We’re only 3 weeks into 2012 and we’re already seeing these 7 Marketing Trends of 2012:

  1. Noise Reduction – Being more mindful of what we share to reduce the numbness oversharing can create
  2. Commitment – “Commit” is a word you’ll hear a lot more going forward and you’ll be expected to do so
  3. High Value Content – This ties into Noise Reduction and Content Marketing, but means that what you create must have value
  4. Humanization – This is not ‘corporations are people’, but a realization that corporations are not monolithic, but run by people
  5. Case Studies – Showing how your company or product overcame obstacles and solved a problem is both High Value Content and Humanization
  6. Stories – Storytelling has been around a long time, but the art of weaving it into everything from your About page to your office decor is a new trend
  7. Do Something Great – Similar to High Value Content and a cousin to Committment, this is a push to use 2012 as a moment to make something great

Noise Reduction – I wrote about noise last week, but now that Social Media and Internet access has become somewhat ubiquitous a new rule has emerged: As the ease of sharing increases, the value of sharing decreases. Let’s call this Stauffer’s Law. You probably are already aware of this law even if you didn’t know what to call it because the people who post the most, often get read the least or blocked completely. It’s not enough to be creating great content, you also have to temper when you share it. This applies to your personal Facebook wall/newsfeed/timeline, your Twitter feed, or your company newsletter. Decrease what you share and increase the value of what you are sharing to keep your content from being filtered out like noise.

Commitment – Have you noticed feelings of drift? People saying they feel lost? Do you know people who can’t make up their mind or make a decision about what to do next? We hate it when politicians waffle back and forth, but most people and companies are no different. HP dropped computers, picked them back up again, and changed CEOs in 2011. 2012 will be looking for HP to commit to a goal – long term dedication to a cause beyond the next quarter’s estimates. And 2012 wants to see you commit to making something work, not looking for excuses for why it failed. This doesn’t mean you can’t pivot, but you must commit to something.

High Value Content – I recently wrote about writing what matters which talked about writing about solutions for your customer’s problems versus writing about your products. Very few companies can make a product that people care enough to buy for the products sake – even companies like Apple originally had to solve a customer’s problem by allowing them to carry all of their songs in their pocket. We used to call this type of writing a “white paper” and in 2011 we may have called it “content marketing”, but in 2012 it’s not enough to write content, you have to write what matters to people. Be impactful or risk irrelevance.

Humanization – Unless you’re using a computer to write your content, you need to show your human-ness. Humans make mistakes. Even the mistakes computers make are actually mistakes made by the humans who programmed them. In 2012 people are going to be looking to do business with other people like them – a.k.a. humans who have made similar mistakes. If 2011 was about being transparent about who you were, 2012 is taking that a step further by admitting your mistake and what you’ve done or are going to do to fix it.

Case Studies – Showing the customer how you’ve solved a problem like theirs in the past is a great way to “sell the hole”. It’s also a great way to show your human-ness by admitting your mistakes and how you overcame them. No one expects you to be perfect and those who think they are risk losing business. People like to root for the underdog and if you sell yourself in that light, it can help. There is a whole other piece of case studies that include customer interviews and solution interviews, which is a great way to write what matters, but that’s a separate topic for another day.

Stories – If you’ve ever had someone explain what a song means to you, you know the power of a story. Every time you hear that song you’ll remember what that person said and think of that moment. I’ve heard advice on how to tell a great story like, “Make the listener the hero”, but this is harder than it sounds. I’ve been trying to do it for the last 6 months. What I’ve found is that by practicing telling stories in non-marketing settings like blogs and emails to friends and family, you can practice the storytelling arts so that when you do pitch to a client, you can turn their use of your product into a story that makes them the hero in 2012.

Do Something Great – It’s never been easier to start something than it is right now. You have more resources at your fingertips than ever before. So why is it that the best we came up with in 2011 was a new timeline for Facebook and a new way to stream music (Spotify)? Sure, there are people in France trying to get fusion to work and others trying to find the Higgs Boson particle. And Bill Gates is both trying to eradicate malaria and create ways to reduce nuclear waste by reusing it in a new type of reactor in China, but what about the rest of us? Some would argue that the low-hanging fruit is already picked. We can’t just sit down and invent a paperclip before our benefactor comes back from lunch, but there are still big problems to solve – like how to replace Middle-Eastern oil, how to improve energy distribution and creation, how to standardize and distribute medical records, and of course, flying cars.

In searching for a way to close this article, I ran across this quote from Catchers in the Rye:

“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them – if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”
– J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye