“The thing with social media is that you are on social media whether you like it or not”
Zeenat Chaudhary: What did today’s workshop entail?
Simon Bradley: The workshop was about how to take your brand to the next level using brand activations. How do you move from being a brand dependent on paid media, advertising and traditional media into areas of high engagement and experience-driven branding – in other words, experiential and event marketing. During the workshop we covered content marketing, influencer marketing, sponsorships, cause-related marketing and relationship marketing. The core motivation behind the workshop is that it is becoming increasingly challenging for brands to connect with their customers through traditional marketing channels and they therefore must find new ways of bringing their brand to life.
ZC: Are the most effective marketing disciplines the same across different regions?
SB: The core discipline is the same everywhere and we have been using it for a long time; understand your audience, have a deep level of insight and be able to execute a brand promise against those factors. However, the approach may differ in different markets; some markets are more event/activation-driven, some are digital-driven. For instance, in Pakistan it might be event-driven since the majority of the public is not present on social media, while in the UK or USA, it is more digital-driven because the majority prefer e-commerce to physical shopping. Also, some markets rely heavily on paid media (on digital), while in others, PR is a preferred and stronger tool for brand communication. Of course if a single product or service is offered in different countries, this is where local experts come in and use the above mentioned communications tools in the best way.
ZC: Has the penetration of digital media affected brands globally, in terms of how they communicate with their target audiences and market their products?
SB: Definitely. In every country that I have lived in or visited, there is a generation of marketers who are incredibly digitally-savvy. Digital media touches every part of the world in some way or other and digital is a platform that younger marketers are highly fluent in as they have grown up with it. There was a time when we talked about the immense need for digital media marketing managers but now, everyone is a digital marketing manager. The impact of digital is also different in different countries. For instance, in the UK and USA, one of the major impacts of digital media has been to make the customer experience critical to address. Previously, if something went wrong, the customer would tell perhaps 10 people. Today, the same customer is more likely to tell 10,000. This amplification moulds all aspects of the brand and not just the promotional aspect. It makes it critical that a brand’s promises are delivered well. In other markets, prioritising customer experience has been less of an issue but nevertheless digital media is driving the marketing agenda. Well-executed digital marketing builds the brand and drives acquisition. The divide between brand marketing and direct response is an outdated model. On digital, great branded content can drive short-term acquisition, and there are lots of examples of direct response advertising that build a brand.
ZC: Is social media a major component for a brand’s marketing strategy?
SB: The thing with social media is that you are on social media whether you like it or not. Hence, every brand too is on social media whether they like it or not. It is highly important that every brand embraces social media and in the right way, because there are huge opportunities there (as well as risks if you do not manage your brand properly on those channels). Social media is critical to how a brand is perceived but brands today also have to get used to the idea that they are not in control of everything customers may say about them. Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you are out of the room.” I think that is very true, especially with social media. Marketers increasingly have to focus on ensuring the customer experience is of a high standard and delivers the company’s brand promise rather than just stating it. Social media is and needs to be a fundamental pillar of any marketing strategy.
ZC: What advice would you give to brands which have so far only advertised on traditional means (TV, radio, print) and now need to adapt to digital?
SB: To me, a lot of the principles of digital marketing are the same as those for traditional marketing. You need to be insight-driven, have a clear brand promise and value proposition and then execute it seamlessly across all touch points. These principles have been around for decades and are very much a part of what digital marketing is about. Once a brand adopts these principles, it is then about the medium being different and therefore, the way you execute it will be different. My advice would be to make sure you have the expertise and ability to do it, but the principles behind it still need to be clear.
ZC: In terms of the projects you have worked on, what is your core role?
SB: I work in the travel sector, the transportation sector and in entertainment, sports, finance, recruitment consulting and education; it depends on what the client wants. My role is to support the marketing team, which ranges from helping them develop a marketing team to helping them find a creative/other agency. Or it could be helping them develop new products and strategies and implementing them. It could also be that there is a brand that wants to develop a new marketing strategy or rebrand/rethink the way it is approaching its brand. It could also be a new company that is building its brand up from zero.
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