Posted On Express Tribune:

As we celebrate almost two decades of the internet’s presence in Pakistan, intuitively it makes sense to believe that as the consumer in Pakistan gets ‘Digital’ and the technologies mature, there would have been innovations & change of behaviors in the marketing practices of companies. Yet astonishingly despite the fact that the computing grid is now increasingly available all around us via GPRS / EDGE Services, Wireless Broadband, DSL, etc, there is still a parallel and increasingly irrelevant universe which is inhabited by marketers and their agencies still clinging on to practices & notions of a pre-digital world where even in the best of times marketers used to admit that only 50 percent of their advertising worked and even then they weren’t sure which 50% it was.

As Pakistan comes close to approaching almost 20 million of its residents having access to and using the internet, instead of the gap between the consumer and the marketer shrinking, it only seems to be getting wider by the day. Marketers seem impervious to the fact that with over 80 broadcast channels catering to the masses, over 12 channels on the radio, over 4000 publications, such media onslaught is causing unprecedented fragmentation in media habits of a precedent which have never been seen before and still insist on doing things the traditional way. Add new channels such as internet, gaming, mobile, DirectToHome and activations and we can see why the number of touch-points to reach the average consumer have exploded making the job of the average marketer is now so much harder than the time not so long ago when you could have reached the entire country by advertising on the 9.00 pm news.

Traditional advertising models developed because the economics of the industrial era demanded it. Interaction was expensive, so information about the expected benefits of consumption of products had to be squeezed into slogans, characters, and logos, compressed into thirty-second TV ads and radio spots. Customer was not as much aware since means of peer to peer advocacy were expensive thus believed whatever the advertiser wanted them to believe. With the advent of the information age however and cheap digital interaction, these models are falling apart. What’s replacing it is digital media models where consumers are now in control. They can and do debate and discuss expected costs associated with and the benefits of the brand in incredibly rich details. The more cheaper this interaction gets, the more connected consumers become and the more they will talk to each other – and the less time they will spend listening to the often empty promises of advertisers. The information gap created in the past too disappears in these circumstances and marketers are left scrambling.

Increasingly marketers will start realizing that the multi-tasking, instant-messaging, e-mailing, cell phoning, emoticoning ;-), always on, gaming, Web-searching, blogging, social networking customers are for real and as they will scramble to find their footing in this new hyper-fragmented world, they will become painfully aware of the fact that customers are increasingly ignoring their marketing efforts. The traditional marketing model has been broken and it is digital marketing that will increasingly become the means of tapping onto such a consumer base, which has little time for TV, Print or Radio.

Of course the next question arises, what is Digital Marketing? Is it this thing called SEO? Is digital marketing having a website? What about this Facebook phenomenon is that digital marketing too?

I like the following definition and I use it in all of my seminars and workshops.

Digital marketing Is:

Applying interactive technologies to Contribute to marketing activities Through Developing a planned approach to improve customer knowledge to Deliver communication & services that matches Individual’s needs.

This means that whilst Digital marketing depends on tools such as websites, banners, SEO, Facebook, Mobile, Email, Digital Signage etc, these are not digital marketing itself. Digital marketing is about using these tools to reach customers in a timely, relevant, personal and cost effective manner through Engaging the customer with your brand. How to do so will be covered in the future topics in this blog. We will also cover the forms of insights & information available to advertisers thank to new media. Before advertisers had focused heavily on measuring the means of awareness such as reach, frequency, etc (which too were theoretical) rather than the economic value they gained from traditional advertising such as ‘Advocacy Rates’, ‘Sales Conversion’, ‘Sales Uplift’, etc because with the limitations of traditional media there were simply very few other metrics possible. However common sense dictates that just because I’m aware of something, doesn’t mean I want it (Guy Soap, anyone?). Marketers still do not fully understand this especially with regard to new media. Digital media is not shackled by this lack of data which pervaded traditional media and allows for metrics far beyond awareness, is superior and can be measured from the instant the user sees the advertised message up to the moment of sale and afterwards as well. Digital is the most accurate, transparent, and reliable type of media. The simplest metrics e.g. can enable the calculation of the cost of acquisition of a customer giving you a rupee for rupee analysis of your spending in real-time.

Most marketers  still work at siloed organizations that are built in a hierarchical and vertical way, reflecting an ancient management paradigm whilst the customer is leap-frogging ahead. Alvin Toffler said that “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be the ones that cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, un-learn and re-learn.” I believe this perfectly encapsulates the zeitgeist and for many marketers this will be the last iceberg they will ever see, if they do not learn to grasp this technology.


8 thoughts on “The Rise Of Digital Marketing In Pakistan

  1. I’ve been hearing about digital marketing sweeping the brandscape leaving stubborn traditional marketers devastated in its wake for ages now. Although there’s no question that hyper-fragmentation has really happened, it’s corresponding digital marketing revolution hasn’t. Or At least not in this land of floods and scheming cricketers.

    Or maybe it has and I’m living under a rock. But I’ve got valid reasons to believe otherwise and that the ancient marketers are all alive and well, dominating the brandscape.

    Have you seen the latest Stylo campaign? You must have considering its omnipresence. How much do you think they spent on the conventional vs the digital?
    And more importantly, do you think if they had spent this huge amount of money on only the digital realm, they would have got the same mileage? Hardly. Yes they do have their ads on youtube but that’s just an afterthought rather than a strategy.

    We just haven’t reached the critical mass online to be able to market the traditional products big time. Then there’s the question of digital success stories. Are there enough? And how many of us know about them? I only know a handful.

    Shahjehan chaudhary is one that comes to mind immediately with his brainchild My Offstreet. And if I’m right, he’s also responsible for the influx of small business especially restaurants making it big on facebook. OPTP with its contests and prizes engaging the consumers embodies this phenomenon.

    But even here digital success can be grossly misleading. For example ‘One on One’ is a fast food joint in North Nazimabad that has about 10,000 fans on facebook. And yet when you visit the place even on a weekend night, it’s mostly deserted.

    Unbelievable, isn’t it? Even if a mere .01% of these fans decide to visit the place which comes out to be 100 people, the joint would be a roaring success, which is the impression you get when you visit its facebook page where the fans are proclaiming their love for the brand and there’s not an iota of criticism present. That’s the sad reality.

    There have been sporadic successes in this realm but they are few and far in between.

    I still have high hopes for digital marketing. I just don’t think it has reached its tipping point as yet.

    So how will it happen? One, someone comes along and does what Badar Khushnood has done with the Pakistani blogosphere – promoting the genre with specific success stories. Maybe someone has become a millionaire in the digital marketing business? How did he do it?

    Secondly, the entire management of the mainstream companies realizes the potential of digital marketing and not just the marketers. But for that to happen, they will have to forego with their glorified vision that their brand is for everyone under the sun and focus on specific segments and niches.

    No sizeable company either local or MMC works this way in Pakistan. At least not yet. It’s only people like you or me who come up with a start-up who focus on niches and hence digital marketing because, let’s admit it, we don’t have the kind of budget these people have. If we had an annual sales exceeding the million mark and a sizeable budget to play with, I reckon we ourselves would be going the traditional way and keeping the digital aspect just to show off we are in tune with the modern trends.

    1. @Stylo Campaign. Haven’t noticed it. I don’t know the result but if their target market is online, they could have garnered an equal amount by the same spent. Trouble is we equate spending on media with marketing. They’re different in Digital. If you think advertising on Yahoo! or Facebook through banner ads is going to garner you the same result as print ads in magazines or billboards than you’re sadly mistaken. Digital is a different beast and doesn’t work according to traditional advertising principles.

      @Digital Success Stories: I will say give it time. It’ll take time before we have good success stories which can be emulated. However Nokia, Ufone, Telenor are doing it well. Tapal and Dalda are experimenting with the field as are brands like Pantene. So it’s only a mater of time before someone cracks it.

      @One On One: Again you’re mistaking ‘Fandom’ for success. It’s not how many fans you have on FB, it’s what you do with them. The key to digital is constant engagement. It’s not enough to be static in this medium.

      @Tipping Point: It’ll happen soon. Companies like ours are sprouting up and promoting it extensively and clients are starting to take notice. Give it two or three more years max. The end is nigh.

      @Budgets: We’re already starting to hit 5-6 figure USD figures. It’s only a matter of time. Print advertising (esp. English Newspapers) will be the first one to experience the shift. It’s a 3 Billion PKR market just waiting to happen.

  2. Hi guys I m looking for some legal issues related to IT(E-commerce,IP rights,privacy/data protection,cyber crimes etc) in Pakistan.i dont know where i have to look .Can anybody help me?

  3. Umair, You article is still very relevant even if it is 6 year old. The time is passing quickly and importance of digital marketing is growing everyday in Pakistan. Appreciate your effort for writing in detail!

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