10 September 2012

Digital Marketing: A New Paradigm

In 1962, sociologist Everett Rogers, popularized the theory of Diffusion of Innovations. This theory tries to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. In marketing terms, it’s a theory to predict how the purchase of expensive, durable goods such as cars and refrigerators will spread.

It seems that with the coming of digital marketing, the theory falls short. The diffusion of high tech websites and apps is believed to occur in a different way.
Researchers at MIT believe that the diffusion of these digital products and services are different since
  1. The products are offered either free or low cost
  2. It entails minimal risk to the user in using the product
  3. The product is only useful if people join and share it with others

Further research concludes that even if the medium is digital, the roots and driving force behind it will always be location based social networks and traditional media attention. Popular apps or websites just don’t become popular overnight. It takes time, effort, and the right people to bring it to the forefront.

The most important question for every digital activity is “Who will be the right person or network to adopt the program for it to go viral?”

The Twitter Model

A case in point is Twitter. In 2006 when twitter started in San Francisco, there were only a few hundred users worldwide. That changed in April 2009 when actor Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to see who could first collect 1 million Twitter followers. On April 17, Ashton won. That same day, he appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show where she also sent her first tweet.

The next day, Twitter was everywhere. The story was all over the news wires, people started joining the social network and Twitter never looked back.

Sociologists have started to rethink the theory of Diffusion of Innovations in a different way when it comes to digital efforts. Most marketing studies will look at news media as a constant but looking at the twitter model, it wasn’t. Three years after it was launched, news media about it spiked because of the attention it got from the public. And the more the news was shared, the more Twitter grew popular.

Local Efforts

Local companies have also entered the digital fray. Their products expand their service and coverage, entertain, and some even bring friends closer together. Whether the campaign is a hit or a miss will depend on the user/consumer base supporting it.

The clearer the companies can adapt to a new paradigm of Diffusion of Innovations, the faster they can construct a solid viral campaign. The first things to study are the numbers.

How connected is the Philippines?

Looking at the Digits

According to global research company, TNS, 45% of surveyed Filipinos are connected to the Internet. 36% listen to the radio, 12% read newspapers and 4% read magazines. Also, 12% are accessing the Internet through smartphones.

Even communications are experiencing a revolution of sorts. 81% of surveyed families of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) use the internet (thru various sites and apps as Skype, Messenger, etc.) as their primary way of communicating with each other. 77% use mobile phones and 24% use landline phones.

The survey covered 1000 respondents throughout urban areas from the ABCD socio-economic classes.

Bank of the Philippine Islands

Looking at the services BPI offers in its websites and smartphone apps, it is easy to surmise that the direction of BPI is to make banking with them easier, accessible, and simple. They already have an existing user base from their depositors.
Online banking with BPI is truly a great experience. Their services range from loading a prepaid phone with credits, ordering food from McDonalds to buying cinema tickets. Paying bills is easy with just one click of a button.

The experience is like having one’s own BPI branch open 24/7 at home.

Applying for the available services requires visiting the bank and filling up a form, a bit tedious but understandable. It adds a strong layer of security that ensures a safe and clean transaction every time. Once everything is set up, it’s all smooth sailing from there.

The services are also available as an app for the mobile phone. It gives the user portability and accessibility to his or her account.


Bayantel’s internet personality is Lola Techie, a computer savvy, hardcore game playing, social network guru grandmother. It’s a clear message that the internet is accessible and can be fun for anyone regardless of age and gender.

In line with this campaign, Bayantel is offering online courses that teach the old (and young) the basics of being part of an internet driven society. From learning what a computer is to sending out an email, the campaign is to reign in the market demographic that although stubborn to learn new things, will eventually become loyal users who will accept no alternatives.

An earlier program that is parallel from this premise is their other service, the GIL@S program. Short for Gearing Up Internet Literacy and Access for Students, the GIL@S program’s aim is to connect all the public schools in the Philippines to the internet by providing free DSL connections.

As an Internet provider, Bayantel is naturally targeting the market who would most want to subscribe to them, the young and the old. With Lola Techie drawing in public attention and media presence, the brand itself is in line to convert subscribers to their services.


The Internet and coffee will always be linked together at the hips. Coffee shops abound with laptop carrying netizens browsing the internet while having their favorite coffee based beverage of choice.

Even the early places that offer internet services are called Internet Cafes.
Nescafe understands this relationship and increased the user’s engagement by offering apps and services that connected friends and family even more.

The only branded page in the Philippines that was included in the global list of Top 100 Engaging Brands on Facebook, the Philippines’ Nescafe Facebook Page has over 1.2 Million fans. Averaging 1000 likes and 300 comments per post, the Nescafe Facebook Page continually captures attention by engaging fans in joining the conversation in posts but without overtly being too commercial. A recent post asks, “Life is an everyday celebration. What are you celebrating?” It is such an upbeat question that it’s hard not to put one’s comment in it.

Other online applications and promos are the Nescafe 143 app that allows users to say “I love you” to friends online. The Nescafe Hit the Spot app allowed fans to share personal Nescafe Classic cup preparation stories. And the Nescafe Youmeoke brings out the Filipinos love for songs and pictures allowing users to create a slideshow of photos in Facebook with accompanying music.

Understanding the Filipinos love for friendship, song, and camaraderie, Nescafe has achieved a true digital relationship between brand and technology which of course translates to brand recognition and most importantly sales.

Customer Zero

As with all campaigns, the success will always rely on that one person or network that will propagate the message. With Twitter, it was Aston Kutcher in 2009. In the local scene, the face of the internet can arguably be Lola Techie.

Still young in the digital game, local digital efforts will experience peaks and valleys in terms of user engagement. The direction of BPI is to expand and simplify banking, Bayantel aims to educate and propagate internet usage, and Nescafe’s aim is to make the internet experience fun and engaging. Each has a solid platform and a growing user base.

It took Twitter three years to capture 13.5% of the population. 13.5% according to MIT is what they termed as critical mass for a digital campaign. The Philippines is far from achieving critical mass in all its local efforts. But with each step, advertisers and marketing gurus slowly understand the new shift in Diffusion of Innovations when applied to the local scene.

Given the right person and right timing, It may be just a few months before that one true app breaks through the barrier and take the throne.