By Ramanuj Shastry
NCD, Saatchi & Saatchi India
Simon Clift of Unilever famously said, “Digital marketing is like high school sex. Everybody’s talking about it. Few people are doing it, and those that are doing it, aren’t doing it very well!”
And that is no aira gaira natthu khaira, but the Chief Marketing Officer of Unilever, mind you, arguably one of the most powerful men of one of the most powerful marketing organisations of the universe.
Did he just read out the epitaph of digital marketing? Well, apparently not. Within three months of taking over from Simon Clift, Keith Weed, the new dude on the job, announced that Unilever was going to double the conglomerate’s digital marketing spend over the next year, and explained, “We fish where the fishes are!”
Social media, like any good idea in its infancy, is easy to dismiss. And it’s usually dismissed by people who still don’t have a Gmail account. There are several reasons why social media in this country sucks.
•We are good at monologues, but suck at dialogues: We can appear like Moses on TV with our commandments talking down to the teeming millions. But we get extremely uncomfortable with the thought of the teeming millions talking back.
•Social Media is word-of-mouth on steroids: Good advertising kills bad products faster. And social media kills it almost instantly. Another reason why we hate social media. Because so many products and services are just “not so good”.
•Doubters don’t miracles make: The marketing and advertising community in India still has people who don’t know, don’t care and don’t believe in the new. To them, consumers are statistics on an Excel sheet. With 36 million users on Facebook, the Indian Middle Class is the new tsunami waiting to wallop marketing indifference.
•We are not engaging and yet we expect people to be interested: If you give a monkey a Rs 20 crore media budget, he can get eyeballs. But eyeballs are nothing. The heart is everything. Human beings love story-telling. Stories are the thread of order in the tapestry of living. Stories are close to our heart. And storytelling just gets so rich with this new medium called the Internet. A place where many people do the telling, rather than one. As JRR Tolkien says in the foreword of The Lord of the Rings, “The tale grew in its telling”.
Nike and Apple are the modern tales that we all tell. The only difference between having sex and making love is ‘caring’. And digital marketing will separate those who care from those who don’t. It will separate the men from the high school boys. It’s not enough just to win, we must win over. Because your consumers should not just buy you, they must ‘buy into’ you. Buy into what you believe in. Digital marketing is a miraculous, potent weapon, a literal brahmastra. We must first be worthy of wielding it. We must grow up. Until then, it will sadly be high school sex.