Philip Kotler, in the 1970s, famously defined the basic principles of marketing as the 4Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Underlying the 4Ps was that consumer usage of products was a bundle of physiological needs and psychological wants. While, consumers, at a basic level knew what they needed to do to fulfil physiological needs, their nuances and the psychological wants were areas that marketing had to step in to offer consumers a complete solution. Following this train of thought, it was posited that the underlying consumer behavior followed a continuum whose stages were Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action or AIDA in short.
In practice, the combination of the 4Ps and AIDA translated into creating consumer memories of brands that could fulfil their needs and wants and optimizing the availability of the brand and price-points, to enable them acquire the product. Marketers were thus continually aiming to exploit the informational inequality between them on the one hand and the consumers on the other hand. Thus, a brand which was widely advertised had an advantage over one that was not; among brands widely advertised, its availability made a critical difference to market shares, and so on.
Digital marketing upsets this paradigm completely.
The physicality of a product is still required as it still is analogue. However, digital technologies have disrupted pricing, distribution and promotion models as is widely known and scarcely requires repetition. In this environment, what should drive marketing? The following are the operating paradigms of digital marketing.
On command communication: On the web, consumer memory is not a pre-requisite because ‘search’ is only a click away. Therefore, consumer attraction is determined by the primacy in search results and not consumer memory. Consumers on the web want communication when they need it.
The needs vary across vary behavioural stages and devices. Communication that is not matched to these needs is ignored as vapour-ware. For example, consider a search on a mobile device for restaurants around lunch time. Chances are that search results that rave about cuisine in a particular restaurant will be ignored in favour of a restaurant which is in the neighbourhood of the device from which the search query was raised. At a different time though, the reviews of restaurants would be important. Thus, information needs vary when the consumer is sorting between options and when they actually want to make a purchase. The consumer will ignore communication that does not recognize the nuance and is not tailored to the decision framework.
In order to do this, web communication needs to examine the underlying purpose of the search and the action intended to be taken from the search in crafting the information supplied. Therefore, in the restaurant example, a search for a restaurant from a mobile device around lunch time suggests that the searcher is probably looking for a restaurant to dine in and hence a preference for locational information rather than the rating of the cuisine.
Gratify, don’t just communicate: Online consumers seek instant gratification. Gratification is experienced. Understanding what constitutes gratification and delivering that experience is the ‘wow’ factor in web success. Gratification can be in many forms – a demonstration of how things work, a reference to the user’s ‘personal’ needs, presentation that is different and engaging, etc. Gratification can also come from giving the users a sense of accomplishment, a sense of control or making things easy for them.
For example, when a long form is to be filled a clear tracker of how much has been accomplished or information on how the information collected is going to help the user, etc., would go a long way to people not dropping off in sheer boredom when filling them.
Enable two-way communication: Web communication, for the most part, is being sought for by the consumer – whether it is via search or a click on display advertising. Thus, unlike most other marketing communication, where the communication is being received involuntarily, consumption of web communication is ‘active’. Quite naturally it follows that web communication should be participative and complementary rather than intrusive and disruptive.
Internet communication is touted for its interactivity. However, what is often unrealized is that, unless there is a reason to interact, browsers are not going to interact. Accordingly, planning an interaction is a critical function of creating content for the Internet.
Use multiple touch-points: The web is no longer a single monolithic medium analogous to conventional mass media. Instead it is an eco-system that provides opportunities for proprietary communication, on a stand-alone basis and also by making use of other platforms. Thus, brand websites, social media networks, content sharing platforms, aggregators are only some of the communication outlets that make up for a complete web strategy.
Continuous optimization is the key to web success: Web communications with its unique blend of real-time measurability, quick turnaround and low unit cost allows for continually tweaking the communication programme to maximize return-on-investment.