Is Digital Advertising All There Is To Digital Marketing?
February 25, 2013 by Brand Algorithms
Digital marketing is still a nascent practice in India, with most brand-owners spending only between 2% - 4% of their annual promotion budget on digital marketing activities. To a large percentage of these brand-owners, and several others that set aside a larger percentage of their promotion budgets for digital marketing, 80% - 90% of the digital marketing budget is set aside for digital advertising, with the remaining money being spent on social media, content marketing, and on setting up company-curated websites.
In the rush to embrace a new world-order, brand-owners are making the mistake of transplanting the traditional approach to promotion - a focus on advertising - to the digital world, with the only value-addition being the tight targeting of consumers; which is made possible by the level of detail available about online consumers. The fact of the matter is that each media-category (traditional and online) has its relative strengths, and each complements the other: traditional media best delivers mass campaigns that point interested consumers to online properties, while online media is strong in fostering conversation and engagement with these consumers.
By formulating the same set of objectives for the activities under each of these vastly differing media-categories, brand-owners end up executing online mass campaigns at specifically targeted consumer segments, in addition to executing mass campaigns over traditional media-category channels, while ignoring the unique strengths of the digital world: engaging with and converting interested consumers.
The infographic below, visually summarises the size of popular social media platforms in India and the biggest online Indian brands (sports properties like the IPL teams and multi-national brands with an Indian presence are excluded from the brands round-up):
In terms of the 10% - 20% spend in digital marketing that does not go into digital advertising, Indian brands (at least the ones that have a digital marketing strategy) seem well represented on Facebook and Twitter, and that is pretty much it. All of them, of course, boast websites. However, there is more that can be done, if a brand is keen on leveraging the "engagement and conversion" strength of digital platforms:
Look Beyond Facebook and Twitter
The social media landscape may be dominated by Facebook, and Twitter may grab a lot of news screen-space, but other platforms are gradually building niche, lively communities that may be more profitably addressed on these platforms than on the data-overloaded Facebook platform. Platforms such as Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr need to be evaluated in terms of the main consumer demographics they cater to, and a brand-owner could then decide whether it makes sense registering a presence or even building up a following on one or more of these platforms.
Twitter's Vine is a few weeks old and brands abroad have already started testing the capabilities of the platform as well as the limits of the capabilities of the platform, in terms of brand communications. Indian brands too need to start experimenting with the platform.
YouTube is a platform that many Indian brand-owners have established channels on, except that most of the content consists of TV ads. Brand-owners need to take a more original-content approach to this platform.
Invest in Content Creation and Consumer-engagement Apps
Content is king on the Internet, if the objective is consumer engagement: original content, that is. Brand-owners in India tend to downplay the impact of original content in sparking consumer interest and engagement. The creation of content, the conceptualization of content ideas and stories, and the design and development of consumer-engagement apps are activities that Indian brand-owners have embarked on half-heartedly.
Creating engaging content is neither a creative task, nor is it a technical task; it is an intellectual effort. Furthermore, content created for one platform may not be reusable on another: Pinterest is purely visual while Facebook is visual/textual. Brand-owners have to set aside the time and resources to craft fresh, engaging content for each platform, on a regular basis: week in, week out.
Given that creating content is such an effort, once original content is created, a brand-owner should learn to leverage it across multiple online channels. Rather than having a team dedicated to creating content for a specific channel/platform, e.g. creating original visuals for platforms such as Pinterest or Vine or YouTube, a more efficient process would be to analyse the requirement of various content formats and then see how content in one format can be shared across multiple channels.
For example, visuals greatly improve the readability of a blog; so, the next time the visual content team creates a visual, let it do so keeping in mind an upcoming blog's title, embed the visual in the blog, and then pin the visual from the blog page to the brand's Pinterest page.
Monitor and Measure
After doing all this, keep monitoring the platforms and channels for consumer engagement. Measure stickiness of the channel, the platform, and the content, and decide on how to proceed next: scale up, withdraw, change tack, change target. And, don't just stop there!
To ensure that a lack of traction in a channel/platform can be ascribed to the unsuitability of that channel/platform to the product category, and not to an inability by the brand-owner to exploit the channel/platform appropriately, monitor competition brands. If a competing brand is doing well, the lack of the brand's success on that channel/platform can be safely attributed to problems with content and/or execution.
Spending more on digital marketing, outside of digital advertising, will have to be at the expense digital advertising. Furthermore, there is no use cutting down on traditional promotion activities and redirecting such funds towards digital advertising, in the belief that the outcome will be similar. Instead, brand-owners need to lay down a promotion strategy that leverages the strengths of each media-category, define distinct objectives based on the needs of the brand and the strengths of the media-category, and then apportion budgets. Remember, digital marketing more than just digital advertising; and digital advertising is not a digital marketing strategy.