Navigating The Ever-Changing World of Digital Media to Stand Out from The Crowd

By: Robyn Willmore, Digital Marketing Manager, PepsiCo South Africa | Tuesday, 28 May 2024

With over 14 years of experience, Robyn is passionate about through-the-line media strategy, performance marketing, e-commerce, and all things digital. She excels in creating holistic, transformative, and human-centric marketing solutions, bridging gaps in digital understanding, and driving business growth.

In a recent conversation with The Global Woman Leader Magazine, Robyn discusses factors to help businesses stand out in crowded digital media. She believes that marketers should shift to a proactive approach by aligning strategies with customers. Cultural sensitivity in digital media can engage diverse audiences and prevent misunderstandings.

In your opinion what are the driving factors that can help a business stand out in today’s crowded digital media landscape?

While I feel this answer may sound rather cliched in today’s media climate, the answer remains true, and that is authenticity. However, authenticity is not about finding the most impactful influencer available and getting them to partner with your brand before they move on to the next. In fact, tech-savvy consumers are not easily fooled and can see right through these strategies.

Authenticity must be genuine and ingrained into everything the brand does. The young and modern consumer does not outright reject ads, they are comfortable seeing brand messages, if those messages and brands resonate with them.

In fact, in South Africa, where many of the youth are surviving the consequences of broken promises from some Public Institutions, they are placing more emphasis on brands who remain true to themselves, and who are purposeful. Once a brand is clear on what it stands for, digital and media tactics will help them stand out. Ensure you are on the right channels to resonate with your audience. Ensure you partner with the right content creators who are aligned to your brand’s purpose. True authenticity overlapped with the targeting capabilities of digital, allows for cut-through within the audience where it matters.

Recently, the most radical idea, where we have found the greatest success is in letting content creators, directors and media agencies have more control. The less prescriptive we are as a business, the more genuine, innovative and creative our partners, suppliers and consumers become.

With the increasing popularity of podcasting, how can businesses effectively utilize this medium to connect with their audience and differentiate themselves?

The power of audio. The power of igniting all the senses. I think we tend to forget, in the paid media world, and especially the digital media world, humans are not just visual beings but sensory beings. The more senses we can trigger, the more memorable you become. In fact one of the most memorable advertising campaigns I recall as a young adult, was an audio led campaign. Podcasting allows for hyper relevancy to a leaned in audience. While most podcasts do not offer the large reach of other mediums, it does offer superior retention of consumers attention spans. I am yet to run a podcast campaign which did not deliver results.

As we are shifting to the age of the “Attention Economy” where the amount of times consumers truly notice your brand message becomes measurable, podcasts will continue to become more and more important. A little tip, work with the podcaster in developing the creative execution. Podcasting allows for customization and interaction, to a much larger degree than other channels and mediums. Do not just think of Podcasting as a place to flight your 30 second radio ad. 

The growth of privacy data is increasing the attention on the matter of preservation of user privacy. So, how do these companies balance personalization and respecting the privacy of users in their digital media campaigns?

Ask the consumer if we can contact them. Ask the consumer to opt in and tell them how we will be using their data. Ask the consumer about their preferences and use these responses to build a stronger offering.

The greatest strength of the digital landscape is it equips humans (I hate the term users, no one wants to be de-humanized) with knowledge (or at least access to knowledge), and choice. Choice around what channels to consume, choice around what content to consume on those channels. A choice on how to engage. When people are provided with knowledge and choice, a most amazing phenomenon happens, where they become willing to share.

Online privacy is as important as feeling safe in the home that you live. I want to feel safe in my home, but as soon as I do, I still want to invite friends and family around for coffee. I don’t need to be alone to feel safe. Online privacy is the same, I need to know you are taking care of my data, once I feel safe, I want to be given the choice around what you do with my data, and if sharing my data will result in a better product or a better experience, or even a reward for me, I may be willing to share my data.

As a digital marketer, I am excited for the Privacy Age, as it is fast-tracking 2-way communication with consumers. Building communities of loyal consumers who provide honest insights will allow us to reduce costs we spend on consumer research and allow us to personalize and adapt far more effectively than cookies ever could.

How can marketers shift from a defensive mindset to proactive value demonstration, securing budget and influence by aligning marketing strategies directly with customer needs?

It fascinates me that it is 2024 and there is still such a strong culture of marketers needing to defend their budgets and their value. I am yet to meet a business who does not have consumers. Marketing (and sales) are the only departments dedicated to understanding and speaking to consumers. What more reason do we need to have a seat at the table? Research upon research, often coupled with analyzing your company’s own sales figures will show that a lack of effective marketing efforts usually results in a drop in sales.

As marketers, we need to equip ourselves with the ins and outs of the business and the product, it is not only consumers who want to feel understood, but businesses too. From there, my advice is to build a culture of trust and collaboration throughout the organization. Trust your marketing teams, as they not only know the business, but are experts in what they do – understanding the consumer. While, in turn, marketers need to trust their agencies. When people feel trusted and valued, that value is returned through their work and efficiencies unlocked.

In the context of a globalized business environment, what strategies can companies adopt in their digital media to engage a diverse audience culturally and at the same time avoid cultural misunderstandings?

Localizing Global Content remains key. No one will understand local nuances, local challenges, and local passions better than the local people. Consumer insights and audience research at a local level is step one. Adapting and creating content for local nuances is step 2 and personalization at scale is step 3.

This process can be fast tracked if local brand representation, is present in global discussions and during global asset creations. For example, something as simple as ensuring there is diversity in talent during global video shoots, could save a lot of time and money later down the line, when these assets need to be localized.

Going forward, what key trends do you see developing in the field of digital media? What must marketers do to future proof their respective organizations?

Trends taking flight:

The evolution of AI. I think it has been established that AI won’t be replacing anyone’s jobs anytime soon, but the time-saving and efficiencies AI unlocks, will continue to be refined and improved.

The “Attention Economy” will continue to alter how digital media planning and media buying is done. While the 3 basic principles of Media Buying remain (reach, impact, frequency), how we prioritise and balance channels will continue to change. The attention economy is the natural evolution of Brand Safety and Viewability. Measuring attention will allow us to know how much time consumers spend actively absorbing brand messages or ads. Some channels and mediums drive attention to greater degrees than others. EG. Podcasting is high attention. However, it is low reach, so the channel mix needs to be correctly balanced to allow for maximum impact.

Shift from influencers to content creators. Brands need to be more and more deliberate with who they partner with and how. Macro influencers, who are famous for being influencers alone, are receiving more scrutiny as they easily switch from one brand campaign to the next. This behavior is causing damage to brands. There is a shift to Medium and Nano content creators who create content around their passions with their own unique flavor. Brands need to fit into what the content creator stands for, and how they produce content.

The biggest thing businesses can do to future proof themselves in this ever-changing digital world is become more and more Agile. Intentionally implement agile systems.Corporate bureaucracy is the biggest hindrance to digital media adoption and innovation.