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My response to the article “Digital ‘Tipping Point'”
This is my response to the article titled “Digital ‘Tipping Point'” written by Madhukar Sabnavis. It appeared in Business Standard today and it is a must read for many reasons. If you haven’t read it yet, click here. As a person who has been reading the pink papers for a while now, it is interesting to see that columns on digital marketing has started to appear next to the editorial piece in leading business dailies and not just limited to certain trade / industry related magazines. Also it is rare to come across a point of view by a senior professional which is free of jargons and makes a point in a relevant and simple manner. Kudos to Madhukar Sabnavis!
As a marketer, three things comes to my mind after I read this column:
1. The question of reach and its dependence on infrastructure
After taking a quick view of numbers on digital across platforms, Madhukar Sabnavis writes “These numbers, in themselves, seem large — but when superimposed on a population of over 1.2 billion and a mindset trained over two decades to think in terms of reach and large numbers, they seem rather niche. Not surprisingly, digital media is often seen as an add-on medium.” This is so true! And it has been a point of discussion amongst digital marketing execs for a while now. However, at the peril of being over-informed, we comfortable ignore the angle of “infrastructure” that supports any domain or medium of business in a country. To come to the point, the growth of digital medium is heavilly dependent on the growth of broadband infrastructure of India. And this growth of infrastructure is dependent upon the policy makers. While I may not consider myself worthy enough to comment on the current policy-paralysis affecting our nation, the fact remains that – without infrastructure and apt policies – we will continue to have this discussion even in 2020! Refer to the image below to get a glimpse of where we stand against the fastest cities worldwide in terms of broadband speeds (source: gigaom). Also read this insightful piece on Korea’s IT infrastructure.
2. Content creators vs Others
We are tired of watching and reading about examples of excellence in digital mediums executed and developed by content creators like MTV. Content creators are certainly the blue eyed boys of digital evangelists across the world. But then, it is a easier story to preach. The practicality of engaging with consumer online and “creating buzz” for service / IT / FMCG / BFSI sectors is totally different. Creating content and populating it via digital channels is totally different from creating digital consumer touchpoints and tapping their interest. Some of the work done by FMCG companies like Unilever abroad and sports brands like Nike sets the benchmark. Hence, as evangelists, we should quote more examples from other categories and start talking about solutions that go beyond the digital realm and has a direct impact on the business.
3. Those at the Tipping Point and those who are not
Another interesting point, which this article raises, is the problem of those who are at the tipping point vs those who haven’t reached there yet. Madhukar Sabnavis aptly writes, “In marketing, those who succeed are the ones who could stay the course and catch that moment — or the lucky ones, who happen to be there at that moment (the odd ones actually drive that change)”. Again this is true. But the lucky ones who happen to be there at the moment may not behave or react in manners that is contributive to the industry. Case in point – the rise of “social media gurus” or “digital schools” or “industry events” with regard to digital medium. I think there is an entire industry out there wanting to cash in on the digital boom and the things and techniques they teach in the name of acquiring expertise in quick time is something worth pondering about. At these kinds of event everyone comes with the agenda of “becoming a master of the medium” without realizing the fact that mastery can only be acquired if one spends enough time and effort to understand a medium. Nobody wants to spend time understanding coding. Nobody has the patience to sit with developers and exploit possibilities for tweaking a marketing message for consumers. Hence, the “lucky ones” mentioned in this articles have a responsibility to shoulder in order to propogate sense and authenticity around digital medium.