Brands are in social driving seat

25 September 2014

NEW DELHI: Consumers are no longer in control of social media, according to a leading industry figure who argues that a combination of business development and commercial considerations has "put brands back in the driver's seat".

Peter Kim, chief digital officer of the Cheil Worldwide agency, dismissed the idea that brands were at the mercy of consumers on social media. That might have been the case once, he told the Economic Times, but with the founders of social sites opting for IPOs, there came an urgent need to monetise and that mean attracting brands with big budgets.

Allied with that was the trend to making everything shoppable, with sites from Instagram to YouTube all directing consumers to buy online. "We are seeing the trend of jumping directly from awareness to purchase," he said. "There are US retail brands like Target that have made Instagram shoppable to make more money."

These were two of six digital trends Kim had observed, and the growth of sites such as Instagram and Pinterest highlighted another – a shift away from the written word towards pictures. "Brands need to tell their stories in images now," he advised.

He also felt that brands still had some way to go in fully utilising big data to drive mass personalisation, and that the sharing economy was seeing a resurgence. And in the near future brands would have to prepare themselves for the internet of things, which was poised for take-off.

Ultimately, he said, "Everything that can be digital, will be digital" and brands had to figure out how best to play among the digital trends he had outlined, with the particular approach taken depending on the product line or country in which they were operating.

In the context of India, Kim said that digital transformation still had some way to go, but once broadband penetration reached a critical point then "new business models, new interactive models can come up".

So far, he said, it was international brands such as Nestlé, P&G and Reckitt Benckiser that were leading the way in digital, adapting their global tactics to the local market.

While there is no shortage of statistics on how quickly India's consumers are embracing digital channels, especially mobile, a conference earlier this year heard that advertisers may require better metrics than those currently on offer if they are commit to significant expenditure in digital.

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff