Obstacles to adoption of digital marketing as a strategic marketing activity in India

Certain trends in digital media are clearly charted out. Let me mention some of them here. First is that digital media is claiming a higher share of the marketing budget and at is at the expense of spending on other media such as print, TV, radio etc. Secondly, PCs aren’t the only platform for consuming digital media, mobile devices, smart phones with 3G services and all sorts of other smart devices are consuming digital content. Thirdly, more and more people are spending more time online by logging in through various devices and amount of time spent online is also increasing. Fourthly, more companies are willing to spend online besides the traditional travel, airlines and insurance companies (which should have mastered the art by now), and that list includes consumer goods to B2B services. Lastly, there is flurry of new websites, social networks, professional networks, business services (for instance www.redbus.in), technologies, cloud-computing platforms, and E-commerce websites popping out all over the web and screaming for consumer attentions. The list is hard to catch up with. Not surprising then, that the services to catch up with upcoming web trends and technologies (such as Reddit and StumbleUpon) are also becoming popular.

Having said that, it is also needless to mention that there are companies and business in all shapes and sizes, that are clueless about leveraging digital marketing activities. There is a strong need to emphasize the fact the digital marketing should be seen not as complimentary or supporting component of the overall marketing strategy but as a strategic component because it is unlimited by its use and availability, it is timeless, it is cheap  and it is measureable.

What is delaying the adoption of digital marketing then? Let’s take a look. Clearly charting out the obstacles to adoption of digital marketing in India as a strategic marketing activity will be the first step towards getting over them.

Marketing managers may often cite the following reasons for their lack of faith in digital marketing.

1)       Resistance to learn and adapt new ways of digital marketing – Haven’t had time to catch up, since mainstream marketing keep me busy!

  • That’s a lame excuse. Every change has to deal with resistance. It is the function of your lizard brain. If you have time to catch up with industry trends and competitors’ moves, then this is no less an industry trend to be ignored. The reason rather is that no effort was made to learn new things or digital marketing didn’t feel important enough to set out time.

2)      Lack of knowledge of efficacy and functions of digital marketing activities – Don’t know which digital marketing activities will be best suited for our business!

  • Agreed. Different industries need different digital marketing activities. For instance, banner ads are used more by banking and insurance company and travel portals or airlines spend more on search engine marketing. Contests are done on microsites and promotions are done on social networks. Here there is a need to understand that there are no rule-books that specify that such and such business should do such as such digital promotions. It is all based on trial and error, generating ideas, measuring, monitoring and optimization.

3)      Lack of thought leadership and evangelism on part of digital agencies – My digital agency is unable to convince me!

  • No wonder. Because it is very likely that your digital agency themselves don’t quite understand digital marketing as a marketing enterprise. This business is relatively new in India. There is high shortage of talent in this industry. Digital agencies don’t have the sensibilities or brains to hire talent because they see that as expenditure rather than an investment. Digital agencies in India sometimes employ a bunch of also-rans (even at the top management at times!) who are incapable of generating any good ideas, or marketing revolutions. That is further cursed by the fact that that average education level of digital marketing breed in India is ridiculously low. Not many students from the leading engineering or management institutes see this as a career option. Here we need evangelism of the fact the digital marketing can be as glamorous and gratifying as a career option as any other. It is the responsibility of the digital marketing leadership in India to evangelize the concept in industry as well general business community, business schools and engineering colleges.

4)      Lack of belief that the audience is online – I don’t think my customers are online!

  • Hell they are! A lot a people in India are online. Adil Zainulbhai of McKinsey India, in one of his recent article in the Corporate Dossier of The Economic Times, mentioned that 90 million people in India access the internet. If your business can’t find customers in this crowd of 90 million, then I wonder where really they might be! Believe me, there are enough people in India who are online and some of your customers are surely there. Even if you are specialized software service provides for one segment of a specific industry, believe me, your customers are talking about you on blogs and forums.

5)      Lack of understanding of methods to measure ROI from digital marketing – I don’t understand how can we develop metrics to measure, monitor and optimize digital marketing activities.

  • I don’t blame you in this case. Not all digital marketing activities are measurable. You could easily measure the websites visits, or banner ad clicks or campaign ROI. But it is difficult to establish the metric that measures the impact of the presence of your brand on Facebook. It is not impossible. Measurement depends on the marketing objectives. This goes back to point 2. Once we understand what each medium does, we will be in a better position to use it for what it does and we will know how to measure it. Unless the objective is clear, measurement can’t be done. In this specific case, Facebook can be a good measure of brand popularity and engagement and that can be measured by counting fans on Facebook and daily or weekly interaction among them.

6)      Non availability of data to make informed decisions – There is no data to show that this will work and I am unable to decide how much should I spend!

  • Valid point. This is precisely what you should ask from your digital agency to show you. I know there are confidentiality agreements and legal issues associated with that, but these things can be tackled by creating thought leadership collateral such as case studies, white papers, PowerPoint presentations etc. Again, this goes back to point 3. There is an urgent need for digital agencies to employ talent which can generate this thought leadership.

7)      Historical baggage and reliance on traditional media – In my business, traditional media works better!

  • Not necessarily. You may have become too reliant on tried and tested marketing ideas such as TV advertising, radio talks, bill boards etc. There is a need to understand the unique natures of digital content. It is nimble, sharable and interactive and it doesn’t have an expiration date. For instance, if you spend on creating a TV ad and spend on showing it on TV, it will be shown on TV as long as you keep paying for it. But if you create a viral video and put it on YouTube and enable sharing, it stays there forever, it is seen by increasing number of people and it has the power to make or break your brand. Best part of it? It’s nearly free!

So let me end this rather long blog post with a powerful thought. Victor Hugo once said “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”. So my fellow marketers, go digital! Sky is the limit here!


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