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Ten Coolest Marketing Trends of the Decade

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Yes, they are still trying to figure out what to call this decade. The “double o’s” or “the zeros” or my personal favorite – “the naughts.” Frankly, I am more concerned about what this decade will be remembered for, aside from the slick straightening of hair and Michael Jackson dying.

From a marketing perspective, this decade has been the most extraordinary in terms of not only how far we have come, but how differently we VIEW marketing itself. Let’s look at the 10 coolest marketing trends of the decade. Please note that some of these trends may have their roots in the late 1990s but only really took off in this decade.

1. Social Media Marketing – You knew this had to be first, right? With Facebook hitting 350 million users, businesses are scampering to make sense of this social media phenomenon. Marketers have always gone where the people are, and now more than ever, they are on social networking sites. I remember writing my thesis on Twitter in 2006, and people gave me funny looks. Today, everyone from Oprah to Ashton is jumping on the bandwagon. Friends may have hung out at the Central Perk Coffee Shop, but that was so 1990s! This decade is all about online communities.

2. Permission-Based Marketing – The fabulous Seth Godin coined this term in 1999 when he released a book with the same title. For the first time in history, marketing has gone from being intrusive and random to targeted and, well, permission-based! Never before have consumers OPTED to being marketed to. Telemarketing took a huge hit when the US government stepped in and implemented the National Do Not Call List in 2004. MILLIONS of people signed up. So ended – or at least abated – the annoying calls at dinner time.

3. Blogging – While purists claim that blogging has been around since the creation of the internet, it was only in 1999 that three friends launched a tool called Blogger. It has taken us this decade to really use blogging as a marketing tool. It we couldn’t intrude or interrupt, we’d educate. Blogging as a marketing tool has really blossomed in the last few years. It’s been amazing to witness this change firsthand. I remember speaking at Blog World and New Media Expo two years ago. The room was filled with technologists and full-time bloggers. This year (2009), 75% of the room was made up of business owners and companies who blog.

4. Online Video – YouTube was launched in 2005, and with the advent of do-it-yourself video cameras, the world has not looked back. From dancing babies to cute kittens to “viral” videos, we have seen it all this decade. Well, except for what has yet to come. Online video is STILL in its infancy as a way for businesses to engage with, market and sell to their audience. My friend Dave Kaminski is certainly doing his share in helping people understand web video.

5. Search Engine Marketing -Some businesses rely solely on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) for their marketing. “Location, Location, Location,” may have been the offline business mantra, but the online business mantra is “Traffic, Traffic, Traffic.” While purists again claim that SEO had its roots in the ’90s, it has really come into its own this decade. Google Adwords, for example, was introduced in 2002. If there is one thing we marketers have learned this decade, it’s to go where the people are. And in 2003 the people were googling/binging/yahooing at the rate of 250,000,000 a day. In 2003! Imagine what today’s numbers are.

6. Personal Branding – Who says branding is for businesses? Not Dan Schawbel or Gary Vaynerchuck or David Garland or Chris Brogan, to name a few. Never before have we seen such a tremendous rise in the number of experts and community leaders. Each has a distinct flavor – or shall I say, personal brand. This was an unheard-of concept before this decade, or at least never implemented by people as it is now. They say an average person will change careers 15 TIMES in their lifetime. Voila – the rise of the personal brand. A brand that moves with the person and is at the core of who they are, regardless of the position they fill.

7. Blogger Relations – When I speak, I always give the example of a restaurant. In the 1990s, a restaurant critic from the local leading newspaper would come in and review the place. If the review was positive, the restaurant flourished. If the review was negative, it could ruin the establishment. Today, anyone who enters a restaurant is a critic. Some reach more people than others. This decade has been the decade of “mini-influencers,” and marketers have done their best to reach them and get them talking. In the past you could get on the 9 pm news, and chances were that 80% of your home town would see you. Today, people get their information and news from an infinite variety of sources. While some may still watch the news, most have their own favorite online channel or channels where they get their information. We don’t rely on one source. You, for example, may read this blog to learn about marketing, but you go elsewhere for your dose of technology, fashion or cooking.

8. Content Marketing – Create solid content to generate leads, engage users and improve brand loyalty. This decade saw the rise of webinars, podcasts, white papers, etc. After 10 years of creating (and recreating) relevant content, the experts agree: Get Content, Get Customers.

9. FREE – When Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine wrote “Free! Why $0.00 is the future of Business,” in 2008, it launched an avalanche of comments, both positive and negative. Never before in the history of mankind have businesses given AWAY so much free stuff in order to get people to buy. Music, newspapers, books (huh!?), were all distributed for free this decade.

10. Integration of Online and Offline Marketing – In the 1990s, you had billboards and websites. You rarely combined the two. Today, most billboards advertise a website address. We have seen online and offline techniques integrate during this decade like never before. I believe this trend will continue into the next decade.

Wow! What a difference ONE decade makes. I am looking forward to what the next decade will bring. (Better ways to measure? Different types of content? More niche social networking sites?). Time will tell. What we can be sure of is that it will bring change, as change is the only constant.

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