Becoming digitally fit

05 October, 2015

A practical guide to increasing your digital savvy

Most of us grew up in the pre-digital age but are increasingly serving consumers who are digital natives. Digital is fundamentally impacting every facet of our business – how we interact with consumers, how we design and develop products and how we engage with our employees. Managing the transition to digital is not just critical to win today and in the future; but it is also necessary for our long-term survival.

At an organisational level, we need to integrate digital into every aspect of our business. We are investing in building digital resources and capabilities. But the transformation is even more necessary and probably harder at a personal level. Remember that this is not just about hiring a few digital experts. Individually, we need to find ways to catch up.

My message this week focuses on how we need to become more ‘digitally fit’ (as Sunil Kataria, our India business head describes it) – why it is so important as leaders to become more digitally adept and how we can go about doing so.

I am very pleased that Tom Dawes has written this week’s message. Tom joined our Godrej UK business in 2013, and is now the Creative Director of GCPL. In his role, he is responsible for guiding our digital communications and helping our businesses integrate digital into our brand strategies.

Please read on:

“The internet – that’s nice.”

So, the internet came along and changed EVERYTHING. Right? The way we shop, keep in touch, read news? It even changed the way we watch videos of puppies sneezing (how did we survive before?). This was exciting. Advertisers and brands responded to this revolution by resizing their print ads into long, thin sky scrapers, lowered the resolution of their TV adverts and put them on the net, proud that they had ridden the www wave successfully.

And so, that was that. The Internet changed the shape of the world as we know it and the world of advertising changed the shape of their ads. Billions of marketing dollars were ploughed into the Internet and everyone sat back waiting for the golden goose to lay her large Return on Investment (ROI) egg.

But then a funny thing happened. The Internet advertising ROI egg turned out to be a lot smaller than that of TV’s (up to 25% smaller). Not good for those wanting a bigger omelette. The plan that advertisers and brand owners had hatched hadn’t worked – HOW COULD THIS BE?

The simple answer is that the way people interact with the Internet is markedly different from the way they interact with TV. Put another way – resizing print adverts for the internet is the equivalent of a static newspaper advert used for the first TV advert.

“Quick – stop advertising online!”

Woah there… easy tiger. Internet usage is astounding and increasing at astounding rates. In the UK, ‘millennials’ (people under 28) spend an average of 1.5 hours online and 2.5 hours watching TV. Let’s remember why we got so excited about this internet thing in the first place. It really did change everything. It is constantly changing everything. But advertisers and brands are not responding to these changes fast enough. So easy to say – not so easy to do.

“Whilst you work that out – we’ve got a snazzy new website –  we’re future proof!”

Unfortunately, this is no longer good enough. Firstly, consider how many times over the last 3 months that you thought about buying a fast moving consumer product and then visited their website. For me, the answer is zero. For a considered purchase (expensive or for a particular problem you may have) you would probably spend some time on a brand site, but the trend seems to be for people to spend their time looking at product reviews (blogs or e-tailer reviews for example). For the slightly higher engagement categories – hair styling for example – there seems to be more of a role – but not just as an advertising spot. People are more likely to search “hair fall” or “how do I cover grey?” than Google search your product. So, things like how-to videos, specific information about hair problems etc. are likely to bring people to your page. If your product can help the consumer with their concern – perfect.

“Ah ha – don’t panic, we’ve got 7 trillion Facebook fans” 

Well, about 2 years ago, this would have been everything to a digital strategy – and with good reason. Facebook wooed businesses to build an audience and allowed them to speak to them for free on the platform. So, you could build an audience of 7 trillion people and speak to them for free whenever you wanted. No wonder every brand and their grandmother’s gardening business got on board – but now that the stock market is involved, the free ride is over. In order to maximise revenues, Facebook’s algorithm now determines that AT BEST you will be able to speak to 6% of your followers for free (for brands with over 500k followers, the figure is more like 2%). You can speak to the rest of your fans, but it’s going to cost you. So it’s now just another advertising platform – a useful one as you can speak to people who you know will like your brand, but one amongst many of alternatives worth your consideration.

A strong presence on Facebook and a decent website is now merely digital hygiene.

“So what do we do? Tell me what to do!!!”

OK, so there are no hard and fast rules for success online. Every brand has its particular strategy and there is no one size fits all, but I have a few thoughts on how we might prepare ourselves for this ever-changing, HUGELY exciting landscape:

1. Steal your child’s phone

Of course I’m joking (you probably pay for it so it’s not actually stealing), but to truly understand where people are spending their time, you need to see the net through their eyes. Ask them to show you Snap Chat, Instagram, Twitter, Meerkat, Periscope, Tinder and whatever else they are using. If you haven’t got kids or they aren’t comfortable with you going through their phone – walk around the office, spot the youngest looking team member and ask them nicely to help.

2. Download and play

So you know what these things have been built for and what ‘the kids’ do when they are on them. Now, it’s your turn. The only way of truly understanding these platforms is to use them… regularly. Start with Instagram (it’s really easy, just upload pictures of your cat) – see what people react to, see how brands interact with you, ponder the possibilities. Even dating websites offer incredible advertising opportunities… but you might want to explain to your partner why you’ve got random people getting in contact with you.

3. Horses for courses

Get your teams to think about your target audience in real detail before talking digital strategy. Get them to talk to you about how they think their TG is using the Internet. Your digital agencies should be able to tell you who uses what platform in your territory. Let’s say your TG was twenty-something men and women who care about their appearance. Whilst you could get an advert in front of a similar TG using ‘traditional’ digital adverts, think about apps where appearance is critical for use. Instagram is full of selfies, so it could be the perfect platform to talk about getting yourself Selfie-Ready. “Having to use that Inkwell filter to cover your greys? Use x colour…” (this is an excellent joke if you have used Instagram). Periscope / Meerkat (live streaming sites) could be perfect to get people to attend your product launch without actually being there.

4. Make your media buyers earn their commission

If they say they will spend all of your money on GDN (Google Display Network – the ad spaces on websites), then tell them you want a more targeted and creative way of speaking to your TG. GDN may well be the best way of getting your message out, but it’s also the easiest and quickest way for them to spend your money.

5. One creative size does not fit all

Twitter has ‘promoted posts’ (stories that are largely text based). Instagram has a swipe left function (where 4 individual pictures need to tell the advert). YouTube has pre roll ads (those that appear before your video) and can be ignored after 15 seconds. Tinder (dating site) allows you to create your own brand profile (like a personal profile). These are completely different and will require different creatives. Ask your teams to walk you through how the user will engage with the advert.

6. Be a platform pioneer

There was a time when speaking to 1m potential customers on Facebook was free. There was a time when Twitter promoted posts used to generate worldwide trends. Then, suddenly everyone fancies a piece of the pie and tucks in. Then, the pie owner decides to charge a fortune for it. Instagram for example, recently started adverts. Ask your teams to investigate and enjoy the first mover advantage.

7. Don’t spend a fortune on a website

Give people the information that they need – either point them to where to buy (e-tailer or store) or specific product information that is going to help them solve their problem. If you are spending more than 5% of your digital budget on this, then stop, have a cold shower and ask your teams to think again.

8. Make ‘em stop, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em learn

With a TV commercial you know that your product is the only thing on the screen at that point, so you have the viewer’s attention. You don’t have that luxury online. So think about what’s going to stop the consumer in their tracks – Is it funny? Is it emotional? Is it provocative? Is it sexy? If it isn’t, then it’s probably not going to engage. Would you engage and share this content?

As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t an exact science, but this is also what makes it really damn interesting. Digital is here to stay and is going to need play a huge role in our communications mix – we can either be at the front and enjoy the benefits, or follow the crowd and get watered down benefits. So, be brave, look your partner in the eye with cold and steely determination and download that dating app. After all, you have to break eggs to make an omelette!

A big thank you to Tom for sharing some great perspectives. We are fortunate to have him on our team. I encourage all of you to reach out to him and bounce off ideas on the digital approaches for your brands, as well as what you can do at an individual level, to build a deeper appreciation for the digital space.

So go ahead. Make digital a part of your everyday routine. Carve out time to learn new things. Try to see through your consumer’s eyes. Surround yourself with young people who can teach you a thing or two. But better catch up. Else, you will find yourself becoming less relevant in today’s workplace.


  • Samir Suryawanshi says:

    Hi Vivek/Tom,

    The way Tom has written this blog makes me feel like I (technology averse) am the next dinosaur. Eye-opening and bold. Invaluable piece.



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