Why are Brand Marketers underutilizing the Internet as a communication medium?


Communication Channel vs Technology?
Communication Channel vs Technology?

I often hear Brand Marketers of mainstream FMCG brands say that their core consumers are not Internet savvy, and thus these brands do not need to build an online presence. I wonder if this is indeed true, or is it just a smoke-screen.

Brand Marketers do not engage the Internet channel for their brands as actively as they should. My assessment is that they tend to view the Internet more as technology and less as an effective communication channel, compared to mostly offline communication platforms.

The irony is that all the main offline communication platforms are technology-enabled. TV, among the most widely used mediums of communication in many parts of the world; relies heavily on advanced and continuously improving technology for production, programming, scheduling, transmission and reception of images and sound in our homes. South Africa is currently gearing up for migration from analog to digital television broadcasting technology. Now that is G(r)eek to most Marketers, but these developments have not scared them from actively engaging this medium for brand advertising. There is frequency modulation technology behind radio transmission, and the likes of Amazon.com’s book business have lead to fast-tracking of improvements of print-on-demand (POD) technology that has made it possible to do reprints of older titles that have otherwise “gone out of print”.

The point I am making here is that all the main platforms of communication are enabled by technology. While Brand Marketers are comfortable to use the offline communication media despite technological advancements linked to some of them, they are not just as comfortable engaging online platforms such as search engines and social network media.

There are numerous reasons why the current situation exists, my top 4 are the following:

  1. Captains of the digital marketing industry perpetuate the stigma that the Internet is more about technology. Digital marketing agencies are run mainly by techies, who use technological language to sell their services to Brand Marketers. At times tech language does not meet brand language, leading to Brand Marketers not immersing themselves in the Internet’s ways of brand communication because they see it as being too complex for the uninitiated. I believe the challenge lies in the ability of digital marketing agencies to emphasize the benefit of Internet as a communication channel to brands and de-emphasize the technology behind it.
  2. Digital agencies are specialized along technological service value chain and not necessarily in line with Brand Marketers’ online needs. It is common to find Brand Marketers keen on increasing their brands’ focus on online media having to deal with more than one digital agency; typically one for website development and maintenance, one for Internet marketing campaigns and the other for mobile marketing campaigns. While this situation exists in the case of ATL and BTL offline agencies, it can be a daunting task in relation to online agencies and adds to the poor Brand Marketers’ time demands
  3. Traditional advertising agencies are still gatekeepers of relationships with Brand Marketers. Offline marketing agencies have a major influence on marketing and communication strategy development due to their strong relationships with Brand Marketers. As nature dictates, these agencies protect their turf by default. The result is that communication strategies start with focus on offline media and (at times as an after-thought) online media get considered last. Lately there are attempts by traditional agencies to form strategic partnerships with online agencies for purposes of integrated communication solutions, but old habits die hard.
  4. The Internet is not included in key brand communication performance measures. Many companies still do not fully appreciate the value of the Internet and treat it as a sideshow that does not warrant full integration in the communications mix, and thus they do not see the need to measure its impact on business results.

While the debate about the importance of the Internet for wider interaction between brands and their consumers is old news, it is in the interest of digital agencies to find simple-fied ways of communication so that Brand Marketers can “get the HOW-picture”.



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