businesses will set social strategies

What Facebook has done in our social lives – made it easier to find interesting people, follow them and share information – companies like NewsGator (our client) and Jive are doing for business.

Workers are microblogging, gleaning insights from activity streams, forming communities, sharing video, floating new ideas and discovering mentors – all through rapidly maturing, management-sanctioned social business offerings.

In many cases, workers are smarter and more productive. 2012 will be a big year for businesses to make far-reaching decisions on how social they want to be and when.

Better days for renewables

Look for more large-scale renewable energy projects – 20 megawatts or more – to enter the development pipeline in 2012. Although the Solyndra failure grabbed a disproportionate share of headlines in 2011, less politically charged events later in the year were harbingers of a good year for utility-scale renewable in 2012.

First, the U.S. Dept. of Energy signed off on a $90 million loan guarantee for the Cogentrix concentrated photovoltaic plant, to be the world’s largest CPV facility. The other good omen was the Cape Wind project’s success in court, which should inform future legal challenges to wind farm developments in controversial locations.

Also late in 2011, the U.S. Interior Department approved two renewable projects on federally owned lands – the Sonoran Solar Energy Project in Arizona and the Tule Wind Project in California. Expect more announcements like this in 2012 as work done quietly in 2011 starts to pay off.

Health-care industry consolidation

Expiring drug patents, weak R&D pipelines, stronger compliance oversight by the government, and increasing supply chain complexities are all factors which will force the health-care industry to consolidate through mergers and acquisitions to achieve the economies of scale and maximize profits. (This one came from our friends at Celerant Consulting, Inc., a client)

Will e-books kill the hardcover star?

No, but we think 2012 could deliver the first “Kindle star” – the author who has breakthrough mass-market success through electronic books before print.  Kindle and other electronic publishing platforms have been an excellent medium for writers like Amanda Hocking, who built a following through e-books and parlayed it into a contract with St. Martin Press in 2011.

The success of Hocking and writers like her – “Riptide” author Michael Prescott and “Mill River Recluse” author Darcie Chan – in genre fiction has paved the way for an e-book blockbuster – think Stieg Larsson or J.K. Rowling for the digital set. Kindle, iPad and their respective imitators are already in their second and third generations, so the mass market is there.

To lure typically non-reading demographics, e-books also enable writers to blend audio, video, and exotic typefaces into their text at low cost. All of the ingredients are there to make 2012 the breakthrough year for an enterprising author with a good instinct for current publishing realities.

The relentless indie bookstore

And while e-readers will continue to gain popularity, they will not annihilate independent bookstores, which will be buoyed by a growing “buy local” sentiment in communities across the country. Look for a modest resurgence of local bookstores, and local businesses in general, in 2012.

Case in point: the wonderful indie RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H., where we have an office. Locals love it so much they actually invested in it to save it from oblivion, and helped with the store’s move to a more affordable location.

More media to go digital

Look for publications to continue shifting their resources online. The Christian Science MonitorSeattle Post-IntelligencereWeek and InfoWorld have all gone digital only. They save materials, printing and distribution costs and recoup resources for amping up their online content, including audio, video and community building. We’re due to see a mainstream glossy mag make a move like this, quite possibly in 2012.

We, the people, drive brands…

The world of brand influence will belong to everyday people, not big business. And that means bloggers. As noted in a recent Associated Press story about holiday shopping, “These days, mommy bloggers don’t just gab about spilled milk and poopy diapers. In fact, they’ve become so influential in the $22 billion toy market that toy makers go to great lengths to get their seal of approval.

Their thumbs-up is particularly important during the holiday shopping season when toy makers hope to create the next hit toy. It’s a major shift for toy companies, which have always given out samples of new dolls, games and other playthings to drive sales. Five years ago, they handed out 98 percent of those products to TV stations, newspapers and magazines. But today, as much as 70 percent go to bloggers.”

…even in B2B

Branding and communications professionals can no longer ignore the consumer perspective, even if they’re a B2B brand. After all, products must appeal to the individual user.

As Paul Miller, VP-e-commerce at W.W. Grainger said in a recent interview with BtoB Magazine, “…it’s about understanding the customer’s intent. How are they finding information? How are they building their brand preference set? How do you deliver an experience that blows them away?

And the truth is you can’t look at B2B and think that’s really where that’s been emanating from. It really does come more from the consumer side—where best practices derive.”

Finally, we’ll be more mindful

With the economic correction has come a correction in attitude. The challenges of the past few years have taught us a lot. That we can get by with less. That if we have family, friends, health and the kindness of others we are doing very well indeed. And that regardless of what the economy brings or doesn’t bring, we have every reason to be more optimistic in 2012.

I see us all being more mindful – that is, more focused on and appreciative of what we have in the here and now. We’ll leave our smart phones behind when it’s time for family dinner. We’ll look for opportunities to help friends and strangers alike. And when it comes to the ways we work, live, purchase and vote, we’ll be just more real, without pretense or irony. We’ll look for relevance.

These are just a few of the ideas bubbling up at Brodeur this morning. What do you see happening in 2012?

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