Marketing at Crossroads: The Shape-Shifting Marketer

  • Asuthosh

In this second part of the B2Bento chat with Vikas Gulati from and Sanchit Sanga from Mindshare, the conversation continues around the shifting demands placed on marketers on account of changing consumer behaviour in web, mobile and social.

(B2Bento: Anol Bhattacharya, VG: Vikas Gulati, SS: Sanchit Sanga)

B2Bento: You’ve raised a very important point about the line between marketing and technology blurring. That brings us to a different point. It requires a totally different set of people within the industry, and there’s a definite lack of such people, who are comfortable with technology, have marketing sense, and understand the ecosystem of marketing. It’s largely affecting us. What’s your experience and what can we do about it?

VG: The holy grail of marketing, right from the inception of the term marketing, was that you should be able to target consumers where they are and when they are in the most receptive manner. The wish always was, can we have that data? Can we have that intent data? Can we know the consumer life stage? Can we do this precise level of targeting? The problem we are having today is that all of a sudden, it’s become a reality. You’ve been talking about it, thinking you wished you had it but you were never prepared to use and leverage that data.  Today you are in a world where you have all those attributes and data which are easily tracked. You can just store that part out that. Sanchit mentioned trickles of data but I think it’s a whole lot of data out there, and that’s powerful because you have a lot of decision making points that consumers are leaving behind that  influence their purchases.

Customers are leaving a lot of decision-making points behind that influence their purchases, and that’s powerful.

When it comes to people like you finding it difficult because you have a segregation of the world – guys who were doing TV and print and therefore the same set of people we are trying to evolve. Take GetIT comms for example: You understand technology, you understand how the consumers are and how the marketing process happens and you’ve plugged that need.

It’s not that people don’t understand, they do, except that there are large companies out there and it takes a lot of time to change and bring that capability out. The scene is not that different from the situation in the US, maybe it’s one level up. The fact is that there are a whole lot of start-ups all over Asia and there are lots of companies that are offering these communications and marketing capabilities to offer very precise and specific solutions. It’s a challenge to train your existing people who are set in a silo/domain and you want to just transfer them into a new environment. There are people with these capabilities out there though.

My classic saying is “ignore the old world WPP, and look at what they’ve done in the last 2 years”. How many companies has WPP acquired in the digital space, in the niche space, in the last 2 years? How many companies has Publicis acquired, whether its from search, social, events, and where is the money going now? It is about hires and skill-building. WPP now isn’t the way it worked 3 years back.

SS: There is this whole new skill set of techno-marketeers which is in need. If you look at Accenture, SAP, IBM as well, all these companies have acquired stand-alone marketing companies be it in web analytics or data management, and they have also set up media audit outfits like Accenture has. They were weak in the marketing domain but strong in technology and product. We on our side are also looking at similar relationships with the Adobes and Accentures of the world, where some of their products and services can power our decision-making in marketing. It’s at a point of evolution where we have to learn technology and they have to learn marketing. That’s the only way we will all thrive.

VG: To add on, if you look at any technology-based companies be it search, mobile, or social they are making their own efforts. From our perspective, we would conduct workshops for our clients and agencies. We would go out and train them give them creative support, e.g., if they don’t know how to build mobile creatives. Mobile creatives are seen as complex with the different devices, screens etc. How do you adapt, how do you do it. You try to help them do it and that’s how the ecosystem develops. The client will eventually learn and so will agencies.

B2Bento: The question remains though: where is the tipping point? Let’s come back to mobile. You mentioned emerging markets and that the smartphone is not the only thing. Even feature phones are targeted in emerging markets but there is lack of PC connectivity. So after this 5 month period what did you learn about the reaction of smartphone usage in digital marketing  (using smartphones as the vehicle of digital marketing)? What has been your experience? What are the roadblocks and what to expect in the future?

VG: Roadblocks exist within the marketers. Consumers have no roadblocks and they adapt very quickly. They understand their need and what satisfies that need and pick a product for it. They don’t go out and think about the differences between a smartphone and a feature phone.

 Roadblocks exist within the marketers. Consumers have no roadblocks and they adapt very quickly.

Consumers don’t even know the definition of a smartphone or a feature phone. Even 9 out of 10 marketeers won’t know. Irrespective of the type of phone a consumer owns, if you ask him what he does with his phone, he will say he accesses his Facebook, Twitter etc. And he may own a $50 device. Most of the students in Vietam, Indonesia, India and Thailand don’t own iPhones. But they still use their apps, do gaming, use Facebook and Twitter (or their local equivalents) on their phones. In their own ways everyone is using a smartphone. The opportunity for the marketer then there is how do you go out and capture that consumer.

We are presenting just a platform to be out there to reach out. A platform that didn’t exist before. A lot of other ad networks and places where the debate between a smartphone and feature phone exists is borne out of a developed market. They think that way…it’s logical for them. The iPhone was a revolution and changed the dynamics of the industry but it didn’t percolate down to Vietnam and India the way it did in the US. That’s the reality of the market.

Now, if you present a marketer the opportunity to reach out to their consumer on their device in a brand-friendly manner he will still lap it up. Our experience thus far is that it works beautifully. We’ve got all the leading verticals that we wanted on board. We have some of the largest FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods), mobile, automobile companies and a whole range of customers using our platform. That’s a testimony that all marketers will become platform agnostic after some time. Marketeers’ aim should not be to use the iPhone. His objective ought to be to reach his consumers irrespective of the device they use.

All marketers will become platform agnostic

B2Bento:  Let’s go from mobile to the social side of things. What are the biggest differences in consumer or marketeer behavior between US/UK and Asia? What are they doing (or not doing) differently across the spectrum?

SS: Firstly the social world does not begin and end with Facebook. That’s the biggest incorrect notion that people have about social media. Social media germinated from blogs and discussion groups. Facebook has just aggregated a platform for consumers to get to know each other. In its current avatar its not a very marketing-friendly environment. Let’s just accept it. Their marketing revenues actually dropped from Q3 to Q4. There is certainly marketing interest being shown due to the size and reach of the platform but is not yet marketing-friendly.

The social world does not begin and end with Facebook.

You need to look at other platforms. LinkedIn is probably the platform of choice for B2B. You have similar levels of targeting and better ad products. From our experience it delivers far better ROI than Facebook due to advanced targeting and less spillage. Facebook is akin to a black spot in advertising. You tend to see it but not react to it as it’s our own personal environment. LinkedIn is a commercial space. It’s a space where consumers are going to know more about the industry and category they work in. Facebook is for you to be there to make and maintain friendships.

Facebook is akin to a black spot in advertising. You tend to see it but not react to it.

They are very differentiated platforms. Facebook is like having a party at home and brand-stacking that party by putting posters all over the place. That’s my definition of how they differ. LinkedIn is a place where you walk into a shop store and you see areas of interest and posters of what you are looking for unlike Facebook, which is your own space and the brands are ransacking and hijacking that space. That’s the fundamental difference between Facebook and the rest of the social world. Twitter is emerging here but not at Facebook’s space. We need to be careful of our strategy and content strategy has to be the starting point. Distribution can be via social, your website or anything else but the content strategy cannot be focused on a singular platform.

VG: Please don’t go after likes. When you asked this question an incident came to my mind. I was in Orchard (Road – Singapore’s shopping street) with my family and was approached by some young folks to like their page on Facebook. I was being bribed with a goody bag to like that page.

SS: That’s a bit of a herd mentality and rather naïve of brands to go that route. There was a recent study done by Facebook on brand pages. It showed hat 90% of people who like brands and are fans of brands never log back into the page. Only 10% of brand pages get repeat visitors. You might have liked a page three years ago when you joined Facebook but never went back. What is the value then of that fan? (VG: Fan or Spam) Unless you have an engagement strategy in place along with that intent of loyalists.

Catch Part 1 of the Marketing at Crossroads conversation here.


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