Monthly Archives: September 2006

Marketing and the digitized World

There is no information asymmetry in today’s digitized World. Consumers are getting more and more empowered with information on their fingertips. The world is getting compressed. Consumer is closer to the producer then ever before. Companies can leverage direct input from the consumer instantaneously in every field including product design and testing. So where is marketing really headed in this world?

Before talking about any one specific field, it is very important to understand what the digitization brings to the table. Digitization has changed the World in many ways. It has impacted business in numerous ways as well. Actually, talking in broad terms, it has revolutionize three things dramatically – communication, information and collaboration. The way people can communicate in today’s World has been digitized. Whether it’s one-to-one communication using technologies like VOIP, Live Meeting and instant messaging or mass communication using tools like blogs, newsgroup or newsletters, it’s become a lot easier and cheaper then ever before. When you talk about information, it’s the same thing. People can access any information in the World online instantaneously. The search engines have become gateways to the World of information. The information which costed big bucks a decade ago is now available freely and easily, thanks to the digital revolution. Another important thing that is affected by this digital wave is collaboration. People can collaborate with each other, work on projects together and have discussions without any ackles. Basically, the fiber optics have shrunk the World and tied the ends together with miles to go from where we are today.

Now lets talk about marketing, where it is today and where it is poised to go. To discuss this, its very important to answer one question – communication, information and collaboration – how do these affect marketing? I think these form the backbone of marketing. Communicating the message effectively to the consumer is one of the most important jobs in marketing. Any form of communication used in marketing, be it advertising or campaign, product feedback or requirement collection, is heavily impacted by the digital revolution. Advertising effectively to the right customer at the right time through the right medium can be done using the digital technology. Proper software creation and use of data mining can lead to identifying the most appropriate time and medium to target the customer. Digitization of the World has taken communication in terms of product feedback and requirement collection miles ahead. Blogging plays a critical role here. Corporate blogs like FastLane by General Motors and 787 Dreamliner by Boeing are prime examples of how companies can talk directly to the customers, create buzz about their products and gain feedback. So where are we heading? I think marketing communication will become lot more economical through digitization. In the field of advertising, the companies will be able to target the appropriate audience with a higher precision, lowering the advertising cost considerably. The blogs and newsgroups will replace, or atleast complement to a large extent, editorials for reviews of the products.

Information is one of the most important tools required for marketing. Any company requires a large amount of information about the market, competitors and customers to make sound decisions. On the other hand, companies also want their product information to reach the customers as soon as possible. Information delivery and distribution has become a lot cheaper due to digitization. Another significant impact digitization has made is in making the information posting easier using blogs and newsgroups. So marketing organizations can have two way information exchange with their customers seamlessly through digital media. Going forward, the digital media will become much more prominent source of information interchange amongst various entities. Digitization in Information interchange and advancements in software to translate information in different languages instantaneously will also take globalization to the next level. The marketing organizations will have to strategize their information distribution on the Internet more accurately to address the much larger global audience. The benefits of this will be huge cost savings in the field of information retrieval and distribution by the marketers.

Now moving on to collaboration. Collaboration is another important aspect of successful marketing. To be successful, any company needs to have marketing as the core part of its decision making process. Marketing is the organization which is closest to the customers. So the marketers viewpoint should get prime attention in research, product development and financial decisions made by the company. That’s the reason marketing wing of any company needs to collaborate with all other parts of the company. The digitization of the world has made this easier than ever before. The marketers in the field can collaborate easily with anyone anywhere with great ease. They can provide instant feedback to product development and research organizations and help steer the company in the right direction. Similarly, digitized world can empower collaborative work amongst marketers and with customers and partners effectively and with great ease. With software enhancements and digitization increasing its reach, the collaborative process will become more easier and cheaper for all parts of the business to use.

To sum up, I think marketing is one of the prime areas influenced positively by the digitization of the World. This is one field which is revolutionized a lot all through the digital evolution and will continue to do so in the future with digitization touching new heights.

Doing it the Virgin way!

There’s not a single marketing magazine or blog out there which has not sung praises of the Virgin brand. And the more I read about Virgin and Richard Branson, the bigger fan I become of both – the brand and its chief. While all the big airlines are going down, Virgin is still thriving. And it’s not only in the airline business, the Virgin Active – its European health-club chain, the Virgin Mobile USA – brand’s extension in cell phone business and many other ventures by Branson are doing great globally. So what’s the secret recipe? Well taking a close look at the brand activities make it very clear…for Virgin, customers come first and there’s no compromising there. Virgin doesn’t give a crap to what the industry trends are, if the customer wants it, Virgin will have it.

Sir Richard Branson is a true visionary. What he thought and implemented two decades ago is now slowly getting followers – people should be having fun when spending their money. He gives great importance to customer satisfaction. And how does he do that? A real simple concept – “put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think is this the way I want to be treated if I were the customer?” Most of the innovations which he brought in his business were based on his own experiences as a customer. Flying in any major airplane was, and is, a really lack-lustrous affair. You are tied to your seat for the whole time, everyone around doing their own stuff and feel really relieved when the flight is over. The same was the experience with Branson. So when he came up with Virgin airlines, he made it a real party airlines…Virgin has fun-loving attendants, stand-up bars and massages and nail treatment onboard! When all the airlines are showing movies to the customers as per their (Airline’s) choice and schedule in the seatback video screens, Virgin went a step further and gave the customer right to choose from the library of on-demand videos. Any market research would have negated the expensive services Virgin provides onboard, but just because customers want them, Virgin provides them, and they thrive.

If you think Virgin just got lucky in the airline business, look elsewhere. Virgin had the same customer focus in its brand extensions and that helped them blossom in those industries as well. It provided customers pay as you use plans for its health clubs in Europe, Virgin Active, instead of locking them in contracts. The customers loved it and Virgin Active became successful. Virgin Mobile USA provided its customers with prepaid cards with no service agreements and contracts. Result – more than 4 million customer base. Both are great examples of customer focus. We can derive a pattern of Virgin’s way of doing business – enter an industry where customers are not satisfied by the existing services, think yourself as the customer and look for pain-points, keep the focus deep on customer needs and strive to provide them with satisfaction.

Moral of the story – take a look at whatever business you are in and ask yourself, if I were the customer, would I be happy and satisfied? If the answer is no, plan and implement changes. If the honest answer is yes, you are set to succeed the Virgin way!