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Spreading digital word

Published on Friday, 18 May 2012
Graphics: iStockphoto
Bruce Wells
Clara Shek
Napoleon Biggs

As the lines between communication channels continue to blur, digital technology is emerging as a game-changer for disseminating information to the public and marketing products and services.

“We have increased our talent base with staff who are digital-savvy and understand how to leverage social media networks to influence opinion and drive word of mouth,” says Clara Shek, managing director at Ogilvy Public Relations.

Shek says it is crucial that platform builders, content developers, analysts, and customer and public relations managers all understand how digital solutions, including mobile applications (apps) and social networks, can be integrated into total client solutions. A creative writer, for example, needs to develop stories that can be adapted for use in print, online, apps and in chat rooms.

To address the growing digital expansion on the part of its clients, Ogilvy & Mather Group has established a cross-divisional team of social experts – Social@Ogilvy – to deliver solutions to all areas and functions of the organisation, from advertising, to marketing, to public relations. “As social network solutions become true business solutions, whether through social media or other means, brands and clients realise using digital technology is not an area that can be overlooked,” explains Shek.

To ensure all Ogilvy employees understand the importance and application of digital solutions, the firm has introduced a white-, red-and black-belt martial arts-themed digital knowledge programme and rating system. “Our goal is to ensure everyone can talk about digital intelligently and utilise the right resource to deliver solutions to our clients,” says Shek.

Bruce Wells, managing director and president at Vision Critical Asia, notes that the digital internet, which is encroaching ever deeper into people’s lives, is also providing new channels for marketing and market research.

Wells says more than 600 organisations worldwide, including a third of the top 100 brands, rely on the private online communities developed and supported in Vision Critical cloud-based software and global services.

“Until recently, mobile and digital applications were primarily focused on the technology-savvy consumer. But as mobile phones become ubiquitous, and internet penetration rises, we will soon see a fundamental shift in the use of digital marketing across nearly all industry segments,” says Wells.

He adds that while this fundamental change is creating a new marketing landscape, support industries, such as market research, will need to adapt to the new environment to stay relevant.

In luxury goods, for example, Wells says this involves using the new channels to celebrate customers and informing them that they are central to the brand’s future. “We work at getting them to help assess new ideas and concepts, asking them to be trend spotters, to go cool-hunting, and help the brand avoid white elephants,” says Wells.

Noting a similar development, Napoleon Biggs, senior vice-president and head of digital integration for Asia Pacific at Fleishman-Hillard, says the digital revolution has grown from an online brochure to concerted efforts to generate leads, sell products and even improve supply chains.

“In a very short time, we have moved from having products aimed at us, to having the ability to self-discover and research things we’re interested in,” says Biggs.

The upshot of this is that communications executives can more easily track the preferences of customers, while also being able to interact with them in real time.

“The challenges,” Biggs notes, “are how to keep pace with the speed of change and how to conceptualise solutions to engage people who have moved away from desktop computers to always-on devices.”

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