Anuk De Silva illustrates how to use marketing trends in the digital age

Compiled by Azraa Killru

Q: Could you outline the key marketing trends of 2021?
A: Interactive content such as personalised emails, webinars, mobile apps or augmented reality overlays help customers establish a more personal connection with brands, which can facilitate algorithm-based searches in the long run.

Meanwhile, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is another important trend: a simple yet effective SEO strategy will help brands remain competitive.

Q: What defines the blueprint for effective corporate social responsibility?
A: Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are a part of corporate governance that are designed to ensure that a company’s operations remain ethical and beneficial to society.

Companies may decide to engage in various activities as their main CSR agenda. What’s important here is that the chosen initiative(s) need to be interlinked with the company’s wider business activities. This creates a greater association between the brand and its underlying CSR plan while allowing the employees to participate in such initiatives as well.

Furthermore, it’s important to communicate one’s sustainability initiatives through branding and content, by building a narrative to link CSR to an organisation’s overall purpose and corporate strategy. This will make social responsibility a part of the organisation’s corporate reputation and brand identity without it being seen as a mere public relations effort.

Q: What are some of the marketing and advertising strategies that are no longer relevant in the present day?
A: The pandemic has disrupted the way brands communicate their offering and how customers consume brand messaging.

On-site brand activations, live events and other face-to-face marketing strategies are now a thing of the past. The pandemic has forced brands to shift their messaging to virtual or digital platforms.

The more traditional TV, radio, billboard and print media options – which are cluttered mediums (although not completely irrelevant) – are also in decline.

Although one might argue that with more people working from home, they may have more time to watch television and with streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Spotify gaining popularity, consumers would start moving away from regular TV to more commercial free options.

Another reason for their decline is that advertisers find it extremely difficult to target and measure their messaging on these conventional channels.

Q: How can businesses adapt to the demands of new customer segments such as gen Z that have a penchant for hyper personalisation and digital experiences?
A: Generation Z has had access to the internet and social media for the entirety of their lives, and consumes content on multiple channels.

For example, they might use Facebook to source information, Instagram and Snapchat to portray their lifestyles, and TikTok merely for fun. Therefore, brands need to understand the purpose of each platform and tailor their messages accordingly.

Research shows that gen Z wants brands to align with their personal values and beliefs. They’re also known to be on the go consumers with a heavy dependency on mobile-first and to embrace a ‘second screen’ lifestyle – i.e. being on the mobile while watching TV.

Consequently, organisations need to have optimised mobile responsive websites and methods such as in-app advertising for brand visibility. Another important factor is sharing short and creative content regularly to grab their attention since they have a lower attention span due to content overload.

Q: So how can companies build brand reputation in the digital age?
A: The prevalence of digital and social media has been both a blessing and a curse for brands.

Brands can connect with consumers in creative ways and on a personal level but there is a risk of brand infringement. Scammers and impersonators can cause severe damage to a brand’s reputation by misleading consumers.

Therefore, it’s critical that every brand has a comprehensive brand protection strategy in place, which covers all aspects of their online presence to prevent any revenue losses and reputational damage due to infringements.

On the other hand, dealing in the digital age means consumers want their queries addressed instantly. As a result, brands need to invest in real-time two-way communication methodologies.

And finally, organisations should prioritise honesty and empathy especially when dealing with customer complaints. Owning up to a mistake (even publicly) and offering to rectify it is commendable.

The interviewee is the Head of Corporate Affairs – Brand & Marketing at Standard Chartered Bank