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Digital marketing in Social Times – Where Your Focus Should Be

Digital MarketingOn July the 29th, I saw my Facebook wall inundated by a series of posts by friends around the world. The post in question was a 5 minute 21 second video created by British Airways. The sheer volume of shares compelled me to watch it, and multiple thoughts came together compelling me to write this post.

In the last decade, marketing has seen a paradigm shift. Increasingly changed patterns of information consumption and competition have necessitated the evolution of marketing approaches. Marketers and brands are struggling with how to attract, engage and retain customers.

Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Work

Traditionally, there were few channels that could be used to communicate with audiences – television, newspapers, radio, billboards and cold calls. Thanks to the limited number of media outlets, marketers could predict the best way to reach their customers. It was easy to do this when the channels were limited, and information consumption was systematic and predictable. Advertising costs were dictated by simple rules of demand and supply. The best way to go about getting a message across to potential customers was to buy as much space as possible on these channels. The more people you could reach, the more people you were likely to convert. In fact, the biggest brands could become just that with only one thing – huge budgets spent to acquire advertising space.

With the advent of the internet, consumption patterns are no longer predictable, aided by search engines, social media, mobile devices and digital applications. Traditional channels have exploded too – starting with one channel 20 years ago, now there are over 690 television channels and over 70,000 newspapers in India alone. In the midst of this mind boggling number of information sources, the chances of a marketer’s message reaching her customer decreases, and precious marketing dollars no longer deliver required ROIs.

Declining attention span combined with more options to turn to have led to a lack of tolerance for any information that one is not seeking. Television campaigns, print advertising, radio, cold calls and mass emails are being seen as intrusive, interruptive and above all – irritating.
Additionally, the empowered consumer likes to be kept well informed – one-way communication and a standardised mass message will no longer make the cut. Consumers will only pay heed to relevant information, which is of value to them.

This is not to say that traditional marketing is obsolete; it just isn’t as relevant or cost effective as it once was. There is only so much latent demand that can be converted- only few  people are likely to know what, why, where and how to buy your brand- so you’re likely to waste quite a bit of time, money and resources chasing people who aren’t actively seeking your product.

Clearly, the magnitude of information consumption and the variability in its patterns, coupled with the inherent power of the internet-wielding consumer have led to the near obsolescence of traditional mass messages.

So What Works?

For marketing to be effective today, it needs to be relevant and it needs to add value to the audience. Consumers will sit up and take note of your message only if it interests them, entertains them, educates them or fulfills a need of theirs directly or indirectly.

Going back to the British Airways video, look at the brilliance of it all. It’s more than a 5 minute video, clearly no amount of editing would ever make it fit for Television. It’s made for the Internet. It touched all the emotional chords of someone who has been away from home for some time. The love of the mother, the longing for home made food and the destined trip back home give this video a compelling ethereal shareable quality. And the wonder of it all, the intended target audience is engaging and spreading the word, engaging with the brand firmly placing British Airways into their consideration set.

Create for Pull, not Push

This focus on relevance and value has led to the rise of a ‘pull’ mentality, as opposed to the traditional ‘push’ mentality. Traditional marketing strategy focuses on pushing its message out to consumers using various media platforms and forms of communication. It does not single out its target audience, so there is considerable wastage of resources on marketing one’s product to the relevant audience. Today the best way to get your message to your target audience is to let them find you, instead of trying to seek them out yourself. You will attract or ‘pull’ those who are actively seeking your product or the information you provide if you make your message easily accessible across various digital platforms. The idea is to provide information of value to your target audience, which would imply creating relevant content, customised to satisfy their information needs, and making it easily accessible through blogs, video, social media, etc.

British Airways was not selling tickets, it was merely highlighting the romance of the long travel back home. Back to comfort, safety and joy. The audience was automatically pulled into this marketing effort.

Be Relevant, Fresh

When you’re creating content that’s fresh and valuable, you earn interest rather than trying to buy it. Your credibility increases when your target customers come to you voluntarily, and you’re able to distribute information about your brand in a non-intrusive way. Good content creates its own readership, and boosts engagement by encouraging discussion.

Along with the obvious advantage of providing a filter to get in touch with your target audience, one very important advantage of generating good content on digital platforms is the easy way it provides to establish relationships with one’s audience by engaging in dialogue with them over various social platforms. Communication on social media platforms is a lot more personal, and enables a brand to answer individual questions, tackle complaints, and encourage discussion about its products and the industry in general. Those with a presence in the digital realm can keep track of what is being said about their product and their competitors, and can to some extent influence such discussions.   Look at some of the comments on the video again, they make for some delightful reading.

The mantra is pretty simple – find out what your target audience is looking for, publish content that corresponds to their interests, and you’ll attract traffic that you’re far more likely to convert. Actually creating good content on a regular basis is easier said than done, but those who’re getting it right are at a big advantage. Globally, the importance of integrating a brand’s inbound marketing strategy with its overall marketing strategy has been acknowledged for quite some time now. In India, a large number of organisations are using digital platforms, but the importance of focusing on content instead of direct selling hasn’t quite hit home yet for a sizeable portion of these. Slowly but steadily, the marketing scene back home is catching up with the times and is coming to recognise this new age of marketing.

About the Author: Jatin Modi currently runs FrogIdeas, a Digital Strategy and Marketing firm. He is a 4X Entrepreneur whose last company madeinhealth was acquired by Healthkart. He was also the Head of Strategy at Yebhi. Reach him on jatinmodi@frogideas.com or @PoornViram.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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