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Rahul Asthana

The death of traditional and digital marketing

Digital marketing is dead. Long live integrated marketing in a digital world!

When I started work at the beginning of this century, marketers looked at marketing according to what they had been trained in, that is, “traditional” marketing – whether TV, print, radio, in-store and PR or this new, confusing thing called digital. Marketers also looked at all these touch-points discretely and the primary task was to generate trials.

This thinking gave rise to 360-marketing, which had a successful run, but in my opinion has run its course. Now, in the middle of the second decade of the century, with the astounding proliferation of different media as well as technology and content providers, the way to think about it is integrated marketing.

There are three aspects of integration we need to recognise. First, the most obvious one is the consumer today lives in a digital world, so we should not be thinking of digital as something she spends her time with part of the day before going to the “real” world. Her world is digital – this is where she goes for information, where she makes and interacts with friends, where she gets her entertainment, browses for and purchases products and comes back to share her opinions about the experience.

Therefore, at Kimberly-Clark, we believe we need to engage with her in her world, at touch-points where she is most receptive and with content that is most meaningful. So, we brief our agencies in an integrated manner and expect them to come back with ideas that are medium neutral and a recommendation on the media channels before we look at executions.

We think of an integrated approach that looks at data analytics as a way of identifying real consumer insights; drives consumer engagement through relevant content delivered to the consumer through multiple media; continues the relationship through CRM; invites the consumer to browse via search; buy our products through e-commerce and advocate for us through social.

Second, there is the integration of the product and its marketing. Consumers no longer buy products or brands – they look for experiences and a narrative. Brand fanatics don’t just buy products because they are great, but because of the entire experience and what it tells the world about them. This can be true of any category, including seemingly mundane categories such as laundry and baby care and marketers need to understand the experience the user is buying into when she purchases their category.

Finally, and most excitingly, consumers are no longer satisfied with being broadcast at by brands. Social media has given them the means to participate in the conversation and they expect to be listened to. Companies that do not recognise this are increasingly being seen as out of date and out of touch.

At Kimberly-Clark, a key expectation of our commercial programmes is we drive consumer participation and we have had many successful examples such as Kotex in Malaysia, Huggies in Singapore and Depend in the US.

What doesn’t change though?

Consumer understanding is still so important. We still need to understand the real consumer insights that can help unlock the category value for us and overcome the barriers that are stopping us from achieving our objectives.

However, there are new and exciting ways of getting at this insight – it can be through analysing large amounts of data that is freely available, through neuroscience techniques that tell us what the consumer is really thinking versus what she is saying, in addition to more traditional methods.

Content is, if anything, more important. The amount of content needed has increased exponentially and brands still need to partner with their agencies to generate this ever increasing amount of content. What needs to change though are the traditional processes of generating briefs and executions and getting approvals that are too slow and time consuming for today’s content requirements. Agility is going to be key and brands that recognise this will succeed.

This is an exciting time to be a marketer and I look forward to the future.

Rahul Asthana is the marketing director, baby and child care, digital and e-commerce, Asia Pacific at Kimberly-Clark Corporation.

This article was from  Marketing Magazine’s special edition The Futurist, the January-February 2015 issue.

For the full issue, click here.

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