The art of online marketing: message is still king

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By Nickky Faustine P. De Guzman

Regardless of the medium, content still reigns supreme in the pursuit of successful brand marketing.

“Marketing is still marketing: what is my business, how do I send my message across, who are my target?,” Patrick Searle, CEO of GetCraft, told BusinessWorld in an interview on July 26.

GetCraft is a Southeast Asian content marketing network that helps brands in their marketing and advertising strategies. It has worked with brands like Facebook, Samsung, Microsoft, Unilever, Pond’s, Uniqlo, Nestlé, and Ayala Land.

A global trend in marketing is the infusion and maximization of technology, and it is here that social media enters the picture in order to tap a bigger audience, and, hopefully, more loyal consumers. And while “success” in online marketing may be synonymous with viral hits and online noise, this should not be the primary goal of any brand that wants clout.

“Invest in quality, that is what we know. There is great quote of Ernest Hemingway… asked to create the best short story, he came up with: ‘Baby shoes, returned unused.’ The length does not matter as long as you are telling the story that needs to be told. It could be one hour or 30 seconds, but what we recommend really when it comes to tactics is how is that message best communicated. [The medium] does not matter so much, but what is the story? If you feel that it should be done in a Tweet or in a three-part series, it is your decision,” said Mr. Searle, who was Ogilvy Indonesia’s head of social before co-founding GetCraft.

A fastfood chain commercial that tapped the Pinoy’s penchant for sappy love stories recently went “viral” and became the talk of the [online] town. But Mr. Searle said it was not “viral” at all.

“The commercial is not viral, but it is a showcase of clever media planning and [was done with the help] of paid media.”

“When they say ‘viral,’ what they really meant is they want to get good content,” he added.

The fastfood giant paid for its commercial to be seen. Still: “If it is good content, you add 30% extra views than what you actually paid for,” he said.

The lesson? Create compelling content that is share-able.

“Brands need to invest in getting a piece of content, and if you are really lucky, you’ll get another 30% extra [audience share],” he said.


According to GetCraft’s 2017 market survey report — which tapped 150 managers, directors, VP, and C-level marketers from brands and agencies across industries — the digital marketing industry in the Philippines is poised for further growth as the internet reaches more and more of its population. Hence, the popularity of online marketing.

“The digital marketing industry in the Philippines is poised for further growth as the internet reaches more and more of its population. The country is the third largest economy in Southeast Asia and has managed to strengthen its purchasing power despite global headwinds in 2016. Its young and booming population is highly engaged in social media, making them low-hanging fruit that businesses can reach for.

“Big brands are pouring in capital to capture a share of local consumption. Small-to-medium enterprises attempt to hack growth. Media and publishers are going digital and increasingly leveraging their audiences for revenue. All of them need marketers to seize opportunities. As technology evolves at warp speed, however, marketers are sometimes unsure how to best help.”

The report said online marketing in the Philippines will be buoyed by several factors including: improved technological infrastructure, internet penetration, and broadband speed. As of January 2017, half of the population of the country — dubbed as the social media capital of the world not too long ago — are mobile internet users. Also, there is greater preference for mobile internet access (41%) than computer access (16%), which can be attributed to smart phones’ convenience and popularity, especially when one is in transit and stuck in traffic.

As a result, the report said that the share of web traffic from mobile grew from 31% to 38% this year. Web traffic from laptops and desktops meanwhile has decreased from 69% to 56%.

Since more Filipinos prefer mobile phone over other gadgets, the results of the survey said “video” is the most effective strategy among content marketing initiatives.


But then again, creating original and compelling online content, including video, is easier said than done. In a world that has so much noise and with audiences saturated from the bombardment and consumption of too much content — including fake news and annoying pop-up advertisements — the struggle is creating material that stands out from the noise and get one’s attention.

So, is there a default strategy that would apply to all companies? Mr. Searle said not really.

“Every brand is different, but you can say that consumers are a pull-and-push-marketing and say that they are looking for brands that not only sell a product but inspire and educate them, and it does not matter if I am BusinessWorld or Nestle,” he said.

“It is educating and inspiring a lot, more than they have done before because consumers are in a world of so much content, and if you want to stand out, I expect you to bring me more value than just this… And this is the future of marketing,” he added.

Creating marketing content obviously entails spending money.

“The struggle is for the creative part because they (brands) need to create more creative, stronger, and richer content, hence they need the services of videographers and writers… because they don’t usually have the internal skill. Strategically, it is changing the nature of marketing and you need to be very skilled at all different forms,” he said.

According to GetCraft’s 2017 market survey report, companies in the Philippines have apprehensions when it comes to creating online content, primarily because of budget constraints and also because of the lack of clear return of investments (ROI).

One in three of the brands surveyed said they lacked funds for digital marketing initiatives — even though a digital marketing initiative costs less than P150,000 — which indicates a reluctance when it comes to investing in digital efforts and a preference for more traditional channels.

Companies also do not see better ROI because, according to Mr. Searle, “brands have been thinking in individual channels and end up with different measurements that will only get confused. They have been thinking about the channels, but not how many people have seen the content, and if [they] get their message.”

According to the GetCraft report, the Philippines is still treading a careful path toward its pursuit of online marketing strategies, compared to our Southeast Asian neighbors like Indonesia and Malaysia.