Innovation is probably the most overrated and overused word today in the tech industry. Well, innovation and big data. Marketing comes a close second I would imagine, because of the strong direct correlation between innovation and the potential uses in marketing.
Defining innovation varies depending on who you speak to. The strict definition involves actual invention and discovery, whereas the more modern typical definition allows for mixing and matching products, designs and technologies to achieve a new objective. Let’s be honest, no one is inventing anything these days, except physicists using material engineering to develop new compounds, elements and materials designed to perform certain functions. To them, a camera is a camera – the megapixel count or the number of filters you have on your phone doesn’t matter.
Then there is modern innovation. A blender full of existing tech, put together to perform a certain task and every model/iteration of the product is considered innovation. And then there are patent wars over who did what which way, even if it was the same thing that they all did. But I digress.
I personally identify myself as someone who is a moderate when it comes to innovation.
I don’t gush over the small changes that cell phone manufacturers make to their product, because it is almost always an improvement or an adaptation of an existing technology into a new form or combination. I like and appreciate a good blend of technology, the capacity to mix, match and achieve an objective. Beyond cell phones please.
In the data space, this mixing and matching from two sources is called a mashup and is not something unheard of or unseen in the tech space or the marketing space for that matter.
Pakistan is considered as the land of jugaars, (Silicon Valley calls them ‘hacks’, meaning quick fixes). Yet it seems that marketing technologies are some of the most underrated technologies in place when it comes to consumer interaction or data collection. Our standard BTL engagement tends to have an iPad (to fill in online forms, or show product catalogues or videos) and a game or two. A recent example was a branding/TVC projection on a loop in a rectangular box. Seriously? Why would people come to see your TVC in the middle of a mall?
The marketing industry in Pakistan, while probably one of the most progressive compared to others in the country, seems to be extremely slow at adopting new technology – and the reasons why are yet to be determined. When I talk about technology, I generally mean the use of new developments to fulfil customer needs or to understand consumer behaviour. Or even to just interact or communicate with the
consumer, or allow them to interact with brands.
The tools we use today for a wide variety of purposes are nothing but a mixture of technologies we are already familiar with. What needs to be understood is that technology itself is the paradigm and everything else is an element. These include audio/visual tools, communication systems, data collection and analysis techniques – or even a blend of them. The elements will come and go as platforms change but everything else, including the underlying fundamentals, remain the same.
Our retail sector practices a purely point-based loyalty system – which also happens to be quite expensive to maintain from the business point of view. None of the large supermarkets have any major consumer behaviour analysis plans to speak of, and consequently consumer data is not monetised. The same goes for the myriad restaurants offering delivery. Never has a restaurant called me to ask about my meal and delivery experience, nor have they asked why I haven’t ordered again in a long time.
We install billboards on streets, but do very little to track their effectiveness and impact on a singular sit level. We don’t even have a metric to determine actual site value; instead we simply argue about pricing and complain about how expensive media is. (NB: The Pakistan Advertisers Society has taken an initiative in this regard, but so far no details have been given about the technology proposed.) Traffic passing by billboards can be easily tracked by adding a small piece of equipment to each billboard, not to
mention the fact that the same tech can be used to identify traffic congestion on the roads. The outdoor advertising model can now be impression-based instead of time duration-based. Once we track estimated impressions, a possible metric can be determined to help brands determine ROI (assuming an attribution plan exists).
Our BTL engagements are mostly centred on something that ‘creates’ a consumer experience, but little measurement is done in terms of how many customers are engaged and whether this leads to conversion. Yet, simple data collection techniques built into activities, coupled with human movement analysis can add significant depth to engagement data and help improve consumer engagement metrics.
With few exceptions, our online campaigns do not complete the conversion loop by actually capturing the customer, completing a sale and registering users for trials. All brands, appreciate the need for interaction online, and Twitter and Facebook are standard customer service helpdesks used internationally to dispense information and respond to queries. Unfortunately, the majority of companies in Pakistan do not even recognise email as a consumer contact medium. I have yet to come across any company that has a fully structured help menu on their site that allows the identification of a problem and simplifies the solution.
Most of our cinemas use the same platform for ticketing, yet the concept of e-tickets seems just as absent as e-boarding passes are at Pakistani airports. The average customer still has to book early, show up 30 to 45 minutes prior to the show and stand in queue to collect the tickets. But does the cinema know who the customer was and what are the chances he or she will come back? Or how much he or she spent on the concession stands, which is the real profitability driver for cinema owners?
Fuel companies are equally presumptive of their customers and their loyalty. No measures are taken to identify car types (and then tailor offers accordingly) to ensure their loyalty, except an occasional CNG deal by some petrol pumps – and that too focusing on CNG alone and at the discretion of the pump owners. Fuel marketing companies seem to not know or care about who does and who doesn’t buy fuel from them.
I know it seems like I am complaining a lot, but this should be a moment of introspection for people at the helm of affairs in these companies.
Knowing the consumer you have just spent millions to reach is much more valuable in the long run. Much of what I have mentioned can be addressed by using technology and resources that are available locally. However, only those companies willing to use those resources will be able to understand the impact of knowing and therefore being able to achieve so much more. Within the boundaries of this country, we have the brains to make it all happen. None of this is rocket science. It is only a question of
asking enough of ‘what ifs’. The question right now is, are we asking enough, are we thinking openly enough? Or have we assumed that everything related to technology is the domain of some other department?
My view? We just don’t ask enough questions. Are we afraid to?
Imtiaz Noor is a marketing technologies consultant. email@example.com