Kassan Rule #1: you can wish somebody Happy New Year until the end of January.

Kassan Rule #2: you can make New Year's predictions until the end of January.

It's fitting that the year begins with a must-attend, blockbuster, marketer-filled technology conference.

Instead of making "end of year" predictions on my own, I have the opportunity to socialize my thoughts with some of the best minds in the hardware, software, entertainment, marketing, and finance industries.

So what's the big takeaway?

Everything is digital now. Technology is woven into every nook and cranny of our personal and professional lives. It's just marketing, or business, or life, now. And we're good with that.

Maybe that's why, as we took in CES this past week, absorb the lessons of the year just past and look ahead to the promises and pitfalls that may lie ahead in 2012, it's striking to see how much things haven't changed so much as evolved.

Here are my magnificent seven trends that will impact our businesses this year, most of them carry-overs from last year. And maybe even a peek at what's around the corner and over the horizon.

1. No more Chicken Little. Mercifully, we seem - at least for the moment – to be done with the yelling and screaming and hand wringing that characterized much of the media industry's response to technological change. In 2010, I declared in this column that 'substance made a comeback.' In 2011, substance consolidated its gains and got serious about doing business in a digital ecosystem. This year, expect more of the same. At least until marketers master mind reading or the Singularity happens.

2. Technology is the new black. As the army of mainstream executives at CES so powerfully illustrates, digital literacy and at least a working knowledge of how hardware and software works (and how new products are likely to be used) have become critical skills for CMOs. Indeed, for every marketer. This is particularly true as we enter a period of rapid multiplication of screens, consumer-facing software, and incremental improvements that facilitate the user experience.

3. YouTube – and the rise of the channels. And once again we are forcefully reminded that no matter how it's told, the story's the thing. Marketers, now content creators themselves, are rededicating themselves to storytelling because they know that it takes a great story to stand out in a multiplatform universe.

4. Verticals Matter. The number of consumers who are plugged-in will continue to skyrocket, driven largely by smart phone adoption. This will allow for greater specialization in services, products, content—and ever more sophisticated targeting.

5. Obey the digital directive. Arguably the most telling moment of 2011 was when Time Inc., the most venerable publishing company in the world, hired a tech thought leader, Digitas' Laura Lang, to be its new CEO. As I noted in the opening paragraph of this column, digital chops are increasingly a must-have on any media or marketing leader's resume.

6. Cross-Platform Buying. This trend, already hot, will accelerate further in some big ways. In 2012, upfront deals will add even more social media and advanced TV elements to digital plays and traditional buys. By now, in fact, the upfronts are increasingly agnostic video content bazaars.

7. Join the socialist movement. In 2012, social networks will continue to insinuate themselves into every nook and cranny of marketing. Social media will beget:

a. The New Brand Builders. Brands are everything (other than humans) on Facebook – they are people, bands, books, companies. Increasingly, this is where the groundwork is done to build, preserve and expand a brand. It's not how many fans you have, it's how you use them.

b. Brands as content creators. This is almost mandated in a socially networked ecosystem.

c. Politics as a marketing thought leader. 2008 saw the election of the first Internet President. 2012 will be an accelerated version of 2008 (with both sides playing hardball). And just as four years ago, we will learn a lot about how to use social networks to connect, engage and persuade.

So it will be a busy year. A year of improving what we already do and finding sophisticated new solutions. And naturally, somebody or something somewhere will pop up out of nowhere, surprise us all, and send us all scrambling to rewrite our playbooks.

Michael E. Kassan is Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, LLC, a leading Los Angeles and New York City-based advisory and business development firm that provides critical counsel and direction on issues of marketing, advertising, media, entertainment and digital technology. Michael can be reached at michael@medialinkllc.com

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