Bridging the Digital Divide

Sangeeta Chacko, Head - Corporate Communications, Percept LimitedPercept Limited is Mumbai-headquartered media, entertainment & communications company offering services under three major verticals - Marketing Communication Services, Assets, and Digital. It also specializes in Production & Distribution of Movies & Ad Films, Event Management Creative Advertising, PR, Brand Activation, and many other areas.

Technology is transforming the communications landscape in ways and means that are unimaginable. Consumers are far more connected and yet distracted today than ever before, even as brand marketers struggle with the techwinds of change propelling the industry forward. As people spend more time on their mobiles, laptops, i-pods and tablets, the test for brands is to reconnect with customers through all these newfangled gadgets in real time and design campaigns that connect across social media,display advertising and e-Commerce. While some marketers struggle to keep pace, others have started reImagineering the communication landscape for their brands and companies. After all, with challenges come many opportunities.

There has never been a better time to gain competitive advantage by being a tech-savvy marketer. Real time 2 way dialogue offers brand marketers an opportunity to leverage brand connect and increase customer loyalty via smart storytelling that taps into existing consumer desires and aspirations while leveraging on the speed and scope of digital engineering, reach and analytics. This calls for the perfect marriage between the Marketing Team with the Digital team which can be a massive challenge in itself. The Marketing team is focused on gauging consumer motive and desire and uses its findings to craft communication programs that drive the desired consumer emotion and purchase action. It's an instinctive, insightful, passionate and creative process that gradually unfolds in the marketplace. But the Digital function is perceived as a cold brusque team that handles algorithms,statistics, computing, tracking and analysis. The trick lies in bridging this perceived divide to leverage core competencies.

While the objectives of Marketing haven't changed, the devices and tactics of marketing have changed drastically due to digital disruption over the past decade. Digital enables speed of message delivery,accuracy and scale of Target Audience reach,two-way realtime dialogue and meaningful consumer engagement. Thanks to Digital algorithms communication messages can now be customized and relayed to the right target audience, therein making the message relevant for the recipient. Smart marketers can capitalize on the wide array of free/cost effective digital platforms to gain mass traction and reach for a simple
innovative communication idea. Content Management System(CMS)can help the brand’s online presence and reach. Customer Relationship Management(CRM)can help marketers manage one-on-one relationships via leads, prospects, employees, consumers, associates, media and other key stakeholders. This was unheard of in the days of expensive one-way traditional media channel reach. Digital equalizes the marketing landscape by enabling the smaller player to gain visibility through FOC Digital platforms and devices, therein trumping the moneybag players. It's not the budget that matters any more; it's the innovation, creativity, speed and amplification of the idea that cuts through the clutter today!

It's not the budget that matters anymore; it's the innovation, creativity, speed and amplification of the idea that cuts through the clutter today!

So,where does that leave the traditional Marketing Specialist today? Desperately in need of a mindset and skill upgrade in order to capitalize on the new age platforms and devices available at hand today. Brand Marketers must take Digital teams into confidence and work closely alongside data analysts, web designers, bloggers,social media experts and digital professionals to develop winning 360 degree outreach messages and campaigns that are relevant, engaging and scalable to their TG.

Digital Specialists also need to move away from simply displaying an analytical technical mind to embracing their creative side. The statistical consumer patterns identified online by the Digital staff can translate into brilliant niche ideas that can in turn convert into out-of-the-box marketing strategies and campaigns. They must accept the fact that technology by itself is not the perfect answer, however the analysis of big data combined with gut feel and creativity can create magical campaigns that can generate the 'WOW' factor. To spawn value, Digital teams need to change their mindsets, stop talking technology and commence offering creative out-of-the-box solutions that can ride the tech-wave to improve company image and bottom-lines.

While bridging the digital divide is easier for the SMEs and young companies, it’s the old hierarchical giant corporations that are struggling to let go of the old style of working. As younger companies and forward-thinking marketers nimbly hasten the digital transformation, businesses that are too big and slow to evolve or just too afraid to take risks will stumble and be left behind. Even as many companies struggle with comprehending and embracing the digital makeover, the real power struggle is whether the Chief Information Officer or Chief Marketing Officer should be spearheading the revolution. The bigger the company, the greater the stakes and the more fierce this battle.

As more and more tech-savvy millennial enter the workforce, there is pressure on the old staff to upgrade their skills or be phased out. Companies needs to balance out this equation well as an effective organization is one that has a great mix of millennia's and a good ratio of experienced staff who have learnt through trials, pitfalls and tribulations. It's important to upgrade skills as the older experienced staff move from traditional marketing roles to holistic (traditional + digital) marketing roles and capture audiences who are simultaneously moving from traditional to digital consumption patterns.

As the winds of change pick up greater pace, companies are struggling in their recruitment process to locate candidates that bring in a strong mix of competencies spanning communication and creative skills, analytical,strategic, curious and self-motivated minds, an attention to detail and an agility to adapt and respond to change. Training them through a mix of internal and external resources and submerging them in marketing technology,strategy and creativity will be vital for success. Necessity will see the rise of a new breed of ‘Marketing Technologists’ who will design scalable marketing technology models that will adapt rapidly as new solutions and prospects emerge, and as consumer interests, inclinations and behaviour patterns evolve. Effective marketing communication of the future will seamlessly blend R&D, innovation, intuition, flair, creativity, engagement, data and technology to create powerful, relevant, holistic and memorable marketing campaigns.

Yes, great challenges lie ahead, but we are living in an era where anything is possible!