Empty13: A marketer’s guide to the key themes for the year ahead


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

January 1, 2013 | 5 min read

Devoid of large-scale social events like the Olympics, marketers are being encouraged to rise up and fill the void and get creative when it comes to engaging with the public. Empty13.com, a dedicated site for ‘the best year in marketing’, has, with the help of key players in marketing and media, compiled a list of the important themes we can look out for in 2013.

Jon Silk, head of European digital strategy, BiteNot, has suggested that music can help marketers fill the void and connect with consumers. He said: “Look at it this way – what decent pop music is ever released during an economic boom?”

He goes on: “The bursting of the bubble, and the subsequent credit crunch and deep recession has put stripped-back electro music from acts like The XX and Alt-J, and dark and contemplative folk from Mumford & Sons and Ed Sheeran, at the top of the charts. (My theory works across generations too – Late 80s boom? Rick Astley and Jason Donovan. Early 90s recession? Massive Attack and Radiohead. I could go on.)

Comparing lyrics from The XX and 90s pop wonder Hanson Silk says: “And this is the point: In a cultural void, truth, honesty, humility and trust become more important than grandiose but shallow statements."

Harry Wallop, features writer, Daily Telegraph, believes a quiet year will make 2013 the year for creative opportunity: "In comparison with this year, 2013 is looking a little quiet. Certainly there are no Olympics, no Euros and no Jubilee. Is that a bad thing? Some people will argue that with a forthcoming royal birth, 2013 is no longer empty. But how many brands can truly use a royal baby to market themselves…and how many actually want to?

“The fact is that big, international events tend to make brands, and their marketing departments, terribly lazy. They remove the need to think creativity.

“I, for one, look forward to a quiet year. It will allow a far greater range of stories and projects to be explored by the newspaper, and for PR people to be a little more creative about how to push their message and brands.”

Charlotte McEleny, associate editor, 12ahead.com at The Knowledge Engineers, suggests after a bloated 2012, full to the brim with brands capitalising on the Olympics and Jubilee, we should see empty13 as a chance to forge genuine relationships with consumers via social technology. McEleny states: “To have the right to be intimate with customers you need to have authenticity and add value and that is even more important in 2013 than even in 2012.

“Instead of seeing 2013 as a blank canvas with which we can invade people’s lives it should be seen as a year to drive quality relationships, to create memorable experiences but on people’s terms, without striving for intimacy because technology can enable it but because the customer welcomes it.

Meanwhile Michael Lee, executive planning director, VCCP, states that, in the age of voucher code hunting, “if ever there was a time for brands to avoid doing more of the same, and instead invest in the type of activity that transcends our collective twitchy trigger finger, poised to switch our loyalty at the hint of a competitor’s price promotion, surely it is now.”

Lee goes on to say in 2013: “Brands that can deliver some of that 2012 magic to a grateful British public, desperate to fill the gaping void of intense emotions unlocked by last year, should almost certainly expect to be reciprocated with higher levels of loyalty and impactful advocacy.”

Alex DeGroote, media analyst, Panmure Gordon, tells Empty13.com that this coming year will be the year we learn a lesson or two from digital start-ups. He said:”There is increasing evidence that innovative FMCG groups – and other brand conscious advertisers – are looking to new start-ups, and beyond more established agencies, in order to improve their digital communications strategies. Start-ups have no baggage with the past, might well have the technology edge over more traditional agencies and provide fresh thinking. Start-ups bypass traditional marketing, with a focus on product/technology and lower customer acquisition cost. Mass-market branding still has a place, but it is much diminished.”

Big data will be the key theme of 2013 for Chad Butz, planning and strategy director, Bite. He commented: “In early 2012, many businesses were still trying to figure out what big data actually meant. By now, there are enough stunning examples of how powerful data can be when it’s big and when tools are developed to make sense of it that it should be on the radar of most executives.”

“We’re moving from a place where data informs decisions about products and services, to a place where data is the product or service – or at least a major part of it.

Despite the challenges of big data, for Butz “it does seem that 2013 will be a year where businesses experiment with putting data closer to the centre of their business to extract value from it. The good businesses will use data for better marketing and communications and to become more efficient. But the great businesses will really begin to identify and understand value. And they will use data to create entirely new and unexpected businesses that customers want and need.”


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