Last year, budget allocations and ad spending on online marketing surpassed that of the traditional media in the US. This is the direction our region is taking; but at a much faster rate than the West did. Just two years ago, over 60% of the things we can now do online would only be considered a myth. The push for online activities have driven the priced for modems and broadband connections drastically down.
Next came the main technological tools meant for Africa; mobile phones. The cost of smart phones and tablets have reduced. The rise in mobile browsers and locally developed applications for Internet-enabled phones provided the needed kick for this sector to grow. Android has a special mention in this sector. As a result, local developers have stepped into this new avenue, creating local solutions to local problems in all sectors including agriculture, health, education etc. Locally developed apps and sites provide an invaluable portfolio for brands to showcase and grow markets – reaching a target audience within this region.
The new order in marketing is that of brands following the masses. The power of numbers can not be better displayed than through the growth of social networks. The Facebook phenomena has shaped governments and institutions in Africa. Mention Egypt, Tunisia and even threatening Museveni’s rule in Uganda. This is the epitome of online communities reaching their maturity, shifting from a “fun and hanging out” platform to a more decisive and impact oriented gatherings. The same decision making and discussions are have extended from the politically oriented conversations to products, services and brands. Budgets for online PR and monitoring are slowly increasing now that executives open up to the fact that these conversations are growing. This provides an avenue for brands to lead conversations and threaten their markets.
Traditional media has become congested and thus more expensive. Companies are now looking for a cheaper, more effective option of reaching out to a highly segmented audience. The low entry barriers for marketing online coupled with intensive tracking and analytic tools have proved to be most resourceful for selling brands online. This is especially for SMEs and start-ups that have to muscle their way to the top using the most cost-effective means. The audience has also become more segmented through specific platforms and communities, mostly based on age, geographic location and interests.
The final blow are the youth. In search of income while studying, college kids now days spend time online to find research writing jobs thus end up creating mini-BPOs in their rooms. Upon graduation, these youths have gained an understanding of how the online scene works. This means they graduate into other money-making ventures by starting e-commerce sites or running community-based platforms. Both of these require a highly developed skills in interacting with people online. It is this naturally acquired skill and experience that companies are now tapping into to execute online marketing campaigns and grow their brands.
This article was featured in the June 2011 edition of the CIO East Africa Magazine (Issue3 pg13)