Prediction is hard, so I'll keep the format simple: marketing snakes and ladders. Which brands, ideas and institutions will be in the ascendant in the year ahead and which will be slithering down the snakes of mismanagement or misfortune? Hey, it's just a game, and it's my board - if you can still remember what I wrote a year from now, you can throw the dice at me then.
Climbing the ladders
What do you do when the brand leader offers more, more, more? Make a virtue of offering less. Path, launched last month as a rival to Facebook, restricts the number of friends per user to 50. So when you're one of them, you are someone. Which should appeal to everyone.
A strong brand, deep down, that endured a terrible 2010 - so it's on the ladder list partly on the basis that the only way is up. With the Iberia deal closing soon, and the unions at bay, if unbowed, the brand could fare well in 2011. Volcanoes permitting.
Former DDB planner David Bonney believes that millions feel oppressed by religion and would like to express their dissent. So he's created a street fashion brand called Atheist, to launch in February. The logo is a black hole. You can buy trainers with 'Darwin loves' imprinted on the soles. Segmenting the godless: an unbelievably brilliant idea.
Well, put it this way: if it can't gain a bit more brand loyalty and affection after giving the nation its first three-day week since Ted Heath took on the miners and lost in 1973, then whoever's running the marketing department should be sent to the Tower.
The cinema industry has at last grasped the concepts of customer experience, segmentation and targeting. It started with the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill offering sofa-comfort, wine and nibbles to the locals who didn't fancy toughing it out at the Odeon. Now Vue in Westfield boasts 'Scene' auditoriums with reclining seats, concierge service and private bar. A more expensive night out, sure, but it's not all about the film.
Observational Insight Gymnastics (OIG)
OIG is a revolutionary new research technique. OK, so I've just made it up, but if I could flesh it out with diagrams and signs, it would be a sure-fire winner - because when it comes to research, marketers are curiously captivated by snazzy new techniques with weird-sounding names.
Sliding down the snakes
Behavioural economics (BE)
The discipline has been around since the 50s and the academics will keep on churning stuff out, but its time as marketing's shiny new toy is over. Why? Because the tenets of BE are based on artificial experiments and few have been usefully extrapolated to practical marketing issues. 'Nudge' theory really needs to move on from stories about improving the aim of men in Dutch urinals to stay credible. The fly may be on the porcelain but, for BE, the writing is on the wall.
What was Waitrose thinking of? How can its clean, contemporary brand image be helped by the overbearing presence of the Prince of Wales' quaint, fussy overpriced range? The Duchy brand has never been a success. Expect Waitrose to bow out soon.
The love affair is over and the UK market is in decline. They've gone posh with Voss and ethical with One, but in the end it's water and you can get it free from the tap. For long-term survival, brands and categories need a reason to exist: I'm just not sure what this one is. With money tight, and environmental concerns about the transportation of bottled water, the phrase 'tap water is fine' will be heard more often.
Love the 500, guys, but if you think it's going to provide a halo effect for the bigger cars you really need to sell, think again. Fiat's historic image problems in the UK go far too deep for that.
They come round when you're in and put a note through the door to say you were out, so, they couldn't deliver that big, heavy parcel. So you traipse to your no-longer-local sorting office with your passport and DNA samples and wait in a draughty corridor to be told that item IV210-XX/3Z 'isn't back yet'. This is not just bad brand management, it is bad business. When will someone put this anachronism out of its misery?
They don't get 'brand'. Look what happened when business magazine Fast Company asked digital agency Mekanism to 'create a non-traditional viral campaign to build awareness and overall love for the brand'. While the ideas they came back with were 'potentially amusing', the editor observed that they all trivialised the brand. In the end it was the editorial team that developed the idea, as it understood the subtleties, codes and cues that contribute to Fast Company's authority and stature. As digital becomes more integrated into mainstream marketing activity, who needs myopic specialists?
Helen Edwards has a PhD in marketing, an MBA from London Business School and is a partner at Passionbrand, where she works with some of the world's biggest advertisers.