Digitas eyes 13 new markets in ‘aggressive’ expansion plan while returning to roots

Nearly a year after Digitas dropped LBi from its name, the agency has seen several developments – from its expansion into Malaysia and most recently Bangkok, as well as the relaunch of Digitas in Shanghai in October last year. Global brand president Michael Kahn (pictured) told Marketing in an interview that during the course of the past year, Digitas has gone back to its roots centred on data and digital capabilities, as well as digital experience and expertise.

According to him, his plans for Asia are “aggressive”. Currently, Digitas is present in six Asia countries – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Australia and Greater China –and Kahn plans to double that number to approximately 13 markets by the end of 2019, as well as double the size of its talent within the same time frame.

While he declined to go into detail about the specific markets Digitas is planning to expand into, he told Marketing that ASEAN is one of the agency’s main focus and that Digitas will consider factors such as timing, alignment and acquisitions during the expansion process. When asked why Digitas chose to expand into Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, Kahn said that Publicis Groupe leadership in those particular countries realised they need to have “a strong digital-rooted brand”.

This is due to the fact that the advertising and marketing landscape is moving towards an experience economy focusing on connected marketing solutions. As such, clients are now increasingly turning to agency partners that are knowledgeable about data, technology, creative and media work.

“I think the landscape of how you connect with the consumers has changed exponentially, and the marketing environment has become a lot more complicated when it comes to creating relevant and personalised messages,” Kahn said. Hence, agencies are required to sharpen their skills to be able to work across the arenas of data, technology, creativity, media and strategy. Clients, also, need to have CMOs and marketing teams who are knowledgeable in these fields.

Experience triumphs ideas

While marketers increasingly realise the importance of providing a good customer experience, some still struggle because they are held back by shoe-string budgets. Despite the limitations, Kahn said that there are opportunities now with platforms such as Alibaba or Amazon, for example, for brands to create storefronts and experiences in a cost effective way and go to market.

“For brands that embrace experience, it’s part of their business model so they wouldn’t see it as an investment. That’s what they do. Whereas for brands that jump on it later on, it’s expensive and it’s going to be an investment. But, I do think there are opportunities right now to serve experiences in really creative, innovative ways that wouldn’t cost your brand a fortune,” Kahn said.

According to him, brands should take on an “outside in” approach when it comes to customer experience, by understanding their consumers and the different journeys, as well as consumers’ personas and how they operate. Consumers’ needs constantly change, so brands need to create a dynamic experience that can adapt to the changing needs of the market. Kahn added that if a consumer has a relationship with a brand, he or she would expect the next conversation to be in sequence with the previous one they just had with the brand.

“[Customer experience] has to be built from that perspective that your only mission is to bring them joy and delight through the experience along the way,” he said. Kahn also stressed the importance of seamlessness when it comes to customer experience, given that consumers are constantly on their mobiles.

While marketers are debating about whether or not to be mobile-first or mobile-only, Kahn said that society is transforming from “a mobile platform to a connected experiences mindset”. While mobile is certainly at the centre point of most consumers’ lives, especially in Asia Pacific, Kahn said that society is currently entering an experiences time period where voice maybe the next platform that transcends mobile devices.

“Mobile is a vehicle. Mobility is key to the entire principle of the digital economy, but connectivity and experiences go beyond that,” he added. At the end of the day, data is still the key for brands to effectively empathise and understand consumers in order to provide a proper customer experience. According to Kahn, the biggest trend for customer experience this year is the prioritisation of experiences. He added that the starting point for all brands never changes as it is about understanding an insight which eventually sparks a discussion about the brand’s customer experience.

“In the technology-driven world, we think about features and functionality as being the good idea. The good idea rather, should start with the consumer and his or her needs,” Kahn said.

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