How dollars, digits and data are transforming marketing

How dollars, digits and data are transforming marketing

Digital disruption is transforming the way the world does business. But of all areas of business, none has been transformed as much as marketing. At a recent forum co-organised by Think Business — a free knowledge site of NUS Business School — and TODAY, panellists discussed how businesses can respond to the challenges and opportunities that digital marketing offers. Below are edited excerpts from the forum:


Assoc Prof Ashok Charan, Department of Marketing, NUS Business School: Conventional media such as broadcast and print is unidirectional. But on the Internet, consumers not only listen, they talk, and as they converse about their interests and products, they play a role in marketing.

To harness this growing power of consumers, marketers need to listen and engage, and channel the consumer’s affinity for a brand into creating brand value.

They need to understand their audiences in their totality, engage with consumers as they weave their way in and out of different media, and then synchronise their marketing and communication efforts across the physical, conventional and digital touchpoints.


Danny Kim, Google APAC Strategy & Planning, Adjunct Faculty NUS Business School: What we see in this part of the world is consumers jumping straight into mobile as their first entry point to the Internet.

Whereas most in the Western market went from desktop to laptop then to mobile, a lot of consumers here and in the developing world get a smartphone and they go straight to apps – social media, games, messengers etc.

And that has significantly changed the dynamic of how businesses in this part of the world engage consumers online as well.

This is something we are really seeing take off in Asia, even among really small businesses – the way they embrace digital and leapfrog some of the evolution on how business goes from traditional to digital platforms is mindblowing.

So, we’re seeing a lot of new and disruptive business models come out just because the market dynamics are very different.


Assoc Prof Keith Carter, NUS School of Computing: What is becoming increasingly apparent is that without the right data, we are going to miss the target.

In fact, one of the key statistics that we hear is that 53 per cent of digital advertising – only 53 per cent – goes to the right person.

So, this is a challenge – a 47 per cent error rate, 47 per cent not getting it, or 47 per cent are maybe getting something wrong.

Marketers and retailers, banks, and insurance companies have a tremendous amount of data, but individually, they cannot actually make much sense of it.

If I spend a dollar, I want to earn five – that’s the mantra of many companies. So the question the marketer needs to ask is “where do I put my advertising spend to make sure I am getting those kind of results?”

That requires a cross-functional advertising eco-system that delivers actionable intelligence, in other words, having the right information in the right person’s hands at the right time in order to improve outcomes.

So, as an advertiser, how do you prove that?

You have to go through the entire journey of the customer and make sure at each step you are tracking: What did they do? Was it because of you? With millions of customers, you cannot possibly do this by hand.

Then you have to implement the right algorithm, run it through a data analytics system to see what happened, and then show: “Here is the likelihood that it was because of us and what we did.”

The age-old question of “did marketing spend improve sales?” is now possible to answer with facts and data.


Ashok Charan: As a marketer, we know that word of mouth is more persuasive than advertising and that social media greatly amplifies sales.

Whatever consumers say on the Internet, whether it is in the form of reviews or comments or opinions, or in the form of rants and complaints, marketers have to manage the dialogue.

Consumer advocacy on the Internet has a very powerful influence on the markets themselves.

Similarly, brand messages online can go viral, and they can generate enormous value for the brand or they could be causing irreparable damage.

This heightens accountability, as marketers must respond quickly to contain potential threats, and in the global context, it means they must remain alert all the time.

Danny Kim: With social platforms, pretty much everyone can try to be a social influencer, because even when you make a very simple purchase decision, you are influenced by your friends..