Are Indian Marketers ready to surf the Digital Marketing Wave?

The other day, A suggestion pops up – “restaurant near me” during my WhatsApp and a little bit of research helped me understand about this concept. This is a classic exMicro moments screenshot - Digital Marketingample of “Be there when the customer intends”. WhatsApp prompts search suggestions as per the chat conversation as apparent in the picture along, the word “dinner”prompted a search. This is how Digital Marketing is an invaluable tool for Marketers.

And where does India stand in Digital Marketing?


In the Indian advertising industry, digital contributes only 11% to the overall media spend. This is strikingly low if one compares it with the digital spend of USA of 37%.  Are the Indian companies missing out on something? EY’s Second Annual Social Media Marketing India Trends Study indicate most brands still consider website as the most effective means of customer engagement. Most brands are unable to measure the ROI from digital ad spend and hence the conservative approach towards social media Digital Marketing share in Indian Media Advertisingengagement investments. While digital media looks gloomy in our country, USA projects mobile advertisement to be a third of the total advertisement spend by 2019.

Despite all this, can we find some silver lining for digital marketing in India?

Thrust by Generation Zs

Generation Zs are creating lot of buzz on social media. The Indian companies have 500 million Generation Zs to sell to. But who are these Generation Zs? These are youths with their noses stuck on their mobile phone screens! The new “Screenagers”, the people born with technology between 1995 and 2002, prefer surfing the Internet on their phones rather than watching TV. Generation Zs spend 100 minutes online everyday browsing the internet, using social media and emailing. This provides brands the right set of circumstances to leverage the digital space.

Be there at that moment!

Marketers underestimate the true value of mobile and thus are at a risk of missing “mobile micro moments”. Today, Indians consume 25% of the media from phones but the companies invest only 15% of their advertisement budget in digital. A clear mismatch! And the little amount these companies do invest is just to tweak their TV ads for mobile phones. This tactic is not working because experiment shows that advertisers have mere 3 seconds to capture the attention of people on phones. TV content tweaked for mobile viewing is either too long or too slow. Marketers who are willing to go beyond the conventional way, should invest in mobile marketing to see the magic happen. A Bain study says “With mobile, marketers can reach customers at the precise moment they’re most likely to make a purchase.” A very efficient tool for focused campaigns.

When it worked in India

Grant's Digital Marketing Campaign
Grant’s Digital Campaign

Above is a digital campaign by the premium whisky maker, William Grant & Sons which with its quirky concept resonated well with the Indian audience. While sitting in small cubicle in our offices don’t we all dream about the awesome jobs we could get? And then this ad crops us and captures that micro moment. Moreover, the unique idea of contest to nominate friends for the “Awesome Job” was able to generate interest.

India has 730 million mobile users and still a disconnect. The primary reasons cited by analysts is the lack of metrics to measure the effectiveness of mobile marketing. Conventional methods of digital effectives such as number of clicks, number of retweets cannot be used as a measurement for mobile marketing. Mobile is a strong influencer for any purchase and not just a medium for purchase. I use my mobile phone to search for a Puma store, but may not use my phone to buy anything. We need to acknowledge that mobile was involved in the transaction and hence the entire customer journey map has evolved.

 Indian Marketers, Pull up your Socks!

The digital adaptation has been widely varied across industries and categories. Impulse purchase categories such as chocolates, confectionaries and cookies do not find much space online. However, a very popular online FMCG category, which has the maximum search rate, is grooming. This indicates that digital has a significant influence on buying decision. Based on a category’s e-commerce success and digital influence on consumer behaviour, we can classify product categories as follows –

1)Champions – Consumer Durable category is a front runner when it comes to digital impact on purchase. Don’t most of us buy our electronics from Amazon now?  Or at least seek information online? Consumer durable companies were early to recognise this phenomenon. Blue Star AC has bet big on digital to target its Sec A customers and “In the next 4-5 years, digital marketing space would comprise about 30 percent” of their advertising spend as claimed by Blue Star joint managing director B Thiagarajan. Infant care is another category where young parents seek information online. It leaves J&J and P&G with no option but to plunge in the digital game. Skin Care is another champion product category set to explode online with young crowd driving online engagement. HUL jumped on this opportunity with YouTube “Break the rules of beauty” campaign.

HUL's Digital Marketing "Break the rules of beauty campaign"
HUL’s “Break the rules of beauty campaign”

2)Shirker – FMCG food category is still waiting to see any digital impetus. Do you buy Pepsi or Coke online? I doubt that because it is an impulse purchase. Any low involvement category has not been able to gain traction online. Despite cooking channels being among the top 5 categories on YouTube, digital engagement for food and beverages category is very low. Food companies have turned a blind eye and even refuse to grow their digital presence.

My take

I see that Digital Marketing is like a Vortex which is affecting categories across the horizon. Some are at the core of the vortex and they are already affected. The ones who didn’t adapt are left behind like a devastated city. Other categories fall somewhere between the core and the outside boundary who need to prepare for the digital wave. Indian Marketers should do a self-assessment to figure out where exactly their category falls in this vortex model and figure out how much and how they need to invest in Digital Marketing. Now is the time when brands need to pull up their socks and start thinking Digital!


Aditi Ranjan

Marketing Student at SPJIMR, Mumbai. Previously worked with Bain. Passionate about reading fiction and travelling.

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5 thoughts on “Are Indian Marketers ready to surf the Digital Marketing Wave?

  1. Extremely well-articulated and insightful article! A really interesting read! Great job! 🙂

  2. So true, with growing smart phone usage and if the marketers target the “screenagers” & with the Digital India Initiative by Indian Government, the digital marketing poised to grow much faster in the coming days & years. With our size of population, we will out grow United States 37%.

    You have captured it well & your insight into the futuristic marketing is well appreciated.

  3. Very well written . The nuances of digital marketing are also to be lrarnt by organisation .

    Reaching out to a large young segment is a must for survival in the prwesent age .

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