What can digital do for your brand?

by Nigel Hollis | April 19, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I was in India taking part in the Kantar Millward Brown Media and Digital Enclave in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. In each city the team took part in interviews with the media and an assumption underlying most of the questions seemed to be that India was lagging behind when it came to spending on digital.

So ingrained was this belief, that when we challenged its validity most interviewers seemed a little surprised. Indeed one was completely nonplussed. Our suggestion – backed with facts – that India was probably spending what it should do on digital was completely at odds with what she had learned to be true; that India was lagging when it came to spending on digital.

Yes, there are many countries where the spend on digital has now surpassed TV. Yes, the average share of spend on digital worldwide is about 33 percent. But, no, that does not automatically mean that India is lagging with a share of 15 percent. The media seem to view it as a race to see who can spend the most of digital, when the real questions are does digital offer a good channel to market your brand given its reach and what the brand is trying to achieve?


So pervasive is the news coverage asserting that brands need to spend more on digital, Indian advertisers have also bought into the hype. Lacking the budget to spend on TV digital seems to have become the default choice because it is still thought to be relatively cheap. But whether this strategy really makes sense depends on the nature of the target audience.

If the brand is internet-based like Flipkart or appeals to a younger, upmarket, urban audience then going digital makes good sense. If the brand is seeking to appeal to a mass market then it makes little sense, because the brand is automatically limiting its reach to the people who have internet access, particularly if it needs to reach people living in rural India. Outdoor makes far more sense. Print if the audience skews older.

Of course, India is not alone. Marketers the world over have become fixated with digital, often to the exception of common sense. One digital marketer in Turkey could not believe that across a wide range of campaigns measured in Europe digital’s reach lagged well behind other more traditional media. But what about Facebook, he asked; it reaches millions? Yes, the platform reaches millions, but that does not mean your media buy does too. It all depends how much is spent and over what timeframe.

As my colleague Gonzalo Fuentes points out in this post on M&M Global the biggest marketers in the world are now reviewing how they get a good return from their digital media spend. When digital takes one in three dollars in your media budget then it is foolhardy to give in to hype and not apply the same diligence to digital that is given to other media.

So maybe marketers everywhere need to ask not what their brand can do in digital, but what digital can do for their brand. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts. 


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  1. Kushank Poddar, May 13, 2017

    Your advice about 'objectively assessing RoI on digital spend' makes a lot of sense. However, I was wondering what are the metrics that people look at when measuring this RoI. This is a very intriguing subject given that there are so many intangibles involved.

  2. Gaurav Sharma, April 20, 2017

    I think India is overinvested in digital. While the percentages maybe justified basis the broad share of audience metrices, this needs to be seen with two important aspects

    a) Media relevance - which you have aptly covered.

    b) ROI - large chunk of this investment is being made without visibility to outcomes. The digital space is operating like a black box today. Hopefully we will get to listen to the data before the crash.

  3. Leon Shears, April 19, 2017
    As everybody in the real marketing world knows, digital (whatever that means) is completely and totally over hyped. Get real. Get solid facts.

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