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Digital Channels: Marketings Present & Future

11 July 2012

Jane sits on her couch in her modest but comfortable living quarters in Chiang Mai. In what used to take an hour or two, she pays her medical bills within half a minute. She does this with a few finger swipes on her iPad while sharing a conversation with her brother on Skype, who conveniently, lives in Beijing. Her HDTV is showing her favorite series, but she pays no attention to it, as she can easily stream that particular episode whenever she wants via Internet television’s playback capabilities. An advertisement on Facebook about the latest laptop technology catches her eye, thanks to her Android super-phone. She tweets the URL and somehow, somewhere, 30 other people will now have heard of this new development.

To everyone reading this post, congratulations on having the privilege of living in this day and age. Give yourself a pat on the back for being fortunate enough to experience humanity’s jump into the digital frontier.

However, if by any chance you work or study in the field of marketing and consumer behavior, especially for reasons that are entrepreneurial and profit seeking, this is a time of which your abilities to adapt and survive will be in great need.

I say this because I genuinely believe that the common human person hasn’t experience such a radical technological leap ever before in history, at least within the notion of consumerism.

If we take a look at the past, it’s obvious that technological advancement sprouts changes in marketing strategies and approaches.

Channels in which businesses reach and communicate to their consumers change, fundamentally because people will always be attracted to new life-improving products and practices. When the ancient Egyptians invented papyrus, businesses discovered that posting what were early versions of advertisements were an effective way of informing customers (many of them about slave trading if you care to know).

More recently, the birth of TV media managed to convince generations of people to glue themselves onto their television screens. As a direct result, a host of blue-chip companies started paying exuberant amounts of money for, in many cases, just 30 seconds of advertising space. Decisions like these were seemingly justified sales-wise, of course only if the ads were executed with the correct insight and technique.

I could continue to elaborate about the radio and Morse code, but it would serve no purpose as neither, nor the TV and paper were as influential to the common person as quickly and aggressively as the Internet is today.

Many businesses know this and have spent large amounts of money in keeping up with the trend. According to online market research firm eMarketer, online advertising speding in 2002 was US$6 billion dollars in the US alone. In 2005 that figure doubled. Through the years 2004, 2005, and 2006, online advertising expenditures maintained a 30% rise per annum. Unsurprisingly, that number took a hit during the recession but in 2011 it bounced back to about US$28 billion. The estimate for 2014 is about a staggering US$40 billion dollars.

What does this mean for marketeers around the globe? Given how quickly mobile and Internet technology are making into people’s homes, and not forgetting the fact that many companies have already embraced the digital revolution as a marketing opportunity, those who do not adapt will cease to exist sooner than later.

On a brighter note, what’s great about online marketing is that you don’t have to be a multi-million dollar company to carry out an outstanding online campaign. An online marketing strategy is generally cheaper and can be much more cost-effective than advertising in traditional print or broadcasted media. There are also several platforms within the digital channel that businesses can use to penetrate a market. For example, social media platforms, email marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) have all become particularly popular routes to reaching new customers.

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking to a certain marketing guru from a globally respected marketing agency. What struck me during our conversation was her firm opinion on where the marketing industry was heading for.

“Interactivity” she argued.

Digital marketing is a two-way street. A large percentage of consumers today are proactive in searching for new content online, be it on their laptops, mobile phones or tablets. As a result, marketeers need to be able to take advantage of this relatively new behavior by offering high-quality and relevant content, on platforms that are easily assessable through digital channels.

For a good read on digital marketing, I recommend reading Understanding Digital Marketing by Damian Ryan and Calvin Jones.

Keith Foong is a 3rd year Marketing and Logistics student at the University of British Columbia. He comes from a modest upbringing in Malaysia and he one day strives to be a brand manager.

Keith Foong

Marketing Assistant