For our final blog post of 2012, we’re counting down the top posts of the year. You can read part one, with posts number six through 10, here. See you next year!

#5. Use your brain: Why marketers need to understand neuroscience
by Matt Egol

“A growing body of research from social psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience shows that the context of a community deeply influences how people interpret their experiences, and shapes their willingness to have an authentic relationship with a brand, rather than just engage in a transaction. Similarly, how people take in and interpret information has a direct impact on brand loyalty.”

This guest post, by Matt Egol of Booz & Company, outlines the path from transactional interactions to authentic relationships between brands and consumers. The RULE schema (Reframe, Understand, Listen, and Engage) is a simple, helpful model that can be seen in the strategies of many of the most valuable brands in the world.

#4. If content is king, then visual content is queen
by Ian Greenleigh

“At JESS3, we have a mantra that we want our content to ‘win the Internet.’ By that we mean, we want to create content that brings real and lasting value to online communities. We want the content to respect cultural tropes of the communities to which we release it. We want to make the Internet a more organized and beautiful place by developing whimsical and artisan content that helps make sense of complex data sets and concepts.”

I didn’t expect my interview with JESS3 co-founder Leslie Bradshaw to span two blog posts, but I simply couldn’t find anything to cut—her answers were that good (check out part one, too). If you’re not familiar with JESS3, you’ve definitely seen their work if you inhabit planet Earth! Leslie talks about experience barriers, the unique qualities of visual content, metrics that actually matter, and “winning” the internet. Set aside some time to read both posts; they’re worth it!

#3. A social love story: how Ken won Barbie (and customers) through paid, owned, and earned media
by Tara DeMarco

“People don’t come to websites anymore – websites come to you.” – Lauren Bruksch, Marketing Director for Barbie and Girls brands, Mattel

From Tara: This was one of my favorite posts to write this year, because the story is so darn cute. To reunite fashion doll Barbie with her boyfriend, Ken, Mattel ran a charming converged media campaign. Paid media like billboards and print ads (grand gestures from Ken) directed fans to the campaign site, which curated the dolls’ flirty Twitter and Facebook interactions and fans’ social reactions as well. All paid and owned media encouraged earned media and sharing – getting fans involved in the couple’s reunion.

#2. Beat showrooming by being the showroom
by Tara DeMarco

“You cannot fight the tide of consumer behavior. You cannot force consumers to behave the way you want them to. The music industry didn’t like people streaming for free online, or downloading one song at a time. But no amount of lawsuits or regulations has forced consumers back to paying full price for full albums.”

With its Zen-like title, this post explores a topic that is the opposite of calming to many in the retail space. But important conversations are usually tough, and as Tara explains, if you’re committed to serving consumers, and consumers want to showroom, you’ll need to find a way to turn this ostensible threat into a major advantage…by becoming the showroom. Within the post are a few great examples of retailers toeing the edges of this idea, like Toys ‘R Us embracing omnichannel and using their mobile app to provide a much wider range of fulfillment options than most stores. And then there’s the suggestion that we’ve made time and time again on this blog, and we’ll continue to make until it becomes the norm: provide WiFi, because you’re probably losing more sales by not having it, and you’re missing out on a chance to collect amazing consumer data.

#1. Top 4 cringe-worthy things brands do when creating content
by Ian Greenleigh

The idea that you have to wait weeks or months for an asset completely misses the opportunity to participate in the fast-moving conversations that are happening every second around dozens of topics throughout social media. Templates and workflows can anticipate and react, which the news industry has executed on successfully for years.”

Part one of our Leslie Bradshaw interview found the perfect balance, I think, between insightful and actionable. Lots of specific tool / vendor recommendations, higher-level strategy, and a bit of hard truth: “Unless you are Apple or Nike, most consumers don’t actually care about your brand. What they do care about is how your brand / product makes their lives easier.”

Amen to that. Speaking of making lives easier, we hope this blog has been valuable to you in 2012, and we always want to know how to make it better. If you’re feeling generous, please let us know how this blog can serve you better in 2013, right here in the comments. This blog exists for—and because of—you, our readers, and we try to write every post with that truth in mind.