This report presents key statistics, data and behavioural indicators for social, digital and mobile channels around the world. Alongside regional statistics, it also presents in-depth analyses for 24 of the world’s largest economies: Argentina, Australia, Brazile, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, Thailand, the UAE, the UK, and the USA. This report has been prepared by ‘We Are Social’ a consultancy.
It was in 1964 when science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, author of over 500 books, visited the World Fair. Impressed by General Electric’s “Futurama” stand, showcasing electrical appliances from the previous four decades, he wrote an article in the New York Times predicting what life would be like 50 years later, in 2014. Not all his predictions have come to
fruition, certainly my house doesn’t have “walls that glow softly, and in a variety of colours that will change at the touch of a push button”. But his guesses – ranging from frozen meals and coffee machines to satellite phones and Skype to 3D TV – seem pretty Nostradamus-like. He concluded that humans will be relegated to “machine tenders” because computers will be able to do work better than humans, creating a society of “enforced leisure”. (Note to self – tell the boss!) This would predictably result in mankind suffering badly from the disease of boredom, “a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity”. Of course what Mr Asimov failed to predict was Sir Tim Berners-Lee unleashing the internet onto the world and creating the ultimate cure for boredom, whether work induced or not. It brought with it possibly the greatest change to how humans interact with each other and their environment. But, while the way in which we interact has changed dramatically as a result, humans have evolved very little over the last 50 years, which helps somewhat when offering marketing advice for the year ahead.
1. Marketing is getting harder. That is good
Oh, for the old days – when you just put an ad in the Sunday Times and another on TV (on one of the three available channels) and the entire market had to watch. It made for easy marketing if you were a big spender. Small companies with more modest budgets struggled to be seen in the concentrated but overcrowded media marketplace. Now, however, marketers have an almost infinite number of options. As a result, contemporary customers expect a tailored, personalised approach when you communicate with them. This has levelled the playing field somewhat for small marketers who can now trade intellectual firepower against the bigger advertiser’s financial firepower. You can personalise and offer specific messaging. A whole raft of media agencies well versed in the niceties of sweating smaller media have appeared as a result.
2. The social honeymoon is over
No one is impressed with your social media activities any more. No really, they aren’t. It’s just a ticket to do business these days. Just another channel you have to manage but not get excited about. In fact, the traditional social media channels are showing signs of having peaked; Facebook is struggling to keep younger members, Twitter is losing celebrities with millions of followers due to the sheer volume of communication required at significant time and cost. And the supposed value of social media, namely the fact that the communication is a two-way conversation giving real people power to influence, has started to show its darker side. Troll tweeters raise the risk of using this channel.
Many marketers, whether celebrities in their own right, or on behalf of brands, moved from traditional paid-for media to social channels which were hailed as being “free”. But, as my mother always used to say, you get what you pay for. The relative costs have started to equalise. It now costs virtually as much in time, effort and money – given the risk of negative response – to communicate on social media as it does on any other media. That is how the world works.
3. Less is more Attention spans have shortened. Your market is used to Facebook with short written status updates, 140 characters in a tweet, photos on Instagram and Snapchat where a photo is automatically deleted after 10 seconds. It’s an instant gratification thing. Consumers also receive information in huge volumes, most of which isn’t commercial. This means your marketing message has to add value and get the message across instantly to compete. A picture is worth a thousand words. And the expectation is that you will add value to recipients’ lives, be it a joke, a stunning photo, deep relevant discount or interesting infographics. As social media channels grow paid-for advertising, expect resentment to grow. This can only be countered by adding (instant) value greater than the inconvenience imposed. Don’t think “advertising”; think “offering valuable (visual) content”. Those who give shall receive.
4. Traditional is still lekker
Media consumption has certainly shifted, but that doesn’t mean traditional marketing solutions no longer work. In an era in which multi-screening has become the norm – watching TV, browsing the web on a tablet and checking social media on a smartphone, all at the same time – traditional media suddenly looks attractive again. Drive-time radio still gets your market’s full attention while they are trapped in traffic. “Out of home” billboards and other in-situ opportunities still offer the benefit of being able to associate your message with a specific context, medical aids in gyms for example. Specialist print publications, well-entrenched within your target market, still offer good value as ad rates face pressure from the proliferation of media types. En ander tale werk ook baie goed.
5. Smartphones are smart marketing Your customers and their smartphones are inseparable. This adds location and context to your ability to communicate with them. It also means that large numbers of consumers are now connected 24/7. The impact on marketing is profound. Marketers are only limited by the bounds of smartphone user’s acceptable privacy limits. That said, in South Africa, most websites aren’t even optimised for phone-sized screens, and most marketers overlook location-based search optimisation. Consumer connectivity means your customers can compare prices online while viewing merchandise in store. It also means they can rate you on Google+, affecting your search rankings. Or trash your reputation on a recommendation site or social media platform. Or, embarrassingly, circulate that one spelling mistake in your advert (it only takes one!) If there is one marketing mantra for 2014 it is “only dummies underestimate the power of smartphones”.
This article was first published in Your Business magazine.
“The customer is always right”. Wrong. Frankly the customer isn’t always right. But thanks to social media, now the customer certainly is always victorious. Fundamentally, the balance of power has shifted.
Earlier this month GAP introduced a new logo. A week later it announced it would revert to its original logo, after widespread, harsh criticism of the design on Facebook and Twitter. Closer to home, a large, respected retailer was forced to reverse its decision to stop stocking (apparently poor selling) religious magazines after a social media uproar.
I am not debating the elegance of the logo or the wisdom of alienating a vocal religious community. Rather the fundamental question is: how do marketers operate in an environment where the control of their brands has been explicitly usurped in the social space?
Our consumers deserve the utmost respect, not least because they pay our salaries, however, a consumer committee has never to my knowledge created a successful brand or managed a company to the satisfaction of shareholders. The average consumer has difficulty expressing new or novel concepts for as yet ‘unexperienced’ needs. It’s just not their strength. We all remember the often-quoted case of the Sony Walkman. In an interview in the authoritative journal Playboy (yes, that one), Akio Morita Sony’s Chairman and Founder stated, “The market research is all in my head! You see we create markets.” What would have happened to the concept of the personal-earphone-based-music-device in today’s social media dominated market, one wonders? If early non-adopters had scoffed at the prospect of using earphones when the state-of-the-art was woofers and tweeters – would we enjoy the benefits of the iPod today?
A fundamental question is just who should we as marketers be listening to? It used to be easy. We listened to selected consumers by conducting research on folk who matched our target market, all carefully stratified and representative of the intended market and of course in secret – both from other consumers and our competitors. Before, it didn’t matter if non-target consumers didn’t like our product or brand. It was called market segmentation. Now we have to listen to the most vocal, the most connected, even if frankly we preferred they didn’t buy our products
We live in a world of ubiquitous data freedom. The seminal “Wikileaks” site that serially releases highly classified military and political documents is a case in point. The world is now incredibly transparent. Individuals have almost unlimited access to information and powerful channels in which to disseminate it. Their opinions, backed by such data are given far more credence than any commercial organisation. So how do we fundamentally change the way we market under these new rules?
1) Ensure all the company’s consumer intentions are not only honourable, but will be perceived as such. Spend greater time and effort playing devil’s advocate, testing for unintended consequences of any action or communication.
2) ALL brand communication should be considered visible to everyone – from emails to individuals to narrowly targeted advertising campaigns. We’ve all experience the office email faux pas, where an inappropriate comment in a forwarded email has offended a colleague you never intended to see it. Hold this thought as you review all your communication – could it possibly offend an unintended audience? Will the brand still look good if it makes it onto You Tube?
3) Work with your community on social platforms. Their expectation is involvement in return for their commitment to your brand. Just like a friendship. Seems reasonable.
4) If you experience that “oops” moment, tend towards full disclosure and rapid apology rather than obfuscation. In my view the social media world is forgiving and has a short attention span for crimes against the collective sensibility – providing you ‘fess up’, make right and are perceived to be acting honourably. Never act illicitly by responding to corporate criticism on social networks disguised as a “member of the public”. The community will find you out and forgiveness will be a long time coming.
So fundamentally while I contend that the consumer may not always be right, to quote the lesser-referenced Cesar Ritz (of hotel fame): “The customer is never wrong.”