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Simon Smith

Digital Director | 25 Feb 2013

Our statistics show that 67 per cent people believe in social media, whereas only 17 per cent people believe in advertising. The power of social media today has truly changed customer service. Post purchase service and experience play a big role today; a satisfied customer will post a great review which is greater than all the huge advertisements that the company might put out.

The mixture of creative and business experience has allowed Simon Smith, Digital Director, Interbrand EMEA & LATAM to grow into a trouble shooter in many different positions and agencies around the world. With a growing emphasis on making every penny count; the role of enhancing digital in more effectively enhancing brand positioning, creating and maintaining loyalty and thus commanding a premium amidst competition is pivotal.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Mehra, Smith talks about using digital to deliver a seamless experience, misconceptions regarding the digital medium, how marketers need to leverage this medium to make it matter, role of the internal consumer and more...

Q. How do you integrate your digital strategy with your long term business strategy?

The first thing is to lose the word digital. There is no viable digital strategy that isn’t integrated into your larger brand and business strategy. If you are looking at digital like a channel, you have not understood the change that the medium brings in the overall business strategy. You need to look at the purchase funnel and touch points. Customers are living in a seamless, hybrid world, where online and offline experiences are entwined and interact with each other. The touch points are a mix of traditional and digital, quite contradictory to what is believed.

Digital is more important and used by people who are older; reviews play a very important role in their decisions. In the offline world, if you knew someone for 15 years and he owned a BMW, and he said that it was a brilliant car, your purchase consideration would be influenced by this greatly. Similarly, if you read a great review of the car online, you would believe it as there is a trust factor, because why else would someone take the trouble of posting a review. Consumers are extremely smart today and can see through the difference between real reviews and fake ones.

Q. What are some of the factors that brand marketers need to bear in mind to enhance digital in leveraging their brand more effectively?

Saying you have Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and ticking the digital box as part of your media strategy means you don’t understand digital at all. Look beyond social media.

Build a seamless experience of your brand that fits your target audience. There is no division anymore between the online and offline worlds. Your consumers experience the story of your brand , what it offers, how it offers it, and why – in a non-linear and decentralised array of touch points

Digital isn’t always about numbers, it is about quality and quantity. Look at digital like a traditional medium; it is not only about numbers, but about customer service. If a client had a complaint, how fast did you respond to him matters; liken this to an offline dealership model and treat in similarly.

Q. How important is internal engagement for a company to optimise digital as an effective tool?

It is the very foundation and core and a defining factor of success, educating the internal customers and getting them to be evangelists who will represent the organisation in a consistent and accurate manner across all the channels they use is pivotal to integrating digital as part of any business strategy.

Q. What are some of the common misconceptions that stop marketers from optimising the digital medium?

Digital is probably the most misunderstood word in the business of marketing today; when we say digital, people still think Facebook, Twitter, their website, or YouTube, and when they have done all these things, they say they have a digital strategy. Because of the convergence and change that digital has gone through in the last decade, digital has effectively changed all the touch points. Most people will do research online before going to a car dealership, if they do not find the information on the company’s website, other dealer and consumer reviews, chances are they will not going to the dealership. Once they have gone to the dealership, they are not going there to buy a car, but test drive and experience it. We also need to understand what consumers are doing with social media; and if I am looking to buy a Renault or a Mercedes, I will probably not join their Facebook or Twitter page. Facebook may not play an active part in the purchase consideration; most likely, if I have already bought a Renault, I would go to the Facebook or Twitter page to express my like or dislike, but this is post the purchase.

A mobile phone company in the UK thought they were the most liked mobile phone company in the world because they had 7 million Facebook likes, they gave a phone away every day. Sales response is the lowest form of attachment to the brand. Statistics show people will subscribe and then unsubscribe, so having Facebook, Twitter and YouTube does not mean you have digital, it could actually mean you are harming your brand.

Q. Being an important part of digital, what role does social media play in the purchase consideration?

Our statistics show that 67 per cent people believe in social media, whereas only 17 per cent people believe in advertising. The power of social media today has truly changed customer service. Post purchase service and experience play a big role today; a satisfied customer will post a great review which is greater than all the huge advertisements that the company might put out.

Q. Any significant trends that you have observed in India?

In India, I see mobile becoming an extremely significant and huge market.

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