Digital a must for brands

Increasingly necessary for businesses to weave online media into brand building and marketing, as communications and Gen Y, in particular, are digitally driven, says P&G exec.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Digital has changed human communication and interaction, especially for Generation Y, and as a result, the way organizations build and market brands are also "fundamentally" changing, said a Procter & Gamble (P&G) executive.

Deb Henretta, Asia group president at P&G, noted that "digital has changed the world"--from the way people speak, share things, read, watch programs, listen to music, make a difference in the world, and pick and remove leaders.

"The question is, have [businesses changed]?" she asked the audience during her presentation at ad:tech Singapore, a two-day interactive advertising and technology conference and exhibition held here Thursday.

Henretta said despite the advent of digital, there remains companies which are still resistant or hesitant to go digital. "They [just] don't get it; they don't have the time for it; they can't keep up; they can't prove it works; or they can't afford it."

But for all these reasons or roadblocks, digital media "ironically" has the "lowest cost" and offer the "highest returns", she argued.

The P&G executive reiterated that digital is changing the "fundamentals of doing business [and] the way we build and market brands". This is reflected in today's faster, global connections; real-time conversations; co-creation and open innovation; e-commerce; and social networking and community, she said.

"Digital is the new normal for Generation Y", Henretta added. The working mother of three related her own experience of going from "digital novice" to "digital native", a result of facing a "tribe of natives" both at home and work.

According to her, one in two employees at P&G falls into the Gen Y category, which meant "we had to alter our ways toward digital, in marketing, the workplace and community" and "learn" from the younger counterparts.

Digital the norm for Gen Y
Touching on the region, Henretta said digital will come along "much faster" in the "youthful" Asian region compared with other parts of the world, given its digitally-savvy demographic.

In addition, there is a lot of "leapfrogging" of technology in Asia, where most people, especially in emerging economies such as India and China, have wireless instead of fixed broadband, and own mobile devices over desktop computers, she added.

Hence, there is a "wonderful opportunity for Asia to lead in thinking and innovation in the digital space", she pointed out.

Chris Thomas, chairman and CEO for Asia at marketing and advertising agency BBDO/Proximity, held similar sentiments. Not only is broadband widespread in Japan and South Korea, the online behavior in Asia is different from that in the West, he pointed out during his presentation. In China, for example, there is a lot more participation and content creation whereas the bulk of online users in the West are observers.

Exploit social media
Thomas highlighted that all brand categories can embrace digital and it has "never been easier" for brands to build and market themselves digitally with today's proliferation and popularity of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Brands can take "lessons" from social movements of the past--such as India's independence and the Philippines' People Power Revolution--since they are in the "business of influencing consumer behavior", he said. Furthermore, movements have "precisely" what brands want, which is "explosive growth, passionate belief, and intense advocacy and evangelism", he added.

"People buy not what you do, but why you do it", Thomas emphasized, noting that brands should "exploit social media opportunities" and the "creative" capabilities and reach of digital media to give the "why and sense of purpose" to the targeted audience.

The "biggest shift" digital has created is in "why we buy", he said. According to him, traditional advertising and marketing business models used to be "linear" but "the way people find information, communicate and [come to a] buying decision" is today more complex.

Digital can be used to "fundamentally change the word of mouth and purchasing patterns", he concluded.

Both Henretta and Thomas's advocacy for digital marketing and advertising corroborate with the State of Marketing Singapore Industry Report 2011, released Thursday. Conducted by marketing consultancy GetIT Comms and the Singapore InfocommTechnology Federation (SiTF), the annual report found that more than half (52 percent) of the 214 survey respondents have increased their overall marketing budgets for this year, with 66 percent boasting bigger budgets in social and interactive digital media.

Editorial standards