Moderated by Rohan Jayaweera, the CIM Future Marketer Conference facilitated a panel discussion featuring eminent personalities. Invited to share a few words on CIM and digital marketing were Digital Commerce Lanka Chief Marketing Officer Ahmed Irfan, Nations Trust Bank (NTB) Chief Manager Consumer Finance Lewie Diasz, Synergy School of Marketing Michael Ranasinghe, Pan Audio Marketing Director G. S. Sylvester and Mobitel General Manager BPO/ITO Failan Saleem
Q: How does the CIM curriculum facilitate digital marketing?
Sylvester: Most of the subjects have elements of digital marketing incorporated in it. The qualification is also looking at having digitisation as a module for stage one and two and this will soon be made available.
Irfan: As lecturers, we make it a point to deliver to our students what app strategies and mobile strategies are and its integration to traditional marketing methods. CIM is an all round qualification and we do our level best to cater to that.
Q: Is digital marketing actively taken up by organisations in Sri Lanka?
Diasz: There is a notable pressure by marketers to increase marketing budgets so that online aspects could be looked into as well. Sharing from a personal perspective, NTB spent nearly Rs. 11.5 million on Google search and Facebook in 2012 and this year our budgets are higher. Compared to the allocation made for traditional marketing techniques, the budgets for digital marketing is considerably small. Nevertheless, the trends and the mindset are changing.
Q: How should students look at digital marketing?
Saleem: Digitisation is now a part of all marketing aspects. You have to understand the core competencies in this area and be aware of the value that could be delivered. If a student does not build his competencies in this area, as a marketer he will have a short life in the profession for sure.
Ranasinghe: Reluctance is shown by students on sections of modules where digital marketing elements have to be used. This does not mean that the students are not knowledgeable in this area, but they prefer to apply traditional marketing methods over digital marketing methods as they probably feel that this is still the preference of lecturers, though it is not the case. The CIM syllabus facilitates this, but we see less application of it in marketing strategies formulated for assignments.
Q: Would digital marketing replace traditional marketing?
Sylvester: Certainly not. Traditional marketing, which include television, radio, and press are still communication channels greatly used to capture attention of the target audience. Digital marketing is on the rise as companies are engaging themselves in inbound marketing, which means using tools such as websites to invite customers to have a look at their products before purchasing it. In the future, my view is that both will complement each other. As a company, when looking into marketing communication strategies, they should look into both elements before formulating marketing plans for the year.
Q: Sri Lanka does not have necessary infrastructure for digital marketing. In that scenario, should digitisation be pursued?
Sylvester: It would be wrong to say that Sri Lanka does not have the necessary infrastructure in place for this. What Sri Lanka lacks is the imagination to use this. We lack the idea and the interest to pursue digital marketing. Today, many marketers are happy to create a Facebook page and get millions of likes and shares. Aiming for that is useless. A good digital strategy is about using the platform to generate sales. Digital marketing is not only about social media, it’s much more than that. Digitisation includes aspects such as search, mobile, cloud, and apps. Leveraging on these will allow the generation of required results.
Q: If you do not manage digital marketing well, it could kill a brand. How can this be well managed?
Diasz: You should not be discouraged by looking at the risks. The younger generation spending most of their time online should be well aware of the risks, and being marketers, you are better equipped with hands on experience on how to manage the risks. You need to be intelligent when handling digital marketing. That is all what it takes.