Digital Marketing (DM) represents an enormous opportunity for marketers to complement (and, in many cases move beyond) traditional ‘offline’ marketing tools to redefine how they interact with their customers.
While still a new practice in absolute terms, the DM landscape has already evolved to offer focused, cost-effective channels that can be successfully leveraged to quickly engage with consumers across geographies and in a very targeted and customized fashion. Further, DM channels are constantly changing and we are already seeing relatively ‘mature’ channels (that are already being re-assessed and revamped) as well as ‘new’ and more innovative channels that are coming to the fore.
Established and Relatively Mature Channels are being Re-Assessed and Revamped
There are a host of DM channels that are considered the foundation of an organization’s DM strategy and have been around for some time. Interestingly, in the eyes of many observers and practitioners, these channels are already being viewed as having achieved a level of ‘maturity’. Such channels include Search Engine Marketing (including Paid Search and Search Engine Optimization), Interactive Display (Banner Ads, Contextual Ads etc.), Affiliate Marketing, Email Marketing, and other related traditional online/internet advertising channels.
Most marketers are aware of these channels and they continue to account for a significant portion of digital marketing budgets. In line with this, as their usage has become relatively more commonplace, more progressive questions are being asked as to how to best leverage these tools to glean more specific insights about consumers. As such, these channels are leveraging advanced analytical tools in order to leverage the data captured through their usage, to study consumer behavior patterns, and more precisely target marketing efforts. Two examples of this phenomenon are:
- Traditional search engines having evolved into vertical search engines, which leverage advanced web crawlers and analytics to provide targeted results based on the geography, domain, user preference, behavior, genre etc.
- Email marketing campaigns leveraging analytics to study user behavior; the emails then developed based on this feedback and sent witness higher click- through and conversion rates.
A New Class of DM Channels are Emerging
In addition to these more traditional channels, a host of newer strategies and tools have caught the progressive marketer’s eye.
These channels include Social Media (leveraging social networks such as Facebook, Twitter etc.), Viral Online Videos (YouTube), Mobile Marketing (SMS, Display Ads, Mobile Search and Mobile Applications), as well as a host of additional Digital Applications. Realistically, these marketing avenues are less well understood and marketers continue to spend a portion of their marketing budgets to better understand how they can be successfully leveraged. However, while marketers continue to grapple with their implications for their products and services, these channels continue to witness further evolution in terms of new ideas and forms.
- Crowdsourcing (that originated as a platform for companies/brands to engage with users to solve corporate problems or provide suggestions or ideas) has gradually evolved into ‘Crowdfunding’, where users can collaborate and pool their resources to provide funding to start-ups or other users.
- Kickstarter founded in 2009 provides funding to creative projects globally.
- IndieGogo founded in 2008 enables users to post their ideas, and obtain funding.
- Integrating technology and social media to launch marketing campaigns.
- Unilever came up with an innovative ice cream vending machine in 2010—“Share Happy” Vending Machine—that has an built-in ‘smile recognition’ technology, which can ‘measure the grin’ of the user, and takes a picture, which can be then uploaded into Facebook.
- Digital applications moving a step-ahead with ‘Location- based services’ (digital applications which use the geographic position or location of the device in order to provide information), and giving rise to location-sensitive mobile advertising (based on the location/geography, the user receives deals/coupons/ promotional messages from local marketers.
The Power of Social Media…
Clearly, the overall marketing landscape is becoming more complex. At the same time, it offers unprecedented opportunities to change the way organizations interact with and build relationships with their consumers. For those who do it well, the benefits can be immense:
- Dell announced that it earned about $6.5 million globally from Twitter over the period 2007–2009
- Old Spice launched an award-winning viral video campaign in 2010—“Smell Like a Man, Man”—that resulted in generating a 107% jump in monthly sales
- For the first time in 23 years, Pepsi did not buy ads in the Super Bowl telecast in February 2010. Instead it spent about $20 million on a social-media campaign to promote its “Pepsi Refresh” initiative, and was able to overtake Coke in terms of total number of Facebook fans (one of the metrics used to determine social media effectiveness)
…And the Need for Effective Policies
That said, these new online tools, particularly social media, are not without their challenges. One aspect of immediate concern for many organizations—whether they are explicitly aware of it or not—is social media policy.
Indeed, policy-makers in many companies need to understand the power and influence that social media has over a brand or a product. Specifically, policy-makers need to focus on framing broad guidelines or social media policies in order to mitigate and manage the risks that may arise from the online interactions between any of at least three parties i.e. the brand, consumer and employees.
Social Media policies and guidelines are typically aimed at answering three core questions:
- What can be said about the brand? (Blogging Disclosure policy, Facebook or Twitter comment/messaging policy)
- How to say about the brand? (Facebook or Twitter Usage Policy, Blog Use Policy)
- Who can say about the brand? (Employee guidelines or code of conduct for online communications or engagement, blog/ comments/posts approval process)
However, according to statistics released in early 2010 by Manpower (an employment services firm), only 29% of companies even had a social media policy in the US. As social media tools continue to grow in usage and become an ever greater part of the mainstream consciousness, the proactive development and management of social media policy will be critical.
Authors: Yash Rai and Puneeta Mathur