Even post-lockdown, digital media is here to stay

Dr. Venkatesh (Venky) Shankar opines that a synergistic approach to advertising across media is needed to engage and serve the customers creatively and seamlessly. Having said that, he adds that as India’s young population enhances its consumption of digital media, marketers will have to accelerate their shift in spending and efforts to digital.

Venkatesh (Venky) Shankar

IBT: What have been the major drivers of the shift to digital advertising over the past few years across the world? How is India similar or distinct in this context?

Dr Venkatesh Shankar: Over the past few years, four key drivers have propelled the migration of advertising from traditional to digital:

(1) People, in particular youngsters, including millennials and Gen Z, are increasingly engaging with digital media relative to traditional media.

(2) Digital advertising is more engaging, targetable, trackable, and accountable than traditional advertising.

(3) Digital advertising is more secular—even small organizations can afford to do search advertising at a reasonable cost—unlike traditional advertising (say TV) that requires relatively high threshold levels of spending.

(4) With the emergence of huge and ubiquitous digital ad platforms, digital advertising’s reach is also growing.

India is similar to western countries in many aspects of digital media. However, it differs in the following ways.

(1) India has a greater portion of young audience (over half of Indians are under 30), so digital advertising adoption should accelerate.

(2) India has a diversity of languages, making language a key component of targeting and content creation.

(3) India’s smartphone penetration and bandwidth are growing, but are not up to the levels of western countries, so the use of video and dynamic ads is less than in the western world now (but will grow in the coming years).

IBT: How has COVID-19 shifted the consumer approach towards of digital media like OTT, social media, gaming, etc? How have advertisers responded to the same, in order to maximise ROI of their marketing investments?

Dr Venkatesh Shankar: COVID-19 has accelerated consumer consumption of digital content, so media like OTT, social media and game-related media are rapidly on the upswing. Advertisers have more choices, so allocation of resources across these media is important. Unfortunately, data points on individual use of these different media are sparse in India, so the levels of duplication of the channels and individual level broader digital footprints are not well known. Nevertheless, these media inherently lend themselves more to tracking, experimentation, and generation of greater ROI than traditional media. A synergistic approach to advertising across these media is needed.

IBT: Now that the economy is opening and people are stepping out of their homes, how do you expect media consumption habits to change in the next few months? What are the most lucrative avenues for B2C marketers to promote their brands among millennials in India and why?

Dr Venkatesh Shankar: Although people are stepping out more now than before, it is a cautious “new normal.” Social distancing and masking are still in vogue, so the outdoor opportunities will be gradual. Digital is here to stay and is transforming our lives, from shopping to education to recreation. Again, India’s youngsters will increasingly spend more time with mobile and social media.

B2C marketers should engage with their target audience through multiple platforms, channels, media, and devices on an ongoing basis. Only those B2C marketers who boldly experiment will survive and thrive in this growing digitalization of life.

IBT: What advantages does digital media have in comparison to other counterparts? What key criteria should brands keep in mind as decide their digital marketing mix, i.e. SEO, SMO, e-mail marketing, video marketing, etc?

Dr Venkatesh Shankar: As India’s young population grows with digital, marketers will have to accelerate their shift in spending and efforts to go digital. SEO, SEM, email marketing, SMO, video marketing, influencer marketing, and mobile marketing will demand a significant share of marketing budget. The key to success is an integrated strategy across different media and platforms to engage and serve the customers creatively and seamlessly.

IBT: Video is considered a major digital engagement tool for brands in the present context. How is it working out in reality from a content marketing perspective and what are the key elements of a successful engagement strategy through videos?

Dr Venkatesh Shankar: Video is inherently more memorable and persuasive than text. However, the attention span of audience is short, so videos will have to be short to be effective.

Short videos, have proved to be a major hit with the Indian audience as witnessed by the runaway success of Tik Tok (over 200 million users, the largest outside China) before it was banned. Alternative short video platforms such as Bolo Indya, Chingari, Mitron, Roposo, and Sharechat now have an opportunity to forge ahead.

The future is in short videos and instant engagement. Influencer marketing and livestreaming could also gain traction among the younger audience. An influencer like Riyaz Aly having a massive 28.4 million follower base on Tik Tok suggests that short videos and influencer marketing have more to offer.

Brands should leverage every digital opportunity to connect with their audience, listen to them, and co-create offerings and experiences. In a carefully orchestrated video engagement strategy, brands should use data analytics, continuously learn user preferences, develop creative content, connect at a personal level, and develop emotional bonding with the users.

Venkatesh (Venky) Shankar  (http://www.venkyshankar.com/is Professor of Marketing and Coleman Chair in Marketing and Director of Research at the Center for Retailing Studies, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University. His areas of specialization include Digital Business, Marketing Strategy, Innovation, New Product Management, Retailing, Services Marketing, Pricing, International Marketing, Branding, Mobile Marketing., and Artificial Intelligence. Shankar has a Ph.D. in marketing from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University and has corporate experience in the areas of marketing and international business development. He has been recognized as one among the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds by Thomson Reuters and one of the Top 10 experts on innovation management worldwide. Shankar has consulting or executive teaching experience with organizations such as Allstate, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Colgate Palmolive, Deloitte, GlaxoSmithKline, Halliburton, Hewlett Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Lucent Technologies, Marriott International, Medtronic, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, PepsiCo, PNC Bank, Philips, and Volvo.

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