Byravee Iyer
Jun 10, 2015

Digital revolution versus evolution: Marketers weigh in

Do businesses need a wholesale change in their models, products and services, or should they continue down the tried and tested organic evolution path? Eight leading APAC marketers came together to discuss digital transformation and the right tactics for their brands at an exclusive roundtable event organised last week by Campaign Asia-Pacific and SapientNitro.

Debating evolution and revolution
Debating evolution and revolution

The concept of the 'digital revolution' is a "biased, digital-agency ideal”, said Simon Collins, director of marketing strategy for SapientNitro Asia-Pacific. “Brands need organic evolution.” According to Collins, digital technologies have long been viewed as disrupting established industries, but their impact and speed are often overstated.

Disagreeing with Collins, Melanie Cook, SapientNitro’s head of strategy, said brands need a revolution to put them in the same digital world consumers live in. “In the internet age, the barriers to entry are getting lower even as brands are hindered by silos. You need a revolution to break these down.”

Here are some notable comments from the two-hour discussion:

Who’s driving digital transformation?

Qaiser Bachani, director of media, Asia, Middle East, Africa, GlaxoSmithKline

We started our journey three years ago and it was about evolving. We are on track for the goal we set. People in the organisation will say ‘this is how things work—there’s no space for digital or any other innovation’. The big thing that works for us is a top-down approach with our CEO deciding that this is the way to go.

Priyanka Nath, digital & social media Lead, Dell

For us it’s driven at various levels. Globally, we have a team looking at digital marketing, innovation, programmatic and so a lot of platform evolutions are global. But actual execution is phased according to market readiness and appetite for risk. We really can’t go all cylinders blazing.

Herve Bullot, senior director, global strategic insights, Johnson & Johnson

Let’s be honest, FMCG companies are way behind compared to other industries like hospitality and banking. Unilever is probably doing the best best job. Even P&G isn’t doing anything revolutionary. At J&J, there’s a big shift towards digital marketing and for us it’s about looking at the consumer in its entirety, understanding the consumer journey and the role of digital. At the end of the day, digital is just a platform—it has a role to play and we need to understand where it fits.

Are brands too slow to evolve?

Nicki Kenyon, VP marketing APAC, Visa

The mindset is the biggest challenge we have from traditional marketers. There are some legacy processes and mindsets and my job is to change that. I’ve got evolution and revolution on my mind. I want us to get where we can be fast, but not everyone is there yet. But that’s what transformational change is—it's finding an understanding of comfort zones and gently breaking it down.

Dione Song, marketing director, Zalora

For us it boils down to a need. Even though we’d like to revolutionalise things, people aren’t ready and there are still a lot of insecurities, which is why we’re going back to basics and launching physical stores.

AldrinaThirunagaran, assistant vice-president, content marketing, OCBC Bank

There’s a pressure in financial services. There has to be an integrated approach and digital on its own can’t be the way.

ROI impacts change

Qaiser Bachani, director of media, Asia, Middle East, Africa GlaxoSmithKline

When you bring an ROI number to a GM, they’re more likely to respond. This has helped us in smaller markets. Proof points are important.

For a full report on the event check out the next issue of Campaign Asia-Pacific.



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