Marketers are feeding the frenzy at their own peril - MARKETING Magazine Asia


Marketers are feeding the frenzy at their own peril

International Advertising Association (IAA) Malaysia Hall of Famer Harmandar Singh has voiced out his concerns to shed light on the current mishappenings in the marketing communications industry.

He said if they are not properly addressed and thought out, the industry may lose out on its objectivity and reason for being.

Popularly known in the industry as Ham, he said advertising spend should not overzealously be targeted at millennials although it is an important and growing segment of the population.

He added that there was a “fixation” among marketers equating millennials to the holy grail. And in most cases, the only way to do marketing, he noted.

Trapper Media Group CEO Sivanathan Krishnan was reported as saying that about 70% of advertising expenditure is spent building a new customer base, which is the M40 and the millennials for fear of losing out on future customer segments. Trapper Media is a homegrown media specialist in the country.

Ham shares a similar view with Sivanathan, adding that the fear of losing out has become a mantra that defies market realities. “There are many clusters within the millennial audience alone that are swept with the larger brush and a macro marketing lens, simply because it is convenient, easy to convince the board, adopt media plans and get budgets approved,” he said.

This is evident in marketing organisations with professionals who are out to keep their jobs and not rock the boat. Sadly, they find it safe to hide behind online falsehoods and this has been a painful trend for sometime now, Ham added.

Marketing today is about communities, he said, and not condensed to hyped demographic jargon like “millennials”.

Ham pointed out that quite a number of millennials are penniless, indifferent towards advertising, fickle and have a glaring absence of loyalty.

According to a Pew Research study in the United States a few years ago, it was discovered that only 20% of millennials trust other people. Based on a survey on Malaysian millennials by the Asian Institute of Finance last year, 38% had personal loans, 47% were deep in credit card debt and only 28% were confident in the subject of financial literacy.

“Marketers should identify their target audience and make in-depth research on the various consumer groups before targeting a specific audience,” he told StarBiz.

Ham reiterated that he was not a millennial basher, but was concerned about the herd mentality of marketers blindly looking at this segment as their target audience.  

He quipped that “this is a case of everyone fishing at the same spot just because someone made a big catch there sometime back.”

The brand communications guru, who is also MARKETING magazine founder and IAA Malaysia honorary adviser, cautioned marketers not to be influenced by the so-called “global” trends, but rather be cautious and thorough in their planning and budget spend.    

“The traffic on the Internet is growing by the day and more than 50% of the traffic on this platform is fake,” he said.   

He fears that online fake traffic would overtake genuine traffic going forward and spell disaster for the communications industry, as the inversion point would be machine-driven.

This is because false information could affect an organisation’s brand image and goodwill, he said, adding that it could lead to customer attrition for a brand and a dehumanised society. 

A government poll in Singapore in 2017 found that 75% of respondents had read fake news at least occasionally, and 25% had shared information they later discovered to be false.

Media analysts expect fake news traffic to be on the uptrend if no proper regulations and laws are put in place to eradicate this menace. This will cost organisations to lose billions over time from online falsehoods, they concurred. 

Ham said, “I am continuously puzzled how marketers spend so much time and money trying to figure out how to target their audience based on algorithms they are not even privy to. Instead, they are ignoring media platforms that have clear and defined audiences for them to readily choose from.”

Proven media platforms are not chosen because they are not “cool”, not because they are ineffective, he added.

In this confusion also known as “digital disruption”, the marketers who are winning are happy that their competitors are confused. And this strange twist of irony is best witnessed in “millennial” marketing.

He noted that he was sharing his thoughts as Malaysia’s communications industry has bright and imaginative award-winners who unfortunately do not have the platform to debunk the fictitious narrative out there.

Through his 30 years of involvement in the marketing and brand communications sector, Ham has created over 400 commercials and worked in offices across Singapore, Manila, Tokyo, London and New York. He was a weekly columnist for The Star newspaper for almost a decade. Ham is also an adjunct professor at Taylor’s University, crusading for a new generation of communication students.

The Star Newspaper, 25/2/2019


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