Guest Column: Digital- Your best bet in this VUCA world: Sanjay Mehta, Mirum (India)

Sanjay Mehta on digital being the smart marketers choice in these uncertain times

e4m by Sanjay Mehta
Updated: Jan 4, 2017 8:09 AM
Guest Column: Digital- Your best bet in this VUCA world: Sanjay Mehta, Mirum (India)

Sanjay Mehta on digital being the smart marketers choice in these uncertain times.

“VUCA is an acronym used to describe or reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situation.”

If there is anything that characterises our times, it is the concept of VUCA.

The dynamic behavioural shifts we see in the consumer, the impact of Artificial Intelligence, the robots, drones and the driverless cars, the world of Virtual and Augmented reality, the impact of media and of social media, and then of fake media, or the wildly swinging fortunes of the global economy. If these are not volatile and uncertain and complex and ambiguous times, then what are they?

If this wasn’t enough already, we got impacted by two huge developments towards the end of 2016, viz. the election of the maverick and mercurial (“euphemisms”!!) Donald Trump as the US President for next four years and the Indian PM announcing a hugely disruptive demonetisation program.

While the initial impact has already been felt, it is expected that 2017 will start with its share of uncertainty on account of these two developments.

Businesses and marketers will be cautious as they wonder about crucial issues like:

Will the outsourcing and ITeS businesses be impacted due to the new US President and his policies? Will H1-B visas be impacted? Will many Indians in the US return back, and add to the resource pool here in India? Whether certain industries dependent on such US revenues see a big downturn?

On the domestic front, we’ll have to wait and see when the cash returns back to the consumers’ pockets and consumption reaches its pre-demonetisation levels. Will sectors like real estate see a permanent impact due to cashless economy, and does that impact change demand patterns and marketing spends?

These and many such questions make sure that we start 2017 as an even more volatile, even more uncertain, and a complex and rather ambiguous world!

As marketers wonder about these questions, there may be a hesitation to resume aggressive spends on marketing.

So what is the best option in such uncertain times?

The answer simply is Digital!

Why so? Let’s evaluate the situation for a minute.

The fact is that there’s inventory in the stores and in the warehouses with factories and production still running. Where you can apply the old potion of layered discounts to clear your hands of the SKUs, a wiser move would be to find the right answers with smart marketing. The idea then, is to make the most of your marketing dollars, and not stop all marketing spends.

The natural demand for products continues to be there. Excessive consumer spends due to the earlier easy cash availability may have stopped, but the basic demand for products and services is not going anywhere. The agile marketer will find interesting ways to be in front of the consumer, at just the right time and at the right place, and win the market.

Digital is most likely to be the best way to get there.

Television has clearly been the preferred beneficiary for the largest budget spends of the marketer. So if in these VUCA times, a marketer hesitates to put those large bucks out for a TV campaign, is there a way that she still gets the impact she desired? Let’s see how digital could deliver the desired results then.

Television advertising has been preferred for some of the following reasons:

  1. The storytelling format of video: Undoubtedly works! But hey, there is huge video consumption on digital now, including video advertising. So there is no compromise on the storytelling format, just that the media spends can be a lot lesser!
  2. The large and wide reach: Yeah, so you put your TVC on the popular Hindi GEC prime time, or with a cricket match, and you reckon that a very large audience has been reached. And that should work! Well, first of all, now, even digital can deliver you a pretty large audience. A combination of Facebook, Google, YouTube spread on digital ads can deliver a very decent reach number. Of course, at a fraction of the cost that the Hindi GEC prime time slots would demand.
  3. But do you really need that mass reach? What about specific segmentation?: Television will suggest that you segment your audience by putting your ad with a news channel, or with the afternoon soap opera, or with a travel channel maybe. In such small extent of segmentation that TV offers, you are still going to see a huge wastage, or otherwise, you will get a very small audience, with the niche channels. Digital on the other hand, can give you absolutely sharp targeting. If that is what you require. Whether it is Facebook’s profile based targeting, or Google’s search based advertising, or the programmatic media buying that identifies an audience profile and chases them anywhere on the web, the targeting options on digital are really amazing, and ensure that your marketing spends are best utilised to reach the desired audience, and wastage is minimal!
  4. And you don’t even need to commit large budgets: Where TV spends lower than a few crores would seem sub-optimal, on digital, you have the freedom to spend smaller. And increase as you see the results, and not otherwise. You also have the luxury to run experimental budgets with a small outlay, until you find the right answers that deliver great results. At which point, you can press the pedal and get your best bang for the bucks.

The VUCA world demands that you be a sharpshooter rather than a carpet bomber. The VUCA world demands that you make every rupee count, get measurable ROI from your marketing spends.

Digital is indeed your answer – your best bet in this VUCA world!!   

(The author is Jt. CEO, Mirum (India))

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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