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Razorfish 2010 Outlook: “You Can Innovate Your Way Out of a Recession”

Razorfish isn’t labeling their digital trends outlook as “digital” this year. And it’s no accident. The marketing and design agency that’s been rooted in digital since its inception in 1995, is making a statement that digital’s not only here to stay, but it’s an assumed part of the mainstream ad world.

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Razorfish isn’t labeling their digital trends outlook as “digital” this year. And it’s no accident. The marketing and design agency that’s been rooted in digital since its inception in 1995, is making a statement that digital’s not only here to stay, but it’s an assumed part of the mainstream ad world.

And with the first surprise built right into the title, the 2010 report is off and running. 

The data crunchers at Razorfish had to examine the data differently because of the double dip recession that persisted throughout 2009. “We analyzed how our clients adapted to the challenging environment, what media proved effective, what didn’t deliver as expected, and how this information can be used to direct successful strategy moving forward,” Jeremy Lockhorn, vp of emerging media, tells FastCompany.com.

The result? Many clients acted conservatively and stuck with proven strategies that were in place before the economic slump. 

Another surprise was the relatively small investment in social media. “Only 4% of dollars go into social,” says Lockhorn but admits the figure is misleading. The money going towards creating content and in the people who power Twitter feeds and Facebook pages is often not included in a traditional advertising budget. “It doesn’t by any stretch represent the total investment our clients are making,” Lockhorn notes adding that in mobile, it’s the same deal.

One company that’s making a bigger investment in social media is MillerCoors, with Facebook pages for every beer brand. Director of media relations Julian Green asserts that the company’s “Playing in the space where consumers are living,” and points to deals with Yahoo! Fantasy Football and Twitter as other examples of the company’s non-traditional media push into sites where at least 70 percent of the audience is adult over 21 years of age. 

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Green and Lockhorn concur that these are largely untested waters, however Green explains that the copious ‘Likes’ on Facebook (to the tune of 325,000 for Coors Lite and over 270,000 for Miller Lite) can be read like political yard signs. “If someone puts one in their yard, they are probably going to vote for that candidate. If they ‘like’ you, it’s like they’ve invited you into their personal space,” he explains.

“We are also learning in real time,” concedes Green, “It’s a new space for us to learn how to translate what we are seeing into real world purchase behavior.” 

One older platform is just beginning to recognize how to tap the power of purchase behavior. Lockhorn says that Myspace’s realization that they can’t be all things to all people, “and by embracing niche they came from which is young and music-focused,” the elder social media site experienced a little bit of a turnaround. “With the retailer baked into the experience, spending on Myspace exceeded our expectations,” says Lockhorn.

And as consumers become more sophisticated, Lockhorn says ad exchanges are burgeoning. “What it boils down to is that you are buying an audience rather than an ad,” he explains, which as an ad model is akin to search rather than display.

Lockhorn also expects a groundswell towards the kind of hybrid model being developed by Foursquare, Scvngr, and others, which allows users to collect points from retailers by checking in or completing challenges and redeem them for rewards. “The next logical step is better integration with retailers,” says Lockhorn who admits the concept is so new, “An industry term for this automatic presence sensing, SMS-based, geo-targeted messaging doesn’t exist yet.”  The name will surely come. But the potential says Lockhorn, is “mind boggling.”

Does this mean we are too digital? Lockhorn says that smart brands are not falling into that trap of assuming everyone’s got an iPhone. “They are taking time to understand consumers not only from a perception standpoint but from digital behavior standpoint.”

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However with continued investment in mobile, gaming, and other channels labeled as emerging, Lockhorn believes the fragmentation will lead to many opportunities to connect with people and their devices. His message to brands? “You can innovate your way out of recession.”

 

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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