Implications of Digital Marketing

A little less than a decade ago, we saw the emergence of a new field called Digital Marketing. The web-based software applications commonly referred to as social media took the world by storm and got the attention of leading brands, politicians, entertainers and news agencies.

Now fast forward to 2017 and there’s a new profession and career track for the Digital Marketer. Looking back at my own ‘foray’ into the field, I can recall vividly our inability in Barbados to source enough trained and experienced professionals in Marketing. I remain forever grateful for the hands-on and intensive classroom training during my years at British American Tobacco.

Luckily for us, Barbadians love education and learn very quickly so that by the year 2000, we saw a significant increase in the number of certified marketing professionals. In the first instance, that certification process helped the local market because we now had a body of professionals who were sensitized to the importance of marketing.

Today, we’re in a similar situation with Digital Marketing. With the onslaught of online training, it’s not hard to come by certification and this augurs quite well for the local market. As in the mid-1990s, we are now seeing, almost daily, local companies recruiting for Digital Marketers. This is certainly a good sign for undergrad students looking for a new career option because Digital Marketing is here to stay.

Though I try not to venture off into the futurism, I do suspect that, in the medium term, Digital Marketing will disappear and the current [forced] dichotomy will be fused as all marketing will shift towards digital technologies. This will have more to do with the direction of the technology itself and its influence on the profession than vice versa.

What does this mean for marketers in Barbados? Here are some challenges:

1.     Mature marketing professionals must urgently retool and retrain to stay abreast of the technology or their jobs will be on the line.

2.     In the short term (next five years), there will be enough room for Digital Marketing specialists but this will tend to shift (as in other fields) as the specialization reaches maturation and all marketers will
be expected to be fully competent in all key areas.

3.     Today’s marketer must learn new skills and get from behind the desk. Again, this is being pushed by Digital Marketing. Such “outdoor” skills will include photography, client relationship management and business development; only to mention but a few.

4.     Marketers will be required to be a lot more technical and technologically driven: competencies in web and e-commerce development, coding, app development and/or becoming power
users of the technologies (both hardware and software).

This brings me to the big question. Which company in Barbados will take the lead and create the post of Chief Digital Marketing Officer?  Last December, Coca Cola appointed David Godsman, to fill that role and we are also seeing other global brands like McDonalds which made a similar move with Farhan Siddiqi as their new Vice President, Global Digital Experience.

Here’s what is trending and challenging in Barbados thus far:

1.     Leading companies and brands are still depending on the advertising agencies to handle their Digital Marketing;

2.     This has forced the ad agencies to recruit more digital marketers;

3.     Only a few companies have hired in-house digital marketers as most companies have opted to outsource their Digital Marketing;

4.     Barbados still has a long way to go in terms of fully embracing e-commerce, e-government and global e-trade. Fortunately, this creates a myriad
of opportunities;

5.     Smart phone penetration in Barbados is one of the highest in the world and here too we have tremendous opportunity for commerce;

6.     Barbados needs to move more quickly towards becoming a free WiFi zone as this will open more opportunity for new business creation and trade.

Here are the market leaders in respect of Digital Marketing:

Brands:

1.     Chefette

2.     Automotive Art

3.     Banks Beer

4.     Flow

5.     Digicel

6.     Courts

Politics:

1.     Mia Amor Mottley

2.     Barbados Labour Party

News:

1.     Barbados Today

2.     Nation

3.     VOB

4.     Loopnews

Entertainers and Personal Branding

1.     Rihanna (statistical outlier)

2.     Shontelle

3.     DJ Puffy

4.     Kirk Brown

Finally, let us hope that it does not take a long time for the digital marketers, or marketers for that reason, to get their seat at the board room table. Please do not let your Digital Marketing be an afterthought. The entire marketing community keeps a watchful and keen eye on whatever Coca Cola is doing because they are the de facto trendsetters for all things marketing.

Who will take the lead? Who will be the first Chief Digital Marketing Officer in Barbados?

(Ian W. Walcott-Skinner is a Partner Consultant at Global Expert Systems Inc., Barbados & Trinidad)

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