The twelve months that shook the world

Rounding up a year’s events is often an invitation to hyperbole. It is
hard to resist sexing up the high points of the previous 12 months in an
attempt to portray them as more interesting than they really were. This
time around, however, the opposite c…

David%20BenadyRounding up a year’s events is often an invitation to hyperbole. It is hard to resist sexing up the high points of the previous 12 months in an attempt to portray them as more interesting than they really were. This time around, however, the opposite challenge applies. It is hard to do justice in words to the historic changes that have swept the marketing world. In 2008, marketing has been convulsed by a series of volcanic transformations. Trends that have bubbled away for years have suddenly exploded to the surface. Finance, media, retailing and the auto industry – some of marketing’s biggest players – have all been shaken to their core by the events of the past year.

The collapse of the financial system – which, in hindsight, financial mavens have concluded was a long time coming – has forced major banks into state ownership. Hundreds of UK marketing jobs are at risk in financial services as banks restructure and merge, while those who remain in post face a radically altered agenda. The game now is about engendering the loyalty of existing customers rather than acquiring new ones.

Traditional media have been shaken by an equally dramatic tremor, again not entirely unexpected. The advertising downturn combined with the Googlisation of media have triggered downsizing moves at TV stations, radio enterprises and newspapers. The web is steamrollering its way through media, laying waste the old marketing model of spot and space promotions. Perhaps this is why Google has become the employer where most marketers aspire to work, according to MW’s 2008 Top Employers’ survey.

The economic crisis has hastened the day when enterprises that grew up in the 20th century are forced to re-make themselves for a new epoch.

Progenitors of the consumer revolution such as US car giants GM, Ford and Chrysler face collapse. Formula One, a corporate hospitality favourite and leading sponsorship property, has been rocked by the impending exit of the Honda team. The sport is likely to face extensive cutbacks. Meanwhile, Woolworths, which brought national value retailing to the UK, has gone into administration.

Years like 2008 don’t come along very often – thankfully, some may feel. For marketers – and anyone else who needs to keep their fingers on the cultural and economic pulse of the world – the events of the past year will change the way they relate to consumers in fundamental ways.

Asda chief executive Andy Bond encapsulated the upheaval facing time-honoured marketing practices last week, declaring: “The era of conspicuous consumption is over”. And as one leading ad man states in this week’s cover story: “The glib, ‘all your dreams will come true’ approach to marketing will have to be re-evaluated.”

Keep reading next year as MWguides you through the dramatic changes facing the discipline. We will provide a routemap to navigate through the greatest transformation marketing has faced for half a century. (Since the launch of commercial television in 1955, if you were wondering.)

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