Social distancing has become an overused concept, yet remains a relevant phenomenon globally. The education community has not been spared the impact of the need for social distancing .
Institutions of Higher Learning which have paid scant attention to online learning and teaching dynamics have been unceremoniously thrust into the digital world, leaving both students and teachers disorientated and focused on how to keep learning and teaching of subject matter going without too much consideration of the need to nurture social cognitive skills necessary for a well adjusted online learning experience. As the IMM Graduate School has learnt over the years of online learning and teaching, online learning is more than just pulling your courses from the classroom to the digital space and teaching through webinars and asynchronous learning activities.
Attention should be paid to the social brain, especially for students who have been used to social contact in the education environment. The more informal term ‘social brain’ which in effect refers to social cognition, includes the quality of social interaction with others and the world through cultivating successful relationships. Social cognition includes inferential thinking and predictive thinking and is inextricably linked to other cognitive functions and academic performance. This means that educators need to create a digital learning space where social cognition continues to be nurtured.
The importance of nurturing social cognition
Neglecting to pay attention to the student as a social being in the somewhat alien digital environment (for some), we risk losing students as they become discouraged and struggling with a sense of disconnect, not conducive to meaningful learning and academic achievement.
Lack of social interaction can affect a student’s level of motivation and sense of academic direction.
How is social cognition nurtured in the digital space?
The nurturing of social cognition requires the creation of opportunities in the digital learning space, for social interaction. According to Vygotsky (1978), learning cannot be separated from the social context and social interaction. This is even more crucial as higher education students are mostly the so-called Generation Z or IGen, whose learning styles require theory to be taught in a real world context, in ‘3D’ in other words. Lujan and deCarlo (2018) state, that students have an innate need to relate to others. They have a need to belong to a group. They learn best when they can discuss and discover and when they can communicate multi-modally. They need to construct knowledge by interacting with teachers and with fellow students. Gen Zers are more oriented to Transformational learning and teaching, which simply put, means active learning where educators create opportunities for students to interact with others through collaboratively engaging with learning content, encouraging critical thought, synthesis of information and innovative problem solving. Collaborative activities provide students with opportunities to engage actively with what they are learning. In the digital learning environment this can so easily be lost.
Vygotsky (1978) believed that learning is a collaborative process and referred to the potential learning which will take place, as the ‘zone of proximal development’ and which happens when educators create opportunities for collaborative learning. Students learn from their teacher and each other.
Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) in Bektashi (2018) state that their model, Community of Inquiry, facilitates an environment for critical thinking, enquiry and discourse among students. The Community of Inquiry module is a theoretical framework, which identified three elements needed for learning. One of these is the social presence which promotes the idea that for learning to take place or knowledge to be constructed requires an environment allowing for interpersonal relationships to thrive and opportunities for communication in a safe environment.
So how do we introduce strategies to nurture social cognition in the digital learning space?
Cooperative and collaborative learning activities in the digital space, are effective means of allowing students to construct knowledge and create meaning of subject content together in a social space. Schilbach (et.al 2013) state that the ‘primary way of knowing’ or constructing knowledge is through social interaction.
Students cooperate on a common project, each having clearly defined responsibilities and objectives contributing to the achievement of a common goal. Can this happen in the digital space? Absolutely! Technology has come a long way with chat boxes, collaborative tools such as Padlet walls, iBrainstorm, a myriad of other apps, social media, and breakout rooms where students can meet and construct knowledge together. These tools are often not considered in teaching online because lecturers and tutors are afraid to venture into the unfamiliar technology territory. In avoiding collaborative learning and teaching and defaulting to the familiar comfortable lecturing to a screen, we hinder social cognitive performance, which includes nurturing critical and deep thinking during knowledge construction.
Bektashi , L. (2018). “The community of inquiry framework in online learning: use of technology”. University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa.
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (1999). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2), 87-105.
Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T., Archer, W. (2010). The first decade of the community of inquiry framework: A retrospective. The Internet and Higher Education. 13(1), 5-9.
Kautz, T., Heckman, J. J., Diris, R. ter Weel, B., Borghans, L. (2014). “Fostering and Measuring Skills: Improving Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Skills to Promote Lifetime Success”. IZA Discussion Papers, No. 8696, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Bonn.
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 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
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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:
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
Marketers will be closely looking at employee experience in the coming months and years. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how essential it is to have a positive workforce.
In her piece on the changes Covid-19 has wrought on the marketing sector in the July 2020 Journal of Strategic Marketing, IMM Graduate School head of academics, Angela Bruwer, referenced the importance of employer branding/employee experience.
“Marketers should and will be looking at this more and more during this time,” she wrote. “It is essential to have a positive workforce who are positively impacting on the country at this time. As organisations across various industries try and regain their commercial foothold, they will want to count on the contribution of every employee. The immediate past and the present moment calls for unparalleled feelings and acts of community by organisations towards their employees: a new bond has been forged and it could be to the advantage of both parties.”
Writing in Human Resources Today, Jade Taryn Graham, says a strong employer brand is only as good as the talent within a company. This, she adds, is why a strong employer brand is “critical in the pursuit of attracting and retaining the talent you need to take your organisation forward, while competing in ever competitive and increasingly challenging markets”.
As Graham points out, this is especially important now in light of the challenges Covid-19 presents, as “despite the downturn of some business operations, there continues to be, in many essential business sectors a continuation of the highly competitive need to acquire top talent”.
The employee brand, she says, “brings to life your employee value proposition”. And employees inevitably have questions to ask, typically such as “How did the employer treat its employees through this really difficult time”? or “Would the behaviour of this organisation in response to the pandemic, align with the values that I have myself and be ones that I would want to become a part of?”
“Managing talent today presents fundamentally different challenges for organisations than in the past. Employees aren’t contributing the same level of discretionary effort, have higher expectations for their work experience and are more vocal about workplace dissatisfaction,” the researchers said in the introduction to the Modern Employee Experience: Increasing the Returns on Employee Experience Investments report.
Gartner defines employee experience as “how employees internalise and interpret the interactions they have with and within their organisation and the contexts that influence those interactions”.
It reported that its customer experience research found that “two-thirds of the drivers of customer satisfaction are due to ‘feel factors’, or how customers feel during and about their experience”.
This means HR leaders should take this same approach to employee experience, “focusing on influencing and improving employees’ feelings about their overall experience through the use of psychological, motivational and social principles. Improving the way the experience feels can lead to a boost in employee engagement and support a positive company culture”.
And this, it says, positively affects a company’s bottom line. “Our analysis also shows when organisations have a high level of employee experience satisfaction overall, they’re also more likely to realise better business outcomes. Organisations whose employees are largely satisfied with their experience are 48% more likely to meet organisational customer satisfaction goals, 89% more likely to meet organisational innovation goals and 56% more likely to meet organisational reputation goals”. The white paper can be downloaded here.
In the piece below, employee experience strategist, DENNIS SMITH, writes that EX is the new battleground for increased productivity and competitive advantage.
Want better customer experience? Start with your employees
This devastating COVID-19 global pandemic has forced companies across industries to make tough decisions. Some have had to shut down their operations, while others have pivoted to a new business strategy and reconfigured their workforce.
As companies move towards the ‘new normal’ caused by the pandemic, many leaders are taking alternate routes and changing their business models. Leading companies have recognised that the employee experience (EX) is the new battleground for increased productivity and competitive advantage. Remaining competitive with a highly productive workforce now means creating an EX that excites and engages.
The parallels between a superior customer experience (CX) and employee experience are striking. An optimised CX generates loyalty and additional sales, while a stellar EX attracts talent, boosts workforce engagement, productivity and retention. This, in turn directly improves a business’s financial performance.
EX is not just about feeling good at work. Numerous published studies (Deloitte, PWC, Accenture, IBM) have shown links between employee experience and retention, discretionary effort, and work performance.
According to an IBM and Globoforce WorkTrends Survey, increasing the Employee Experience Index (EXI) score by a margin of 0.25 (on a five-point Likert agreement rating scale) corresponds to 0.86 percentage-point improvement in ROA and a 1.81 percentage point improvement in ROS.
For example, imagine if a company with sales revenue of R600 million with ROS at 15% in 2018 and an average EXI score of 3.50, could increase its EXI score by 0.25 (from 3.50 to 3.75), its ROS could increase from 15% to 16.81%. Assuming the same sales in 2019, the associated increase in operating income would be R11 million.
Linking employee experience to organisational business outcomes
Employees increasingly expect their workplace experiences to match those they have as customers and are often disconcerted when they don’t. What creates a positive, motivating experience at work? Mainly, it’s the meaning and growth people find in the work itself, and to improve that, the entire organisation has to be involved.
Employee experience should be approached with data in hand, just as big business decisions are. Ask yourself, are your actions making an impact? If not, change your actions, and see what happens to the metrics.
Employee and customer experiences are certainly linked and organisations need a blended focus on both; to do so, organisations need to rethink how effective their existing silos are.
There is a need to measure the ‘new normal’ as Covid-19 has changed all the perceptions of what employees see as important and the results of this measurement will form the basis for future strategic planning, strategic intent and organisational alignment.
It is common knowledge that to have an industry-leading CX, there needs to be an established infrastructure supporting it. Similarly, to attract and retain the best company culture, organisations must make intentional efforts to encourage EX. Those brands that do prioritise EX on par with CX are setting up a culture bred for success.
As EX ascends to its rightful place next to CX as a driver of business impact, the question of how to measure and analyse it becomes even more critical.
The answer is not as simple as just cross-applying the metrics one would use for CX. Employees spend nearly half their waking hours at work and especially, in the current environment, they’re looking for purpose and meaning at the office, not just ping pong tables or free food.
Internal feedback loops
Just as external feedback loops are used for CX, internal feedback loops are employed to gather the feedback from the internal team. This data is used to maintain a consistent level of performance across the organisation, providing insights while fostering a sense of collaboration and cohesion. It is essential to start afresh and identify how employees see the strategies under the new normal.
EX metrics your company should be measuring
Workplaces have different generations of employees in different life-stages. The needs of young, single employees differ from those of new parents, for example, who in turn have different needs to people whose children have left home. Employees’ needs may also differ from department to department and from geography to geography. This has been well understood for ages. What is new is that demographics aren’t enough.
Established behaviour science research offers guidance on how to measure organisational EX, which is defined through behaviour, and is evidenced by the alignment of the elements inherent in all organisations [Pryor et al., (2007)] i.e. purpose, principles/values, process, people and performance.
Based on the sound theory and established best practice the Stratview EX System measures the degree to which people in the organisation (the actual implementers of strategy) make sense of the organisational environment, providing an integrated approach to EX measurement. This allows leaders to take quick and substantial results to manage organisational effectiveness.
Identifying and taking advantage of major strengths can dramatically reduce costs and generate new income streams, in the shortest possible time.
BIO: Dennis Smith, a senior consultant at Stratview Management Systems, is an accomplished, award winning management development professional with an extensive background in marketing, strategy development and implementation, as well as managing cross-functional business operations, locally and internationally. His current research focuses on how organisations manage disruption in order to remain relevant in the eyes of their consumers. Smith is a Chartered Marketer, holds an MSc degree from the Da Vinci Institute and has served as adjunct faculty at various business schools for a number of years. He serves on the CPD panel for the Marketing Association of South Africa (MASA).
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There’s no doubt social media kept millions entertained (and sane) during lockdowns around the globe. And while Facebook and Twitter maintained their popularity (perhaps among an older demographic), the growth of Instagram, TikTok and Twitch has been phenomenal. How did brands take advantage of the captive audiences? GLENDA NEVILL asks South African digital marketing agencies working with influencers to share their stories.
Social is open for business. Quarantine culture is a powerful thing. And brands need to rethink existing consumer journeys and paths to purchase to align with changes in daily routine. Things are getting real out there, and marketers need to be aware of just how much consumers have changed, and continue to do so.
That’s the word from Swift, a WPP “creative agency for a digital world”. In its latest Global Social Conversation Report, Swift says as countries emerge from various levels of lockdown “the world of social has been reframed”. In fact, it has been reinvented, ensuring a new role for brands and culture.
Chief strategist at Nfluential, Anne Dolinschek, agrees, saying there was a big shift in people’s behaviours during the pandemic too. “Instagram became more real…to some extent, it moved away from the polished images and showing the best parts of lives. We started seeing people sharing their experiences being at home 24/7, the good and the bad. The platform saw a spike in engagement because we’re all in the same boat and content became a lot more relatable,” she explains.
Dolinschek says TikTok saw a surge in sign-ups and engagement too, even in South Africa. Suddenly it wasn’t just Gen Zs, but Millennials started using the app too. “It is a great entertainment platform and I assume that’s why so many turned to the platform during the pandemic,” she says. “In South Africa, it’s mostly a younger audience who are on the app, however. Some great South African brands also started creating fantastic content on TikTok to engage with their audiences.”
Founder of HaveYouHeard, Jason Stewart, says relevance of each social media platform for your target market and message is important. “Instagram is very much the prominent platform for influencer marketing (and has been for the past few years). However, TikTok has exploded globally, and is now an important channel in South Africa, albeit for a younger audience. And, then there’s Twitch, a relatively unknown powerhouse and a platform HaveYouHeard and its agencies often use, predominantly for eSports,” he says.
Twitch and TikTok
Where TikTok and Twitch are concerned, users are embracing the future of entertainment, which, says Stewart, is almost certainly going to be more interactive and social with audiences able to engage with the content, the creator and the audience – all at the same time.
“…Because of the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (causing much fear and uncertainty and leaving too many people with too much time on their hands), TikTok and Twitch both provided the perfect form of escapism into worlds far from the burden of reality. It was also a time when consumers were forced to create new habits and find new ways of being entertained, shopping and even influenced,” says Stewart.
And he rolls out the numbers, courtesy of WARC’s Global Ad Trends report (May 2020).
“Before Covid-19, social media was expected to grow by 9.8%. In our Covid-19 world, its growth has almost topped this – 20%. Online video growth was expected to increase by only 5% on the previous year, but has exploded to 20.2%. TikTok had 315 million downloads in the first quarter of 2020, the most of any app in history. As for Twitch, well, there were 1 790 million hours of video gaming watched on Twitch in April of 2020, up from 1 000 million hours at the start of the year. The growth experienced in the first three months of 2020 was equivalent to that of the previous six years,” he says.
Nano and micro influencers
All this spurred the use of influencers although not in the way most would expect. “During the pandemic, brands were pushed to move away from superficial campaigns. People want to be able to relate. This has led to brands using more nano and micro influencers instead of the macro ones purely because the former tend to be authentic and have incredibly loyal audiences who are highly engaged,” says Dolinschek.
“These influencers are great to drive campaigns with call to actions a lot more effectively. In order to add reach to these campaigns, macro influencers are often used to organically boost the content by sharing it with their much bigger audiences,” she says. “Another tactic that’s gaining momentum quite quickly is including performance media in campaigns. It’s used to target bigger audiences with authentic content created by influencers. Engagement and reach are not enough to report on anymore; many other measurements are available in influencer marketing these days to demonstrate ROI to brands.”
Pieter Groenewald, CEO of influencer agency The Salt, agrees there has been an uptake in the utilisation of nano influencers. “… They are perfectly paired with brands and in most instances, represent existing brand fans, who we then utilise to amplify brand conversations both on and offline in a very authentic manner”. The Salt continued to operate during lockdown. “The type of campaigns was dependent on the type of lockdown restrictions. Initially, there were a lot around food and FMCG related products, which was open for trade, and recipes and home cooking was very topical at the time.
“Then when e-commerce opened up, our influencers were used to activate a lot of campaigns around e-commerce e.g. driving online sales and opening of new customer accounts.”
He points to a campaign by a client in the financial sector as being particularly effective. #TheOlympian (a Sanlam campaign featuring gymnast Caitlin Rooskranz), he says, “was a great opportunity for influencers to start the conversation in an authentic way within their tribes around the special initiative. From an influencer perspective it had everything in it, user generated content, macro influencers tied to nano influencers, timing strategy and amazing brand follow through on the conversations”.
Stewart believes the type of content you create is what makes video so important. “The richer, the better; hence the success of video and the type of content created on TikTok and Twitch. What is important is that the expectation is for the platform to provide interactive entertainment where the user can take part,” he says.
So, what do we celebrate about TikTok? Stewart has a list:
TikTok is a space that celebrates quirky fun instead of what many perceived as the superficial aesthetics of Instagram’s #BestLife.
Influencers and their audience on TikTok seem more willing to engage with brands in fun, novel ways – anything, as long as it is entertaining.
While TikTok is very young, its content is slowly permeating into adult audiences as pop culture influence rises up from the youth to older siblings and parents. (Over 70% of TikTokkers are under the age of 25, compared to only 30% of Facebook users. The average age of active Twitch users is 21 years old, so it’s a pretty young – and also mostly male – audience.)
YouTube beauty videos are starting to be regarded as ‘too long’ and Instagram ‘too boring’, which has seen many of these beauty influencers transitioning onto TikTok. TikTok provided a way for these beauty influencers to showcase their looks in a fun way in 15 seconds. Some used this to push viewers to go to fuller and deeper video back on YouTube.
And who is using TikTok in South Africa? “A local streaming platform in South Africa is using influencers on TikTok to promote new shows being released. Similarly, music labels and independent musicians are approaching TikTokkers to use their music within their videos to bring attention to their songs,” he says.
“In fact, TikTok has shown immense power and influence in pop music. Most artists now release their chart-topping songs along with a dance challenge on TikTok. The first example was a dance challenge by Drake for his song ‘In My feelings’. Other examples:
Doja Cat – Say So (Three weeks as No.1 on the Billboard charts)
Kanye West with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dollar $ – New Body (Nicki Minaj’s verse went viral)
Megan the Stallion with Beyonce – Savage remix
South Africa’s top TikTok influencers include:
For Dolinschek, a campaign she enjoyed seeing come to life and which attained great results was an awareness drive that aimed to push customers to specific deals for a local mobile network provider. “The premise was that because people need to connect more than ever during this time, they wanted to create awareness of their great deals that saved people money. The response was incredible and proved that the brand tapped into a specific need South Africans were faced with.
The strategy was to use existing brand customers as nano influencers to spread the word and drive audiences to the deals. They did this by telling their own stories of wanting to be connected and how they’re saving money through these deals. It worked exceptionally well because it was authentic conversations by real customers. Because nano influencers don’t have massive reach, although have highly engaged audiences, micro influencers were used to tap into bigger audiences.
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As beauty marketing moves from medium to medium thanks to technology, some remnants of a time gone by seem to linger even though the innovators of the space show that audiences demand some authenticity. ZAMA NKOSI-MABUYE and CUMA PANTSHWA of Asante Blush look at how beauty and the conversations around it continue to evolve.
The beauty industry is one of the few that continues to grow and keeps its share of the pie when it comes to how women spend their money. Even though the face of the industry is slowing shifting, there are some ways the beauty industry and the marketers that shape the narrative refuse to evolve at the same pace as their consumers.
It wasn’t that long ago that glossy magazines and TV were the playground of big beauty brands. Stunningly shot double page spreads used to reign supreme, then advertorials had their moment in the sun. Now that influencers are the ones driving trends and consumer interest, it would make sense to think the narrative for beauty brands would be different, but is it really?
“Beauty brands in South Africa are still doing very generic social media campaigns, using influencers with no real differentiating qualities. Brands want a little video tutorial ‘this is my morning skincare routine’ and a flat lay post of products. It’s contrived and I don’t know how effective it is because they all blend into one after a while,” says Mathahle Stofile, independent beauty editor and founder of The Matte Project (@thematteoproject).
As technology moved us into a world where everyone who had a smartphone and an internet connection had a voice, the conversations about beauty expanded. For the first time in history, the conversations weren’t just happening between beauty editors, marketers and models.
Voices that had not been considered before were all of a sudden bringing up realities that millions could relate to.
“I always though black girls can’t wear red lipstick.”
“I was made to feel ugly as a little girl and spent a chunk of my childhood avoiding the sun.”
“My 4C curls don’t look like the girls on Tumblr, somebody help.”
The response was a resounding, “Girl, me too.”
In one of the Asante Blush sessions we host with various women of ranging backgrounds and age groups, democratising beauty was one of the main themes that emerged. With many options presented to them, the women say they take great care in deciding how to physically represent themselves.
There is a push to be beautiful in your own way, natural or not. This growing trend aims towards celebrating all kinds and levels of beauty. It’s about beauty no longer being exclusive.
The desire for authenticity and a realistic view on beauty is something that is becoming increasingly demanded by consumers. Women know what is real and what is manufactured. Now that we have tools in our own hands that allow us to filter, edit and colour correct our own feeds, there is a tacit agreement that we all know where reality stops and filters start. The illusion has been shattered and thankfully so because girls can now know that even their faves don’t look like their filtered versions.
Influencers are not apolitical
While the shift in power being given to influencers, there are some concerns about that model as well. There is a tendency of brands going with well-known influencers while not delving deeper into whether or not the person is the correct fit. Even though micro influencers are growing in demand, brands can do more to find voices that match their stance.
That a brand manager doesn’t know a certain influencer cannot be the measure of whether someone fits the brand or not. There are amazing influencers who are going unnoticed when they have the potential to really elevate certain brands.
The issues that have always plagued the beauty industry, like colourism and conventional beauty being hyped as the highest ranking, have not disappeared despite the shifts in how beauty is marketed.
“The South African influencer tends to be very generic. It’s the same type of look, same hair, same complexion, same Gucci belt, same Dior perfume, same eyebrows. The content is not targeted or niche in any way – except the hair influencers.
“Sinovuyo Mondliwa is a great example of an influencer who sticks to one subject, produces helpful and practical content and always puts her reader’s interest first. Because of this, she has real influence, people go out and buy what she says is working for her,” Stofile adds.
When tech & IRL collide
The line between real life and digital life keeps fading. That is extending to influencers too.
As a business, Asante Blush started engaging with South Africa’s first virtual human, Kim Zulu. She’s making her mark as an influencer and because she is an anomaly in a sea of influencers, she and other virtual humans will also affect beauty marketing.
Kim Zulu believes that tech is bringing brands ever closer to their consumers.
“The global pandemic has hastened our pathway to more technology driven solutions, we see it across all consumption of media. Brands dealing directly with influencers enables them to get to the consumer faster in a wider variety of platforms. South Africa has some amazing tastemakers who engage their audiences consistently and authentically. They are an inspiration, giving me the confidence to express myself. Impact is always important as I believe that most want to make a difference in society,” she says.
The bottom line can never be excluded from beauty marketing or any kind of marketing. As budgets go to influencers instead of publications, the status quo is shifted.
Many local influencers are making a good living off their platforms, which is a positive shift towards financially empowering female entrepreneurs. The thing that remains to be seen is how sustainable this will be. It’s also important for marketers to be smart about their influencer selections. You want to go with people who will lead to campaigns converting into sales. You also want to create content that is authentic and interesting. Consumers will not be accepting generic feeds that look the same for much longer.
As beauty marketing decisions continue to be made in boardrooms across the country, there is an exciting conversion that is happening in South Africa that will give big brands a. run for their money.
Young entrepreneurs like Vuyi Zondi, who is the founder of Corium Beauty, and Mbali Sebapu, who founded cosmetics brand Hermosa Flor, are making their presence felt.
Whether big brands view these local brands as competition or not doesn’t change the fact that these brands are getting Rands that used to go to the powerhouses. Everyone, no matter how big and reputable, has to level up and has to connect with their consumers. That evens out the playing field in some ways and encourages excellence in how brands move forward.
BIO: Zama Nkosi-Mabuye and Cuma Pantshwa are the founders of Asante Blush, a women-led marketing agency with a strong focus and specialisation on female consumers.
Pantshwa started her career path in the field of television producing after completing her Journalism and Drama degree at Rhodes University. Her career was kick-started in one of South Africa’s iconic production companies, Urban Brew Productions in 2001 where she co-produced some of South Africa’s biggest television shows such as Yo.TV, Shift, Road to Riches and South Africa’s first live interactive show, Wildroom.
Nkosi-Mabuye is a creative director who has had a career in the publishing, ideation and marketing industry. Her love and dedication to storytelling, building genuine connections between brands and their consumers, as well as women-centric issues have been the common thread in all the roles that she has worked in.
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IBM’s Watson’s Lucy can be used to determine market segments, develop products, conduct competitive or market analyses, handle media planning, provide the numeric marketing data needs in writing a marketing plan, and assist with salient information in developing a marketing strategy. DR MYLES WAKEHAM, CARL WAKEHAM and MARIA HAMMAN give some idea of the power of AI in marketing.
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, with 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.
AI uses, among 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 has 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 such as IBM Watson’s Lucy, a cognitive problem solver (in contrast with emotional), which acquires knowledge through a determined learning 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, assist 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 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?
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
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 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:
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.
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.
The IMM Graduate School’s Dr Myles Wakeham is a motivated and well-connected academic and businessman who was instrumental in introducing and adopting CIPS at CPUT as a series of qualifications. He has consulted to a variety of institutions and organisations, such as the South African National Treasury, National, provincial and local government. He is also involved in international research, and with an academic consortium has researched the impact of IT on university education.
Carl Wakeham is a semi-retired ex marketing executive specialising business and brand strategy based on the Wild Coast. He is an ex director and shareholder of a marketing company based in Johannesburg. His special interests are brand development and positioning and has had the opportunity to work throughout Africa with businesses within the Naspers Group and many others He has had the opportunity to gain experience in the Far East and selected countries in Europe where he has lived. He has a BA/MBA and studied other business related fields whilst living in the Philippines and Ireland. He provides a consultancy service to various clients based on project work specifically in the communications /digital fields. He is actively involved in a digital media company where he is a shareholder.
BIO: The IMM Graduate School’s Maria Hamman has over 17 years of combined market research and CX consulting experience. She has worked on both market research projects and customer experience improvement projects with a broad knowledge of research due to working with multiple research methodologies both qualitative and quantitative.
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