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The show must go on

The show must go on - A behind the scenes view of the IMM Graduate School in motion web

A behind the scenes view of The IMM Graduate School in motion.

For five months South Africa has been in a national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has forced the world to adapt, including the IMM Graduate School. The IMM Graduate School has come up with multiple quick solutions to ensure as little disruption to students as possible. Because we are already a distance learning, higher education institution, classes were able to quickly resume online.

This did not come without its challenges, however. While we quickly adopted an innovative approach to moving students online there were a few challenges that our students and staff found, such as technical difficulties and lack of resources. Many lecturers have turned to other creative ways to teach online including other teaching tools and social platforms, which further engage students, ultimately with the goal of bringing students closer to achieving their final qualifications.

We realised that we had to make a few adjustments to accommodate our students such as:

  • Extending the submission deadline dates of assignments.
  • Finding an alternative solution to assist our students to still write a summative examination by making it a take-home, open book exam as well as the,
  • Provision of additional academic support to students on how to approach an open book assessment.
  • Adapting the exam timetable and extending deadlines by one week to allow more students to have the ability to complete the academic semester.
  • Additional resources being made available while also facilitating online tutorial classes to assist students to better understand difficult academic concepts.
  • Specific examination preparation online workshops to alleviate the additional stress levels of students and help them to better prepare for the upcoming summative assessments.

Our CEO, Dalein van Zyl, together with the Student Support team and members of Faculty worked around the clock to develop regular and consistent communication messages to ensure both staff and students remained informed about what was happening, what was going to happen and what was needed in the interim.

The IMM Graduate School created an online space to accommodate activities such as:

  • The provision and uploading of the final assessment paper for students to access and prepare for.
  • The uploading of a how-to-guide to assist students when they upload their completed assessment documents.
  • A check my work for plagiarism space with the same time and date limitations as the actual upload for grading title, and, lastly,
  • an upload for grading activity, again with date and time based on the Final Assessment time-table so students know when and where to upload.

We have processes in place to ensure all the variables and challenges throughout this process are addressed. A whole team is available to assist students to address any academic queries during the final assessment session quickly and efficiently. These two teams have to be available to address any queries during the entire duration of the 2 weeks from 8am in the morning until 8pm at night, and to address them quickly and correctly.

To ensure The IMM Graduate School stays on track, we have taken on additional markers to guarantee the marking of the final assessments are completed before the end of the semester so students have what they needed going into the next semester.

The show must go on and we at the IMM Graduate School are going out of our way to ensure all students can continue with their studies with minimal disruption.

Our students had this to say:

“I wanted to take this time to commend IMM on the amazingly progressive and accommodating way that the exams have been amended amid this Codiv 19 pandemic. So, flipping well done guys 😊 us students really owe you one  Caryn – student

“Today I want to share with the whole world how incredibly awesome IMM has been and is especially during this lock down.  During this lock down IMM has been at the forefront of online support and making it possible to finish my Honours degree online this semester.” Annelie C

 “Well done IMM with being highly innovative and prepared in this uncertain Covid -19 times. As a student based in New Zealand busy with my BPhil Honours course, I have been overwhelmed with what’s going on in society. Your innovative online portals, friendly and helpful staff and wonderful support to be safe and thrive in this time has made giving my best so much easier even from a far. Thank you for making my journey to success and safety so much more enriching.” Chazelle L.

 “I started studying towards my honours degree this year. With the COVID.19 outbreak, everything has become a lot more stressful, but IMM has handled everything so well and has offered great support to their students, ultimately reinforcing the benefits of online education. – Honours Degree Student, Catherine H

Written by Riana Prins, Head: Assessments & Learning Management System, Academic Faculty, IMM Graduate School of Marketing

The gig economy reenergised by Covid-19

The gig economy reenergised by Covid-19 web

The way people live, work and spend their money has changed drastically over the past decade, particularly with the rise of smartphone technology. Being connected to just about the whole world via social media, has created many ways to make and spend money and has given rise to the gig economy as we now know it.

The term “gig” is slang for job that lasts a specified period of time, most commonly used in the past by musicians. More recently however, this term has become more common when referring to a ‘freelancing’, ‘moonlighting’ or ‘side hustle’ situation where those with specialist skills make themselves available for side-gigs in addition to their full-time jobs. This activity has grown, and an entire economy has developed as a result where gigging for some is all they do, and the full-time 8 to 5 job is no longer required or wanted. According to Investec, 37% of US adults and more than 50% of millennials have a side hustle. Locally, Statistics SA’s employment outlook has found that temporary employment rose from 2.6 million in 2017 to 3.9 million in 2018.

A gig economy is best described as a free system which consist of temporary positions and independent workers for short-term commitments. It’s a labour market is characterised by flexible, on-demand work rather than the more traditional nine-to-five, office-based set-up. The gig economy includes freelancers, independent contractors, project-based workers and temporary or part-time hires across all industries. While gigs can comprise anything from DIY work to landscaping and childcare, the real money lies in jobs needed to support the exponential rise of digital innovation.

So, while gig work is nothing new, when referring to the gig economy in its present format, it is largely driven by those with a skills set supporting new technology-enabled types of work or gigs. For a country like SA that’s facing massive unemployment challenges, the growth of the gig economy carries with it many benefits, providing job opportunities while boosting productivity.

 Pros and cons of gig work

Gig freelancers can work from wherever they like, whenever they like and for whomever they like.  The timing of jobs is also more spontaneous thanks to apps and websites that automatically connect people to deliver on requirements in real-time. Individuals can bolster their earning potential and realise their passion with side gigs, while businesses can tap into the sought-after skills they require, without the need to permanently employ staff.

There are many people who enjoy freelancing and not being tied down to one job. “Free agents reported higher levels of satisfaction in multiple dimensions of their work lives than those holding traditional jobs by choice, indicating that many people value the non-monetary aspects of working on their own terms”, (McKinsey, 2020). But we have to also keep in mind how many of these workers are people who are gigging out of necessity because they can’t get the full-time job that they’d much prefer.

Some say the gig economy empowers entrepreneurs, while others believe it’s just another way of exploiting workers. In most countries, only employees are entitled to the protection of employment legislation, such as being protected from unfair dismissal, and receiving minimum basic benefits such as holiday pay, sick leave and minimum working hours. Independent contractors are not offered such protection and their recourse is limited to what is contained in their service contracts.

But this may be changing too. For example, Uber has recently outlined proposals for a new type of relationship with “gig” workers, including its own drivers, that would keep them as independent contractors but with some guaranteed benefits. The move comes with Uber and other firms facing legal pressure to comply with a California law that would require its drivers to be classified as employees, eligible for unemployment, medical and other benefits.

Uber describes “a new model for independent platform work” in an 18-page document it hopes can be used as a blueprint for Uber and similar firms relying on independent workers. Uber has proposed that gig economy companies be required to establish “benefits funds,” allowing gig workers to accrue and use the money for benefits or paid leave. (eNCA, 2020)

Marc Kahn, Investec’s global head of Human Resources and Organisational Development, believes the gig economy can be a threat or an opportunity to business, depending on how companies look at it. Kahn believes the growth of the gig economy will drive a revolution in the definition of what a company is. “A company is real by virtue of those who are employed in it and some of the assets in it. But what if all the people employed in the company are employed as gigs? Where is the company? Where is the culture of the company? Where does the company begin and end? What about the notion of teamwork?” (Investec, 2020)

A recently published report by Fairwork Project in collaboration with the Universities of Oxford, Cape Town (UCT) and the Western Cape (UWC) evaluates the working conditions of digital platforms and ranks them on how well they do. It’s an Oxford University-backed initiative. “The research focused on the following platforms: Sweep South, M4Jam,Picup,GetTOD,NoSweat,Uber, OrderIn, MrD,Bolt and UberEats. Across contexts, Fairwork’s research has shown that gig workers face low pay (frequently earning below minimum wages), dangerous work conditions, opaque algorithmic management structures, and an inability to organise and bargain collectively. The Fairwork research shows that some platforms are actively trying to create good-quality work, whereas there is no evidence that others are operating with the same concern. One danger according to Fairwork researchers is a race-to-the-bottom that squeezes good practices out of the market,” (FastCompany, 2020)

The research also found that gig economy platforms benefit from a legal loophole that exists in South Africa, as in most countries, labour rights are limited to workers classified as ‘employees’. Digital platforms can avoid the costs and duties arising from employees’ rights – minimum pay, maximum hours, paid leave etc. – by classifying their workers as ‘independent contractors’.

Gig economy ideal during COVID 19 pandemic

COVID 19 has slowed down economies worldwide. People have been forced into lockdown and self-isolation to minimise the spread of the virus and major industries have come to a grinding halt. Before this pandemic, there were difficulties trying to figure out how some industries could make the transition towards a ‘work from anywhere’ culture, where technology was sometimes seen as a luxury as opposed to a necessity to get the job done. In many ways COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst, resulting in many industries adopting new remote ways of working.

This, it is believed will in turn fuel the gig economy. For the first time in the history of work life, we are seeing employers encouraging employees to work remotely albeit for a safer environment.

“The Covid-19 crisis has forced businesses in industries previously impervious to remote working to reengineer their work processes and bolster their technology support systems, which have been the traditional barriers to alternate work arrangements.  This provides a wide variety of natural experiments, that will provide a good starting point to organisations contemplating a switch to the gig economy model,” (Harvard Business Reviews, 2020).

In support of this, employees are finding ways to prove to their bosses that despite not being in the office, the work is still being done, and in some cases more efficiently as there are fewer meetings and distractions to consumer employees’ time. And employers are reaping the benefits of lower overheads as a result of smaller premises and employee consumables.

Those that have now had a taste of work from home freedom may choose to continue along this route in future.

 Here are some tips on how to thrive in the Gig Economy

Create a positive place– it’s important to create your own personal space which disconnects you from a corporate office. This will help protect you from outside distractions and the pressure that comes along with them. Find an open space that will help you to be creative but also allows you to be focused.

Find a routine– routines are mostly characterised as boring and safe but research has shown that by following a routine for example following a to-do list, keeping a schedule or beginning your day with the most difficult work, improves people’s workflow and effectiveness.

Have a clear purpose – It’s not always about doing work to find your footing in the market but sometimes doing work that connects you to a broader purpose. Purpose creates a bridge between your personal interest and motivations and fulfils a need in the world.

Engage with people – Social isolation can be a great risk for gig workers, therefore it’s important to engage with people (even if through online meeting technology) and formal peer groups which you can turn to for advice and encouragement.

Develop a work ethic – The quality of work that you deliver represents who you are. You no longer have a boss who constantly looks over your shoulder. Therefore, self-discipline is key. Set standards for yourself and live up to them.

Libations to the Advertising Gods: Raising a Glass to What We’ve Lost, and What We’ve Learned

By Antonis Kocheilas of Ogilvy web

By Antonis Kocheilas of Ogilvy on Jul 31 2020 – 3:00pm

Change is hard, but we have the chance to reinvent what we do

In ancient times, the libation was a ritualistic pouring of a liquid as an offering to a deity. It represented sacrifice; we give this up to you in the hopes that we’ll get something back. Something was lost, but something was also gained.

We have lost quite a lot through the first half of 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic’s spread across the world has radically altered nearly every aspect of our lives. We have lost loved ones, jobs, businesses. We’ve lost a sense of security. For those of us fortunate to still be working, we lost the physical contact with our co-workers in a shared space. We lost our commutes, that alone time we could use to refresh, ponder and learn. Not long after the pandemic struck, the world underwent a reckoning on racial injustice not seen in decades, bringing another inflection point for businesses and institutions around the globe. It is a fraught time. Major events such as these force us to rethink everything we thought we knew. While some of the resulting changes may be temporary, many of them will be permanent.

The advertising world is not in a unique position. Like every industry, its business has been greatly affected by the pandemic. In many ways, things will never be the same. This is a time for reflection, but also a time for action. So, let’s take this time to pour one out to the ancient gods of the industry previously known as advertising—let’s recognize what we’ve lost so far this year, but also what we’ve learned.

What We’ve Lost

For many of us, our jobs

Our clients across industries, and our partners in everything from media to live events, have been hit particularly hard by the crisis. Their trauma has led to inevitable loss for us.

Those of us who are able to continue doing our work are incredibly fortunate. The pandemic has affected every industry, and the advertising industry is no exception—it is expected that 50,000 of our colleagues and friends across the world will have lost their jobs through next year due to the economic crises caused by Covid-19.

“Our principle is: protect our people to protect the company, so we’re ready when we come out on the other side of this,” said WPP CEO Mark Read. “But realistically, we have to expect there will be layoffs.”

We can only hope that we emerge on that other side sooner rather than later.

Our excuses for not doing the right thing on diversity and inclusion

The news story that finally took the coronavirus off the front pages across the globe was a tragedy—the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police in Minneapolis. The size and scope of the protests against racial inequality and police brutality made it clear—this was an inflection point for everyone. Us included.

Our industry can no longer hide behind vague diversity plans or plaudits of our so-called progress. It’s not been nearly enough. We simply must do better.

Amid the protests, over 600 Black advertising professionals penned an op-ed calling for immediate change in the industry. There is not much we could add to their words:

“We have seen even less progress in ensuring equitable representation of Black professionals in senior and leadership positions. And because this industry does not release or track diversity numbers, it is impossible to tell what, if any, progress has been made. Worse still, there is a ‘boys’ club’ mentality that remains pervasive in this industry. The same elitism and discriminatory behavior that has restricted women from advancing in the workplace has resulted in an oppressive mono-culture that stifles the growth of Black agency professionals and restricts our ability to express our true selves. Many gallons of ink have been spilled on op-eds and think pieces, but tangible progress has eluded this industry for too long.”

Conventional ways of working and analog rituals of the past

Are we saying goodbye, for good, to the office? To the in-person meeting? To the convention?

Whenever the “end” of our current situation arrives, it’s certainly likely that there will be an urge to return to some semblance of normalcy. Humans are social beings, and video calls can only go so far in replicating the experience of sharing a space with others. But there’s no doubt that the forced shift to remote working has opened many people’s eyes to its benefits. And with likely cost savings involved, there is no doubt that remote work will only grow, if not be a permanent change for some.

And the intimate, stripped-down, gritty nature of remote work has resulted in some impressive work, created in transformative ways. Automated production has led to record turnaround times, with some ads that used to take three months to complete being finished in a week’s time. Creativity is at its best when there are fewer restrictions. Over recent years, many in our industry have instituted too many checks and balances that don’t serve a purpose. The shift to remote work has forced our industry to undergo a change that it has needed for a very long time.

Our creative yardstick

Sure, Cannes Lions and the Clio Awards—both of which were postponed until 2021—are award shows, and there’s plenty of great work that never wins an award. But it’s what those awards represent—a creative benchmark, a yearly yardstick for which the industry can use to measure itself. And creativity still matters greatly. The more creative a company is, the better it performs.

Many think Cannes is nothing but an overblown, overhyped, overcrowded party. It surely seems like the festival’s luster has been muddied over the last few years, what with the exodus from competition from some of the biggest names in the agency world. But that sentiment was always misguided, and the lack of a festival this year proves it. With each year that passes, we get a literal in-person view at how the industry is changing; something we’ll miss out on this time around.

What We’ve Learned

Our work matters

This crisis comes at a time when trust in government and institutions is already the gutter. Even months into the pandemic, Covid-19 continues to spike across the United States and many countries around the world. There’s no question there’s a leadership void to be filled, and brands can be among those to step in.

It’s not only marketing professionals who believe this. According to Forbes and MediaPost, 43 percent of millennials believe brands play an “important” role at this time and indicate a desire for them to step up their support. In fact, one in four think they have power to be as impactful as the government. One in three say brands should even communicate more than usual; half say the current context needs to be addressed in advertisements, and 83 percent want brand initiatives that help now, not later.

But amid the Covid pandemic and the outcry for racial justice, many brands have been guilty of promoting seemingly empty platitudes. Sending an email blast to all of your customers or putting out a statement on social media might seem like the right thing to do, but it must be credible. If the brand is not acting on its stated purpose, these ads—and they are a form of ad—will come off as contrived at best and tone-deaf at worst.

“Some of the most hollow creative executions have come from brands who appear to be treating the crisis simply as an advertising brief, rather than an opportunity to use their commercial power to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives,” writes Richard Holmann. “Even during a pandemic the golden rule of brand purpose still applies—unless you have a credible, demonstrable and longstanding commitment to the purpose you’re endorsing, which stretches way beyond an ad campaign and actually costs you money, don’t even go there.”

Brands can be leaders in a multitude of ways. One way is by simply doing more—providing practical help to solve problems. Acts, not ads. As Sarah Douglas, CEO of AMV BBDO in London, puts it: “We’ve seen brands such as Bacardi use their distilleries to make hand sanitizer, Dove donating personal protective equipment directly to healthcare providers, and Guinness pledging funds for bartenders who have lost their livelihood.”

Effective communications are also needed, though. The United States, in particular, is struggling with convincing its population to wear face coverings. Effective communications can act as rallying cries, promote unity and ultimately help shift behavior. Olivier Feldwick at WARC likens this moment to wartime, where famous slogans like “Your Country Needs You,” “Dig For Victory” and “Make Do and Mend” helped boost morale. “We will need a similar effort in our collective Covid-19 response, and communications must play a critical role in encouraging the right behaviours.” He may be right.

Brands have a great responsibility

Prior to the pandemic, we knew that brands held lots of power. The biggest among us could shift consumer behavior or push culture in a different direction. The industry talked often about the importance of brands having a purpose that went beyond simply selling more products. With a global leadership and credibility gap, brands now find themselves with even more power, and with that comes the requisite responsibility.

According to The Trust Barometer, 62 percent of consumers agree that we will not make it through this crisis without brands playing a critical role in the solutions. And eyes are on brands now more than ever. More than half (53 percent) of consumers who are disappointed with a brand’s words or actions on a social issue complain about it. People recognize brands like Gap and Dove when they live their values, helping manufacture protective equipment for healthcare workers or hand sanitizer. On the flipside, you don’t want to end up in the red on didtheyhelp.com.

This time of crisis and a racial justice reckoning is validation that the strongest brands are the ones that authentically live their values and purpose. Part of that purpose is taking on the responsibility of being a communicator in a time when government leaders do not seem to be willing or able to provide it.

Brands can be powerful influences in people’s lives. This is true in “normal” times, and doubly true in times of crisis.

A crisis can bring out an industry’s best self

When we’re all facing a collective crisis like Covid-19, the problem to be solved is very well-defined. The variable factor, then, is the skills and knowledge individuals can bring to bear. The changes that have been forced upon those in the industry have placed even more importance on company culture—if your culture is tethered to your physical location, how strong was its bond to begin with? In some ways, we’re becoming closer with our colleagues and partners, being invited into their homes, meeting their pets and children. In many cases, it’s leaders that are doing the most learning, as employees are being given more control over their work schedules and processes.

“Darwin wrote when he was building his theory of evolution that natural selection favors a sense of flexibility,” said psychologist Adam Grant. “It’s not always the strongest species that survives; it’s sometimes the most adaptable.”

In regular advertising life, the urgent and the important are often very out of sync. The most impactful work we can be doing sometimes ignores firm deadlines. But during times of crisis, creativity tends to thrive. Empathy spurs creativity, and when people see that meaningless constraints are off, they tend to feel freer to be creative.

In the advertising world, this has resulted in new ways of working that point to a future that puts creativity back at the center of the ad world. The advertising industry’s creativity hasn’t only helped clients solve problems in this new age. The industry has pointed that ingenuity inward—as we mentioned, gone is the old way of doing things, where one ad might take months to create. Now, we can make an ad and distribute it in record time.

Digital transformation is not optional

Necessity is the mother of invention. Times of crisis bring drastic change, forcing the entrenched to dig itself out of its staid foundation. The old ways of doing things have to go.

Some companies are better equipped than others. Any company that was still behind the digital curve is finding itself in quicksand. This mostly digital landscape is not unexpected, it’s what the industry has been preparing for for years now; however, it’s arrived much sooner than we thought. Companies that have strong direct response and e-commerce capabilities are well positioned to emerge set up for success in this changed world.

Even when confinement measures are relaxed, more typically analog channels will shift to digital to keep up with consumer behavior. Those who are already meeting consumers where they are have the advantage of the data they’ve gathered along the way, giving them a leg up when it comes to trying to stay ahead of coming behavior shifts.

But most of all, prioritizing creativity and innovation will prove to be prescient.

As Brian Wieser, global president, business intelligence, for GroupM describes, “Companies will find that there’s never been a better time to pitch ideas that involve real transformation. People will be more open minded, and we’re going to see businesses find ways to push transformation even faster.”

Conclusion

It’s been said that you should never let a serious crisis go to waste. The chance is there for us. If we leave this crisis and finish this year believing we should return to the industry as it was, we will have lost the train.

The industry previously known as advertising has spent so much time transforming the brands and businesses of our clients that we have left ourselves behind. This is a time of massive change, and represents an incredible opportunity for us to transform ourselves. It’s a time to practice what we preach. If we do, only then will we truly be in position to serve our clients better in a future that is going to be completely different from the one we’re used to. Now is the time to use the power of creativity to blend the best in communications, experience, commerce and technology to build better futures for our clients and their consumers.

This has not been an easy time. Change is hard, especially when it is forced upon you. You can either let yourself get run over by it, or get back up and change for the better. For our industry, it’s up to nobody but us.

Digital Marketing as a career

Digital Marketing as a career web

A study by Hootsuite has shown that we spend an average of 6 hours a day online, to put that in perspective it’s a quarter of our lives. Whether we are scanning social media channels on our phone, ordering groceries through an online app via a tablet or planning a holiday on a laptop, PC or smart TV, access to the internet has become an integrated necessity of our lives.

With so much time being spent online and the decline of other traditional forms of marketing, branding and advertising in the digital space has become a necessity if companies want to compete. This has brought about the rise of a new marketing specialist, the digital marketer and several new opportunities for organisations to expand their businesses into the cyber marketplace.

As a result, digital marketing skills are in serious demand and the digital skills gap is set to widen as brands start putting more of a focus on, and allocating a bigger portion of their marketing budgets to digital marketing than ever before. By 2020, 2 million new digital jobs are expected in the U.K. alone and not enough digital professionals to fill them. This provides those choosing a digital marketing with a unique competitive advantage as this is an industry where soon demand will exceed supply. We are already starting to see this trend emerge. According to Marketing Hiring Trends demand for digital marketing professionals outstrips supply with 44% of companies wanting to hire more digital marketers.

 What is a digital marketer?

The ever-growing trend of digitising businesses creates the need for individuals well-versed in the business and art of digital marketing.

A digital marketer is responsible for developing, implementing and managing marketing strategies and campaigns that promote a company and its products and/or services on digital platforms. This individual plays a major role in enhancing brand awareness within the digital space as well as driving website traffic and acquiring leads or customers through online channels.

Digital marketers possess the knowledge and have mastered the skills necessary to harness the power of the internet for the purpose of developing and implementing effective customer journey communication strategies that make use of email campaigns, blogs, web pages, social media content and more.

All of these activities are aimed at engaging with today’s internet-savvy consumers and interacting with them when they are online by presenting them with meaningful content that will stimulate the correct response for the brand concerned. There is a rising demand for knowledgeable and skilled digital marketing professionals in the industry.

Desirable skills

 In order to have a successful career in digital marketing, it is important to master the following skills:

  • Inbound Marketing – possess the ability to utilize inbound marketing to generate new leads.
  • Flexibility – The ability to change what is not working in order to move you towards your project goals.
  • Strong Organisational Skills – The ability to manage various different campaign aspects at the same time.
  • Sales Experience – Essential to have hands-on sales knowledge and expertise. Digital marketing requires being able to understand and anticipate changes in sales trends.
  • Branding Experience- It is important to possess the ability to create an effective branding strategy.
  • Landing Page Strategy – The ability to craft great landing pages for websites
  • Knowledge of Content Writing Platforms – such as WordPress is beneficial.
  • Strong Social Media Skills – Must be able to create effective, potentially ‘viral,’ social media content aimed at increasing brand or product awareness.
  • Ability to conduct analytics reports in order to measure your success.
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Having a broad understanding of how SEO works is critical to increasing where your website will rank. The higher your website ranks, the more likely people will click on that website in the search engine results.
  • HTML Knowledge is preferable – Being capable of using HTML to create eye-catching sub-headers and other visually appealing content is a huge plus.
  • A strong ability to utilise Advertising Platforms, such as Google AdWords, to create effective ads.
  • Good online listening skills – Understand the importance of listening to customers for the purpose of creating trusting relationships and loyalty.
  • Goal-Oriented – Set both short-term and long-term goals, and diligently work towards fulfilling those goals.

Possible digital marketing career options

 There is a wide variety of digital marketing jobs out there with a wide variety of specialisation options. Here are a few examples:

  • Video/audio production
  • Interactive technology (such as AI)
  • Mobile marketing
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • E-commerce
  • Email/Direct Marketing
  • Marketing Automation
  • Content Management and Curation
  • Web Development
  • Web Design
  • Copywriting, Editing and Blogging
  • Analytics
  • Business/Marketing strategy
  • Paid advertising
  • Online Public Relations.

 Benefits to a digital marketing career

 There is huge competition for skilled talent regardless of the industry. This means that individuals with the right skills can negotiate for great salaries but also land great benefits and perhaps even bonuses depending on their role. In more traditional careers like advertising you’d have to wait for an internship or graduate placement to open up in order to gain experience. The digital marketing world, however, provides a host of opportunities for you to kickstart your own career before you even set foot in a workplace. Digital marketing is such a dynamic sector with a range of disciplines, which means you’re likely to meet and work with individuals from different backgrounds and different interests. Due to high demand for digital marketing skills and the fact you can apply this knowledge to any sector or role makes this an agile career.

But one of the greatest benefits of being a digital marketer is the flexibility it offers you to work on your time. You can work for a company on a full-time basis or you can work as a freelancer for various organisations. Because digital marketing is done primarily online you can work from anywhere the is an internet connection. Our own research has also shown that marketing agencies are less concerned with formal qualifications and more interested in whether the applicant has the right skills and aptitude. This makes entering the industry much quicker for school leavers or those wanting to pivot their skills from another industry altogether.

Digital marketing is not a trend, but how marketing will be done going forward. Marketers that do not upskill will be left behind.

After assessing feedback received from the industry it became apparent to us that we had to develop the best and most relevant 10-month certificate course in digital marketing, and we did.

Our newly launched Applied Digital Marketing course is an online blended learning course with interactive content, webinars, gamification and one-on-one coaching with industry experts. The intention of this course is to provide students with knowledge and then get them to apply the knowledge in order to develop specific skills that are aligned to industry requirements. All of this culminates into a hands-on, skills-based portfolio whereby students can showcase their ‘experience’ to the industry, hence improving their chances of employment.

Included are eight learning blocks and one overarching portfolio project where students will

  • build and manage social media business pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube
  • design and create content for social media using online tools
  • apply basic writing skills for online copy and blogging
  • apply online research techniques including keyword research, blog topic research, social monitoring and clickstream analysis
  • develop a good understanding of how to plan and implement SEO strategies and create content for search ranking purposes
  • gain skills in building reports and interpreting data from google analytics and other social media insights tools
  • build a basic website using Wix
  • utilise online tools in the Google Suite such as Gmail, Google Drive and Google Docs
  • use Mailchimp to create email campaigns
  • leverage tools like Grammarly to typo proof copy
  • use tools such as Hootsuite as a social media management tool

To learn more visit our website https://www.imm.ac.za/onlineshortcourses/online-course/applied-digital-marketing-certificate/

The Bedroom at Arles

The Bedroom at Arles

It was given to me to be in its presence twice:- once at the Van Gogh House in Amsterdam and once at the National Gallery in Canberra.  Both times I was under severe strain.  In Amsterdam, my anxiety came from being part of a group who thought that 48 hours in Amsterdam demanded more earthly forays into the sort of pleasure you seek when you are 22 years old and have the run of a city famous for its pleasures on display for the ultimate select before you pay.  In Canberra, the stress came from having only 5 hours to see an entire collection of Impressionists on a tour of the world, courtesy of the French Cultural Attaché office in Paris.

Apart from those two opportunities, I must have spent countless more hours pouring over pictures of the painting since spotting it the first time as a junior school kid on a Free State farm when my sister finished her degree and came home with all her books.  These books introduced me to lots of new ideas, including some stuff from the psychology textbooks entirely appropriate reading for children my age.  The art appreciation volumes kept my attention longer though and started my fascination with the bedroom (I am talking about the one in Arles for those of you who thought I was still in the psychology textbooks or on the tour in Amsterdam) which is still with me 55 years later.

Why the angle of the floor?  Why the chair turned to the door?  Should the bed have been so obviously uncomfortable, narrow and not made for sleeping in?  The blues and yellows in a sad picture which is so obviously trying to be colour happy?  Why?  Why? Why?

I now know some of the answers to some of the questions.  Not remotely all of the answers, because for a painting like this the learning potential inherent in the flat piece of canvas could take an entire lifetime of discovery.  In the typical state of mind induced by the Tocqueville paradox, I know that if I had known then what I know now, the painting and being in its presence on those two occasions would have been immensely more enriching.  What I needed at the time was a preview experience which would have sensitised me to the things to look out for in the painting before seeing it.  Not Wikipedia … please not Wikipedia.  Not a YouTube video done by someone who thinks they know everything and whose stuff we feel compelled to watch because their sense of naiveté is so touchingly endearing.  Not a 4-week Coursera course which is so intent on pleasing everybody that it ends up pleasing only those who would have felt thus about anything they had been “taught”.  Something deeper, better, and more insightful than what these options would have been able to afford me.

My chances of being in the presence of “The Bedroom at Arles” again are practically zero now.  But if there was a chance of it happening again, I would have wanted a binge-watch opportunity from something like Showmax.  Just 15 minutes of undiluted and indulgent listening to people who really know the bedroom while they point out the hidden subtleties; the slope of the floor, the colours of the curtain, and bedstead, yes … but also the Provencal landscape features visible through the open window and the reasons for the washstand.

The need for continuous adult learning is now so real that it is no longer something only people who want more than splendid senility in a retirement home is talking about.  It is something we instinctively know we all need.  Adults have been exposed to learning new ways of doing things over the past few months while COVID-19 ravaged our world of languid security in the spaces we thought we controlled.  The world of learning, however, thinks that this need could be satisfied with what we have on offer now: classes to show grandpa how to make sourdough bread and one of those yobs who has found a way of subsisting on restaurant scraps while also keeping 50 high-production hens fed on what even he could not eat and now thinks to have a Go-Pro and an incoherent theory on how to save the world makes for time on YouTube.

While the pandemic did give Showmax and Netflix the boost these companies could not have executive managed themselves, it also made us aware of the lack of something out there which could respond to our need for serious information about something as life-changing as being able to be in the presence of “The Bedroom at Arles”.  A University of Binge which could, in 15 minutes of screen-time, give us what we need to know about brands and branding, introduce us to segmentation and why it is a lifeline for a struggling business, and divine the essentials of logistics to help us know how it is different from what it was before COVID, the core requirements for a really effective supply chain even when China has its next virus ready for export, and so much more that could be classified as serious information ready for adult learning in an idle 15 minutes before an important business meeting or while waiting for our chance to pitch for a project we need to have a bit of a knowledge edge on.

This is the type of learning which should be available to anyone with 50 US to spare and the need to spend it on something which will make them a better person with more knowledge than they had 15 minutes ago.  It is also the knowledge that is not available at the moment and a gap in the market for anyone with a useable platform and an inclination to impart knowledge.

Online Learning and it’s Geographies

Online Learning and its Geographies web

The presence of geography in information has an integral reality about it which is not always recognised and appreciated.  The reasons for this are myriad, but the extent to which the geography is unequivocal in its presence, ingrained in the context, and uninvited but still impossible to exclude, have made it seem like a seamless part, forever poised at the edges of our thinking but more often ignored and waiting in vain for the curtain call of recognition.

The geography of the moment or of the experience is, however, superbly significant, whether we understand or recognise it or not.  Your favourite restaurant attracts you because of all the things you see, partake in and experience while you are there enjoying the moment.  Not much thought is devoted to the core reality of its geography:- the physical factors around its location, the area which surrounds it, its physical accessibility, and the atmosphere dependant on its location rather than the managed ambiance.  These often ignored realities are mostly left to be forever poised on the invisible edge in spite of their benign significance.  Take them away though, and the restaurant could as well close its doors. The tempered sodality of these intangibles eludes our everyday concern and yet it is a core to what we know, do, and experience every day.

Geographies of human experience was called, as a research context, into the limelight by the research done by Anderson (2004) who found that the women he interviewed during his walking interviews were significantly influenced in the responses they offered to questions asked of them by the physical environment they were walking through.  Further research into this phenomenon revealed that the responses were so geographically dependant that it was even influenced by the buildings they were passing during these walking interviews.  The findings from this research led to the “Walking Interview” becoming an accepted scientific method for conducting of qualitative research.

Anderson (2004) explored how a place and the geographical context it provides, could lend understanding and insight into the lives of the individual the research is focused on.  The “Walking Interview” method of qualitative research is based on accepting that our understanding of people and their lives will be enriched when we know more about them and their circumstances.  The walking interview illustrated beyond any doubt that the content and quality of the conversations people have is influenced by the area they walk in and by the geographic realities present in the area.

When we think of online learning, we often think of this as a clean process; give them access, give them study materials, and let them write the assessments.  Fairly straightforward and simple.

In a recent Daily Maverick (2020) article, the esteemed journalist Stephen Grootes, offered exactly that point of view as a launching pad for the fatally unvaried argument seeping into our national narrative that the entire COVID-19 event and its impact on the education system could be cleansed of all negatives by simply allowing the students to stay at home out of harm’s way and with Internet access to jumpstart their consignment to academic excellence without anything else that needs doing.

Graham, de Sabbata and Zook (2015) significantly pointed out that “… geographic augmentations are much more than just representations of places: they are part of the place itself; they shape it rather than simply reflect it”.  The authors proceeded to suggest that there is an undeniable fusing of the availability and access to informational materials with the spatial realities in which this fusing occurs and which has a major impact on it.

This is much more than just a significant theoretical statement which may be left for exploration of academics who may be inclined to something which, to the man in the street, may seem like “… an interesting but so what?” bit of theory.  The rub of all of this lies in the unstated but significantly powerful extrapolation which tells us that the physical, material places we find ourselves in could unalterably affect our learning about and understanding of the world we live in.  This is an insight which is much more than what we have always known and said when we referred to “Man is shaped by the circumstances of his upbringing”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had many side-effects and one of these is the extent to which it has exposed rampant and debilitating inequality in the country.  The environment in which pupils and university students have to do their studies does not tell us anything that may aid the quality of our night rest.

The students that Mr. Grootes wants to “… go online and get on with it…” have significant geographical realities which are keeping them from doing just that.

The geography of place – South Africa is a place where the term “15 people to a room” has nothing to do with describing an intimate cocktail party at some suburban dwelling, but rather the daily living realities of a major part of our population.   Imagine not only living under those conditions but having to study, read, think, write, and produce wholesome academic musings in it.

The geography of language – English is the language of teaching and learning is our country.  It is not the language of the soul of our country.  For most of the students, this could be a third or even fourth language. English is primarily idiomatically stressed. It is not easy for anyone who did not come to it at their mother’s knee.  Opportunities for misreading and misunderstanding are myriad – there could be a mere backward movement of stress for a verb to become a noun and an act to become a thing.  Your best intention at producing a meaningful statement could, at a stroke, become refuse – an insurmountable pile of garbage.

The geography of content – we know very well that we assume the meaning of content based on our experience and exposure to our own reality.  When the reality we have been exposed to is mired in depraved existence amongst others who have not had it any better, our exposure to anything approaching the universality of a common understanding of the academic theory we are exposed to is irrevocably compromised.  ‘I think, therefore I am’ could perhaps be less of a universal statement of truth than ‘I experience, therefore I am’.

The geography of participation – learning may be primarily about the use of the written word, but it is in engaging with the written word that we become tolerant of the need to relate to the written word and what it tells or teaches us.  The distance learner needs the online experience to be augmented for the learning to become meaningful and relatable.  There is no “get online and get on with it” here.  It is in sharing what is read and extrapolating the facts into personal meaning through discussion and application that the learning becomes meaning.  This is where the quality of the online experience is influenced by the simple equation – is it through online learning or with online learning?

Learning and education in general are more than the sum of its parts.  Effective learning and education is a concept which propels this statement into the realm of the hyperbole.  It has, at the base of its requirement and core to even approaching the understanding of its place in our world, the currently woefully inadequate participatory conceptualisation of civil society which dominates its being – it is essentially about the wholehearted and unconditional support of civil society and public participation.  It is not at all something that could be parcelled out to students to get on with.

Anderson, J. (2004). “Talking whilst walking: A geographical archaeology of knowledge”. Area, 36 (3), 254-61.

Graham, M., de Sabbata, S. and Zook, M. A. (2015). “Towards a Study of Information Geographies: (Im)Mutable Augmentations and a Mapping of the Geographies of Information”. Geo Geography and Environment 2(1). Available form here [Accessed on 31 July 2020] 

Grootes, S. (2020). “Online learning to the rescue” The Daily Maverick. Available at <https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-05-06-online-learning-to-the-rescue/#gsc.tab=0> [Accessed on 30 July 2020]

Masks, sanitisers and Zoom – local team takes TV ad production to a new level

Masks, sanitisers and Zoom – local team takes TV ad production to a new level web

What did it take to shoot a TV ad during South Africa’s lockdown? Over 75 hours of Zoom meetings, 48 Skype casting calls and four remote callbacks, six hours of online cast rehearsals, five virtual location reccies, over 1500 WhatsApp messages, 200 emails, hundreds of phone calls, and a very unusual kind of shoot day.

All this to bring the new A.Vogel Echinaforce TV commercial to screens in time for winter and generate much needed income for over 35 people, mostly freelance professionals whose earnings would be among those hardest hit by the lockdown.

Initially as commercial director Dani Hynes raced home from Dubai ahead of the 27 March lockdown date, she assumed her next production, the Echinaforce TV ad, would be cancelled. Agency A Country for Jane and their client, SA Natural Products, were thinking the same thing.

But as lockdown commenced, a story of determination and ingenuity started up in the lounges, kitchens and even bedrooms of the team tasked with making this advert.

Hynes explains: “We’d been looking forward to making the advert as the product has some great new clinical evidence to share and the creative concept was beautiful and very different to normal cold and flu adverts. When lockdown was announced it initially seemed impossible. But then, Echinaforce is an immune support product, and right now immune health is everyone’s priority, so getting this ad out became something of a personal challenge and mission for all of us.”

With the natural order of work severely disrupted, and Levels 5 and 4 lockdown regulations prohibiting TV shoots, a monumental behind-the-scenes effort to prepare for an uncertain shoot day got underway. What was normally due process, became constant improvisation.

Team members, used to working closely together, had to now consult over Zoom. Production, used to working with reliable suppliers, now found them unavailable. This necessitated a complete rethink around props, costumes and location reccies.

“The script called for a florist shop, where Shaleen Surtie-Richards personifies the Echinaforce brand with her warm and nurturing performance. She’s way more than your average florist, offering nature’s healing support to worried customers who need help,” says Ursula Mcdonald, A Country for Jane MD. “It’s there, as she arranges echinacea bouquets in that enchanting setting, that the benefits of Echinaforce come to life. And that’s where our challenges began. We needed just the right location to create that special shop. Yet we couldn’t even leave our homes to scout for potential locations.”

“The location reccies were unique,” explains Hynes. “We had to request photos and videos from possible locations or have the owners ‘walk us’ around the properties using FaceTime. Not being able to visit the sites, see how the light comes in or get a proper feel for the space was challenging. In the end we were only granted physical access to the location the day before the shoot.”

Hynes continues: “Another challenge was the fact that we needed a lot of Echinacea purpurea flowers. Knowing they wouldn’t be in bloom in autumn, we’d originally planned to create them from silk. Now our silk couldn’t be flown into the country and we were out of time. The only option left was to digitally create them in post-production.”

The wardrobe team and cast had their ‘new normal’ work cut out for them too. Without access to online shopping just sourcing shoes and accessories for the cast was a logistical feat. Actors, normally used to interacting with each other in lively script reads, had to learn the art of auditioning and rehearsing over Skype or Zoom with only the director to interact with.

While permission was finally obtained to shoot towards the end of Level 4, only a limited number of crew, donning masks and adhering to regular temperature checks and hygiene protocols, could attend the physical shoot. This left the client and agency team behind computer screens approving the footage remotely.

Locked down in Durban, the Echinaforce marketing team had to watch the live action in Johannesburg over their computers. “Normally you’re at the shoot, you meet the cast and you can give immediate input and direction on your brand. Now we were trying to watch takes via a dodgy YouTube Live link, while liaising with the agency and director over WhatsApp,” says marketing director Estie Schreiber. “Not seeing the cast’s performances live or knowing what Dani was aiming for in the moment was difficult.  Eventually we were approving takes via WhatsApp clips. How they pulled this off and delivered such a beautiful production is testimony to this whole team’s remarkable tenacity and professionalism.”

After seven weeks of fielding numerous logistical lockdown curve balls and the delayed shoot date leaving just three days for post-production and final approvals, the Echinaforce TVC material was ready and delivered to stations on deadline. And over WhatsApp, the teams celebrated a ‘new normal’ success story in very abnormal times!

Credit: A Country for Jane, Pippa Capstick, pippa@countryforjane.com

The ethics of social marketing

Ethics

The potential value of data inspired British mathematician and entrepreneur in the field of data science and customer-centric business strategies. Clive Humby to claim “Data is the new oil.” And in the right hands it is.

Here’s why.

Because by using data, people can be manipulated. And that constitutes power.
The recent scandal involving arguably the most powerful head of state and the largest social media platform is a perfect example of this.

In what is considered one of the biggest data breaches the world has ever seen, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had for many years allowed 3rd party apps to harvest its users’ data without their knowledge or consent.

In 2014, researcher Aleksandr Kogan developed a personality quiz app based on something similar created by the psychometrics Centre, a Cambridge University Lab where Kogan had previously worked.

The app, which Kogan had developed for Facebook, quickly went viral with around 270 thousand Facebook users installing it to their profiles.

This is where it gets interesting.

Kogan’s app not only gave him access to its user’s profiles but also the data of each user’s Facebook friend, allowing him access to around 50 million profiles.

Instead of deleting this information as per protocol, Kogan stored it in a private database and later sold it to Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British political firm working alongside Donald Trump’s election team.

From there, Cambridge Analytica used the data of these unsuspecting Facebook users to create 30 million “psychographic” voter profiles.

Trump’s election team allegedly used this information, along with a carefully constructed social marketing strategy, to create personalised political ads targeting specific American voters; essentially manipulating them into voting for Donald Trump.

How do we know all this?

In 2018, whistle-blower, Christopher Wylie, came forward with these allegations and exposed the alleged scandal to the world. Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica denied any wrongdoing, but Facebook still lost an estimated 50 billion dollars in market value due to Zuckerberg’s involvement.

In March 2018, UK Committee approached Zuckerberg and asked him to testify. He did and in 2019, filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer produced and directed “The Great Hack”, a documentary focusing on the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Watch “The Great Hack” on Netflix here https://www.netflix.com/za/title/80117542

Trump is a wildly successful businessman, so it’s not surprising that he went the marketing route to win the elections.

Here’s how he did it –

Trump created not one, but two brands. One for himself and one for the competition. He then used social marketing tactics to portray his ‘brand’ as being superior to the competition. He painted each of his opponents in a negative light by giving each a condescending nickname such as “Crooked Hillary” (Hillary Clinton), “Little Marco” (Marco Rubio), and “Crazy Bernie” (Bernie Sanders). The goal was allegedly to negatively influence the voter’s opinion of his opponents

Digital Marketers use similar techniques to influence consumer buying behaviour.

This might make you wonder what marketing has to do with politics. Marketers also use cookies and various analytical tools to track and gather data on consumer behaviour and preferences. This data is then used to create personas of their ideal customer and to create personalised messages to these prospects. Sound familiar?

This data is also used more subliminally to influence consumer opinion using a strategy known as social marketing. Social marketing (also known as behaviour change marketing) is a marketing tactic designed to prompt social change, rather than benefit a business directly. It’s most commonly used in the health, safety and environmental sectors to encourage people to change their (usually malicious) behaviour.

In short, instead of promoting a product, social marketing “sells” a behaviour in order to get the desired results. Instead of showing why a product is better than the competitor’s, social marketing takes a psychological approach by competing against undesirable thoughts, behaviours and actions or associating the product with positive, desirable behaviours or lifestyles

The Bottom Line – is it ethical?

In the Facebook Cambridge Analytical Scandal, personal data was allegedly used to create voter personas and influence voter behaviour. Marketers use data to create buyer personas and use this to influence consumer behaviour. So is there a difference, and is it ethical? To try and answer this we need to look at two factors – intent and transparency.

In the case of the voting scandal the data there are major questions around how the data was gathered, firstly many people were not aware their data was being recorded and almost certainly none of them knew their data was sold to Cambridge Analytical to be used for political campaigning. Add to that the argument that by creating over 30 million psychographic voter profiles they were able to manipulate voters by building a campaign on perception rather than facts. And finally there is a big difference between influencing a person on which washing powder to buy and who will be your next president. All of these factors bring intent and transparency of the Trump social media presidential campaign into question.

While there are obvious benefits for marketers using data to create consumer personas and developing personalised marketing communications, in order to remain ethical the intent should be to create a better experience for the consumer rather than to manipulate them into making a purchase they normally would not. Also the data should be gathered in a transparent way and be given voluntarily. It should be noted that by far the majority of marketers support the ethical use of data and understand that the downside of being accused of unethical marketing far outweighs any advantages they could bring.

At the IMM graduate school we believe that ethical marketing is beneficial to both the consumer and the marketer and aids in building strong customer relationships based on trust and as such we instil ethics as a theme in all our programs and courses. To find the right learning option for you browse our many options on our website.

The impact of AI on Customer Relationship Management and the Customer Product Adoption Processes

Futuristic Robot Artificial Intelligence Concept

Dr Myles Wakeham, Mr Carl Wakeham and Ms Maria Hamman

INTRODUCTION TO ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the creation of human-like intelligence that can process, learn, reason, plan, and discern natural language. AI comes in three forms, namely, narrow AI, which we are involved with on a daily basis and which is designed to perform specific tasks within an area (technology with intelligence in a particular domain) and general AI which is not area-specific and can learn and perform tasks anywhere and finally strong AI, which is an artificial super intelligence. Thus far, we have only managed to master narrow AI.

The application of AI uses amongst other technologies natural language processing, speech recognition, robotics, machine learning (ML) and computer vision. An example of AI that you may already be engaging with is SIRI presently available on Apple iPhones who reacts to your voice on command. SIRI will in addition have the ability to “learn” from you as you request information in the future.

According to Carolyn Frantz (Microsoft’s Corporate Secretary), AI will have a major influence on business and will equally have a dramatic impact on jobs. Frantz asserts that in the future, AI will make as much as 75 million jobs disappear in the USA but will be replaced by 133 million more challenging and less repetitive roles. Besides its impact on HR, AI will also influence operations and production, inbound and outbound logistics, Supply Chain Management (SCM), finance and as importantly, marketing.

One of the ways that AI is influencing marketing is with AI marketing assistants like IBM Watson’s Lucy, which is a cognitive problem solver (in contrast with emotional), which acquires knowledge through a determined leaning process. Lucy can be used to determine market segments, develop products, conduct competitive or market analyses, media planning, providing the numeric marketing data needs in writing a marketing plan, assisting with salient information in developing a marketing strategy, creating structured marketing content through a process called Natural Language Generation and so on. According to IBM, Lucy is a powerful tool that marketers “…can use for conducting online research, segmentation and planning and it is so powerful that it can do more in a minute than an entire team of marketers can achieve in months”. Needless to say, the advantage of a marketing assistant like Lucy is that it can digest and analyse literally all the data a company possesses and once it has absorbed all of this data, marketing personnel, according to Watson can ask the following questions, when attempting to solve marketing problems:

  • What are the personality characteristics and attributes of the organisation’s target audience based on a set of predetermined variables?
  • Which segments, towns or regions should be targeted first in order to maximise sales?
  • What content mix should be created for the target audience to maximise the attainment of the marketing and promotional mix objectives? and
  • What is the current competitor activity and how can the organisation use such data to make better marketing decisions specifically within environments like retail channels?

The above are questions that companies need to answer in order to formulate marketing strategies that achieve the marketing goals as set by the enterprise. Lucy and similar AI marketing assistants can, therefore:

  • Create viable segments of a company’s target audience so that it can develop highly personalised content that is designed to appeal to such an audience (target market);
  • Assist in the planning of marketing strategies by interrogating the needs and wants of the target market and how best to maximise sales and profits because of such market intelligence through programmatic targeting as an example.
  • Implement and control the different strategies so that the firm’s objectives may be realised based on data feedback loops put into place; and
  • Create promotion content that is customer-specific so that the organisation’s strategy and promotional mix can be directed specifically at satiating customer and organisational needs and wants.

According to MIT’s Brian Bergstein’s article, which was published in the MIT Technology Review in February 2020, AI as it currently stands:

  • Cannot question decisions so it is basically led by data which could be incorrect;
  • Cannot explain the decisions it has made to qualify or quantify the decision;
  • Cannot understand causation (why things happen following on from an occurrence);
  • Cannot measure psychographic typologies;
  • Cannot reason qualitatively, e.g. how people feel about a brand; and as importantly
  • Cannot understand the concept of, for example, customer loyalty outside of quantitatively ‘crunching’ numbers.

So, from the above points, AI must not be seen as a cure-all for an organisation’s marketing woes but rather a tool to assist the firm in achieving better results in the marketplace.

APPLICATION OF AI IN MARKETING

AI, and systems like Lucy (there are numerous others), will undoubtedly have a huge impact on content marketing as they become more affordable and more popular. They will help companies better understand their audience and the data that are garnered by means of AI will allow marketers to position brands more effectively in the minds of current and future customers and put together more effective strategies so that organisational objectives may be attained. AI will also help them understand what outcomes they can expect by pinpointing accurate customer expectation so that customer-specific targeting can be better planned based upon more reliable forecasting and market intelligence. According to the publication Smart Insights: The Financial Brand (March, 2018), the applications of AI in marketing can be found in Figure 1 below:

AI Marketing

Figure 1: Application of AI in marketing

At present Cookies and other engagement tools follow customers as they interact with websites, products, and applications by providing various data sets that will form a personal ‘ecosystem’ that is programmatically targeted by tools and systems. Here relevance is the key to successful engagement by the consumer with variable pricing bases upon the propensity of interest and purchase.

As can be observed in Figure 1 above, AI can have an explosive impact on marketing throughout the organisation’s relationship with its customers… from demand generation through to the instilling of customer loyalty. It can therefore be used to cement strong and mutually rewarding relationships with customers and help to maximise the lifetime value of the customer. It can have a profound influence on the marketing mix, the consumer adoption model and as importantly Customer Relationship Management (CRM). In essence it can generate awareness, instil interest, create desire and likewise important, facilitate action (AIDA). To further explore the above figure and its content, let us examine the four stages of the application:

  1. REACH: Reach is the initial stage of the buyer’s relationship with the marketer. The idea is to attract potential customers and provide them with an appealing experience that will lead to product trial. Reach commences with smart content curation (selection), which is the stage showing potential customers content relevant to what customers with similar perceived needs are interested in. The second phase is concerned ad targeting, with using programmatic media buying. In other words, by using propensity (tendency) models to effectively target advertisements at the most relevant customers. AI can be used to identify the best media and sites (web pages, areas etc.) to place advertisements. Thirdly, AI generated content writing programmes can select the right customer appeals and then personalised content for targeted prospects. Lastly, AI can be employed for voice search (made use of by Google, Amazon and Apple) to improve structured search traffic by applying digital assistants like Lucy as discussed above.
  2. ACT: The second stage of the customer journey (Act) is intended to grab the customer’s attention and make them aware of a firm’s products and services. It consists of four elements, namely propensity modelling, which uses copious amounts of historical data to make predictions. AI at this juncture helps the marketer to direct customers to the correct messages and locations on websites and to generate outgoing personalised content. The second element is predictive analytics which employs propensity models to process large amounts of data that perform best on selected people at specific stages in the customer buying process, which permits more effective advertisement placements and message content than traditional methods. The third element is predictive analysis. This is implemented to determine the likelihood of attracting customers, predicting what price they are prepared to pay for the offering and equally important to establish what customers are most likely to make repeat purchases. The last element under ‘act’ is lead scoring, which is the process of using predictive analytics to determine how interested the potential customer is and likewise if the lead (potential customer) is worthwhile pursuing in order to covert him or her to a supporting customer.
  3. CONVERT: This is the stage of converting a prospect into a customer. Here the first element is dynamic pricing, which uses AI (machine learning) to develop special offers for potential customers that are most likely to purchase the product or service. By doing this, one can increase sales and maximise profits. The next element is re-targeting, where once again, propensity models are used to determine what content is likely to bring customers back for more. This facilitates the re-targeting of advertisements to make them more effective and customer-centric. Re-targeting is often based on the past customers engagement levels with the initial product offering and interest at the onset. This is frequently based on a series of the same or similar advert / content being sent to the customer and the interaction multiple times and during various traffic and time zones dependent on the brand and category. The third element is web and application personalisation, which once again employs propensity models to personalise a web page or application in the position where the customer is in the purchasing decision making process. Lastly, chatbots use AI to mimic human intelligence in order to interpret customer enquiries and to complete orders. Facebook has created instructions on how to build Chatbots.
  4. ENGAGE: Here we find the stage after a purchase has been made. Where traditionally once a sale was concluded by a salesperson it was customary to make a quick exit before the customer changed his mind. In a modern context however, it is important for a firm to continuously engage with customers in order to build mutually beneficial relationships and to facilitate recurring business and referrals. The first element here is customer service, where AI, though predictive analytics, can be used to determine which customers are most likely to become dormant (stop purchasing) or stop supporting the marketer altogether. With this insight, the firm can reach out to these customers with offers, prompts or assistance to prevent them from churning. The second element is marketing automation. This is when AI is availed to determine when (the best time) to contact customers and what message to use when such contact is made. This facilitates insight into where the firm can improve the effectiveness of its automated marketing. The last element is dynamic emails where predictive analytics using propensity models can use previous custom behaviour to market better targeted offerings via automated email as part of the customer acquisition and retention strategy. The results emanating therefrom can be employed to improve future results by uploading them into the models.

As can be seen from the above, the greatest advantage of AI in marketing is its ability to deliver personalisation in a customer-centric manner and in a large scale. In today’s rather complex world, with numerous channels of distribution, complex supply chains, many customer touchpoints and retail options, customers are being overwhelmed every day with messages on traditional media and on digital/social platforms in novel and unique ways. This random bombardment of marketing messages has already fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes as people want to be treated individually and no as a number. The beauty about AI is that it can help organisations to create consistency and personalised experiences across channels for their customers over the long term.

AI AND ITS IMPACT ON CRM PROCESS

Customer relationship management (CRM) is an approach to managing a company’s interaction with current and potential customers. It uses data analysis about customers’ history with the company to improve business relationships, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving up sales growth. CRM is also known as a strategy that companies use to manage interactions with customers and potential customers and helps organisations streamline processes, build customer relationships, increase sales, improve customer service, and increase profitability.

The relationship usually starts with the customer becoming aware of the organisation (marketer) via the marketer’s promotions activity or by means of word-and-mouth. When commercialisation of an offering begins, marketers use various aspects of the promotion mix to create product and brand awareness, and thereafter attempt to facilitate product trial and then retrial (repurchase of the offering). By astute and customer-driven marketing, the next step for a marketer is to attempt to generate customer loyalty, then insistency and finally advocacy. By performing the latter, loyal customers become the marketer’s unpaid salespeople in the marketplace. Furthermore, the cost of promoting goods and services to these loyalists and ambassadors reduces as they have already built a strong relationship with both the marketer and its offerings. Finally, being risk adverse, loyalists and advocates, they are nor very price sensitive, which makes them very profitable.

When one examines Figure 1 above, one can see that AI can be used as a strategic tool to acquire new customers, motivate them to try its offerings and then through the use of technology and marketing savvy, retain them by creating long-term relationship based upon mutual trust, understanding and co-dependence. This path to purchase ultimately results in mutual need satisfaction for both the marketer and its customer. So, with a closer understanding of what customers want and need by means of the effective and efficient employment of AI, closer relationships can be forged thereby making it easier for the marketer to manage the mutually binding relationship.

AI AND ITS IMPACT ON THE CUSTOMER ADOPTION PROCESS

The Customer Adoption Process is a 6-step mental process which all customers experience while adopting a product; from learning about a new product to becoming a contented and loyal user of that product. During the process the customer may choose to either decline to buy the product or defer the purchasing thereof. The process of a customer moving from a cognitive state toward the emotional state and finally reaching the behavioural or conative state is another way to explain the Customer Adoption Process. The three stages are as follows:

  1. Cognitive State, which can be defined as being informed and aware of the product and marketer’s existence;
  2. Emotional State, which can be defined as the preferences of the customer; and
  3. Behavioural or conative state, which can be explained as taking the decision to purchase, decline to purchase or defer the purchase.

By examining the three above-mentioned points and Figure 1 above, it can be noted that AI can be used to create awareness of the product and the marketer, influence the decision-making process, reinforce preferences and finally assist in motivating the potential customer to buy. According to Cunningham (2018:178), the customer adoption process has six steps. In Table 1 below, one can observe these steps/stages as well as how AI can influence the process:

 

Table 1: The customer adoption process

Level of adoption

Explanation

Influence of AI in relation to the various AI stages

Awareness

To be created by the marketer in order to inform the customer of the existence of the offering

Reach stage: Reach is the initial stage of the buyer’s relationship with the marketer. The idea is to attract potential customers and provide them with an appealing experience that will lead to product trial. AI uses technology not only to make potential customers aware of an offering and organisation but to use information that has been garnered to ensure that the right message is communicated to the right audience. The strategy at this stage is to alert the potential customer by means of employing the right promotions mix. The idea even at this early stage is to lay the foundation on which future relationships will eventually be built.

Interest and information

The marketer needs to spark interest so that the potential customer is motivated to look for more information

Act stage:The second stage of the customer journey is intended to grab the customer’s attention and make them familiar of a firm’s products and services. The focus here is on stimulating interest so that the potential customer may want to obtain additional information about the offering and organisation. AI at this juncture helps the marketer to direct customers to the correct messages and locations on websites and to generate outgoing personalised content.

Evaluation

Here the customer evaluates the offering against competitor products or product substitutes

Act stage: At this important phase the potential customer seeks as much information as possible so that he or she can make a constructive and well-balanced decision about the offering compared to that which is offered by alternative marketers. During this phase AI employs predictive analytics to determine the likelihood of attracting customers, predicting what price they are prepared to pay for the offering and equally important to establish what customers are most likely to make repeat purchases.

Trial stage

Here the marketer desires the customer to try the product, its features, advantages and benefits. The idea/strategy is that hopefully this will lead to retrial and permanent adoption as a product or brand

Convert stage:This is the stage of converting a prospect into a customer. AI provides dynamic pricing to ensure that the targeted customer can afford the offering and to also re-target where once again, propensity models are used to determine what content is likely to bring customers back for more. This facilitates the re-targeting of advertisements to make them more effective and customer-centric.

Adoption

Here the customer has adopted the product with the marketer’s intent to retrial, loyalty and insistency

Engage stage: Here we find the stage after a purchase has been made. Unlike in the sales orientation stage where sales were transactional in nature, here the focus is on continuously engaging with customers in order to build mutually beneficial relationships and to facilitate recurring business and referrals

Post-adoption behaviour

Should the offering fully appease the needs of the customer then he or she will move from insistency to advocacy where he or she will be willing to recommend the product

Engage stage: The first activity here is customer service, where AI, though predictive analytics, can be used to determine which customers are most likely to become dormant (stop purchasing) or stop supporting the marketer altogether. A customer recovery strategy should be put into place to establish why the customer is not purchasing or why he or she has migrated to competitors. With this insight, the firm can reach out to these customers with offers, prompts or assistance to prevent them from churning. AI also facilitates marketing automation to contact customers at a convenient time and what message to use when such contact is made. This facilitates insight into where the firm can improve the effectiveness of its automated marketing. AI also uses predictive analytics and propensity models to investigate previous customer behaviour to market better targeted offerings via automated emails as part of the customer acquisition and retention strategy. The results emanating therefrom can be employed to improve future results by uploading them into marketing and business models.

Source: Table developed by Wakeham, M., Wakeham. C.N. & Hamman, M.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: It may be noted in Table 1, that AI can have a profound impact on the way a customer adopts a product, service or retailer. Organisations should therefore use AI as a strategic tool to enhance customer satisfaction, appease the needs of all the stakeholders in the equation and finally enjoy the benefits of a co-dependent relationship. An organisation that does not pursue this strategy will be myopic and will do so at its peril. What an organisation therefore needs to accomplish is aptly depicted in Figure 2 below:

descriptive analysis to prescriptive analytics

Figure 2: Migration from descriptive analysis to prescriptive analytics

Looking at all the analytic options above can be a daunting task. However, luckily these analytic options can be categorised at a high level into four distinct types. No one type of analytic is better than another, and in fact they co-exist with, and complement, each other. In order for a business to have a holistic view of the market and how a company competes efficiently within that market requires a robust analytic environment which includes:

  • Descriptive analytics, which use data aggregation and data mining to provide insight into the past and answer: “What has happened?”
  • Diagnostic analytics, which uses data to provide insight into: “Why did it happen?”
  • Predictive analytics, which use statistical models and forecasting techniques to understand the future and answer: “What could happen?”
  • Prescriptive analytics, which use optimisation and simulation algorithms to advise on possible outcomes and answer: “What should we do?”

AI has a profound impact all of the above types of analytics and should be used in a marketing context for the benefit of all the stakeholders who are involved with the firm.

The Rise of The Meme – Is It Still “Just A Trend”?

meme

Unless this is your first time browsing the web, you’ve definitely come across a meme before. They’re everywhere. But, if you think that memes were invented by a millennial or Gen Z’er, get ready to take notes.

The word “meme” can be traced all the way back to 1976, when biologist, ethnologist, and writer Richard Dawkins first used the term in his book, The Selfish Gene. At the time, Dawkins used the term to refer to anything that went viral but It’s meaning has changed over time.

So, what is a meme in this digital era?

We could tell you what a meme is but –

explain memes

Nonetheless, the Merriam Webster dictionary says that a meme is – “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media.”

Over the years, the “meme concept” has been reinvented over and over again. In our tech-driven, always-connected world, memes have become a vital part of the internet. The main goal was once to create relatable, funny, and easily shareable visual content.

Now, with it being so easy for internet users to skip online ads, marketers have turned to memes as an effective, low-cost way to get in touch with consumers.

That’s how meme marketing came into existence.

According to BusinessTech, the average South African spends around 8 hours a day browsing the web – dedicating a third of that time to scroll through their social media feeds.

With that much time being spent online, they’re bound to come across a few memes. Modern internet users respond well to visual rather than text-based messages, and brands know this.

So, what is meme marketing?

Most people think memes exist solely for their entertainment, but as it evolved, brands and businesses have caught on and have begun using it as a powerful marketing tool to revamp their current social media strategy and engage with their audiences.

sales image

Getting started

The secret is to stay clued in on the latest digital trends and create memes that reference them.

Businesses that are interested in trying meme marketing have two options –

  1. They can either take the road less traveled by creating their own unique meme
  2. Or, they can meme-jack another brand’s meme and edit it to suit their own style and tone.

There is some good news for brands that choose to become meme-jackers though, they don’t have to worry about the plagiarism police. With so many websites offering free images, brands can copy a competitor’s high-performing meme and change it to include their own unique brand message.

On the other hand, brands that choose to create their own memes from scratch should be ready to always stay on top of the latest trends and have a good understanding of what the meme represents. Something perceived as “harmless” today can easily become malicious overnight.

Make your own meme

We have some bad news – there’s no specific meme formula. But, if creating a unique meme sounds like a good idea, these are the basic steps you’ll need to follow.

Step 1: Know what memes meme

For starters, you need to know your memes. Not only do you need to understand its meaning, but you’ll also need to consider whether the audience will understand it too.

Do some research to find out what it takes for a meme to go viral. What works for someone else, might not work for you but you can pick up some valuable guidelines online.

Take a look at what the competitor is posting. Examine their memes to see what they are posting about, and how the audience reacts to it.

Step 2: Choose the right tool

This step isn’t mandatory – you don’t need to use a meme generator. The great thing about memes is that they are really easy to make. There are plenty of free websites on the web that will create a meme that meets the brand’s requirements. These are the top five meme generators –

  1. Quick Meme
  2. Meme Center
  3. DIYLOL
  4. Kapwing
  5. Imgur

Step 3: Choose the right image

If you decide to create the meme from scratch, you’ll need to find a suitable image. Consider the brand’s style as well as the genre – do you want the meme to be funny, serious, sarcastic, or thought-provoking? Find a relevant, ideally free visual that will suit the message.

Step 4: Write the Caption

This is the fun part, the possibilities are (almost) endless; you still need to keep it relevant. Now that you have an image and a message, it’s time to put it all together.

First thing’s first, find out how many text boxes are available. Find a way to word the message in an easy-to-understand, shareable way that will encourage audience reaction. Summarise the message so it will stay within the word limit.

Then, it’s time to make it look good. Play around with different fonts, text sizes, and colours, but make sure that it won’t obscure the image.

Step 5: Put it out there

Finally, share the meme on social media and ask followers to comment on and share the meme. Also, encourage suggestions on what type of content they would like to see in the future.

There you have it. That’s how you create a great meme.

Rules of marketing with memes

Before jumping on the meme wagon, let’s go over the do’s and don’ts of meme marketing first.

Do –

Keep it relatable. A brand’s meme requirements depend on the audience. If a clothing brand posts a meme about cars, it’s highly unlikely that its audience will get it. It’s best to stick to what you and the audience knows.

Time it correctly. Unfortunately, trending memes have a relatively short lifespan – it can get old really fast. So, if a brand decides to meme-jack from a competitor, they need to make sure that it’s still relatively new and trendy.

Don’t –

Choose a controversial image. This is why doing prior research is so important. Imagine choosing an image because it’s funny or suitable to the message, then having the comments section bombarded with messages telling you that the person featured in the meme was recently involved in a scandal. That would be really bad for business.

Use a meme just because it’s popular. This ties in with the previous point. Brands need to understand exactly what the meme represents and consider how others might perceive it. Ask the following questions: is it relevant to the brand? Will the target audience understand it? Is it funny? and, is it shareable? If any of the answers were ‘no’, find another meme to use.

Good vs. bad memes – this is the difference.

The Good – “The Distracted Boyfriend”

We’ve all seen this one. This image can be used in multiple contexts and continues to be well-received.

example image

For Example:

meme example

Meme generator: ImgFlip

The Bad – “This is Sparta” Bob Ross

Bob Ross memes are usually very successful, but someone decided to make a “300” reference. Two words – Epic Fail.

meme example2

Image: Imgur

The Bottom Line

Meme culture is always changing. They’re still funny, ironic, sarcastic, and relatable to the right people, it’s just that it’s been reinvented as another useful marketing tool meant to attract and retain the right people.

Are you interested in learning more about meme marketing and other popular marketing tools and tactics? Go from newbie to marketing guru with IMM’s one-of-a-kind Applied Digital Marketing Certificate. Applications now open. Hurry up and secure your spot! Visit https://imm.ac.za/ for more information.