Bangladesh Brand Forum is organizing the Digital Marketing Summit 2014 in Dhaka on September 20, 2014, where Michael Leander, the renowned international speaker & marketer, is going to deliver a keynote speech. Michael, a veteran with 18 years of experience in digital marketing, is also the CEO of Michael Leander Company and Founder & Chairman of MarkeduWebAble Digital is a social media partner at the summit and we reached out to Michael (and Manan Mehta, the other keynote speaker) with a request to share his thoughts ahead of the summit. He was very kind to answer our questions with great insights and perspectives:

1. What drove you to gain expertise in digital marketing

First of all, I think of myself as a multi-channel marketing expert more than a digital marketing expert. Digital marketing is just one of the many marketing channels. Even in highly digitally mature markets, digital often cannot stand alone.

Before my first digital marketing experience – in 1995 – I had a strong affinity for direct marketing, also known as response marketing. Back then, I was a young CMO in a publicly traded corporation. Return on Marketing Investment, measuring response, cost per inquiry was how I measured my success (and still do, by the way).

When internet marketing came around, it was clear to me that this media would offer amazing possibilities of measuring results, targeting messages, and – which came quickly with email marketing – customizing and personalizing messages. Being a part of a team that launched the first B2B e-commerce portal in Europe in 1995/1996, I realized the power of collecting data and was completely sold on digital.

I am still amazed by the effectiveness of digital marketing when done right. Although I am not a pure-play digital guy, I must admit that 80% of the work I am involved with revolves around digital and interactive experiences.

“80% of the work I am involved with revolves around digital and interactive experiences”

 2. Can you briefly explain the new AIDA model?

I will explain this in a little more detail at the Digital Marketing Summit in Dhaka. But in short, the new model I designed is called AID+LIRA. AID is the Attention, Interest, Desire action also found in the AIDA model. LIRA is Like, Interaction, Recommendation, and Action.

Essentially the model was developed to help marketers understand social media measurement. We have seen an enormous amount of hype around social media, but not a whole lot of ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment). I believe that we can change that by focusing more on the value of social network platforms, for example. Also, I believe, the real value is not found in the number of “likes”. Nor is it in engagement percentages. The real value for most brands is in the recommendation and ultimately, actions.

In fact, I am rather surprised about how few marketers are aware of how to effectively implement CTA’s (Call To Actions). But that is another story.

“The real value for most brands is in recommendation and ultimately, actions”

 3. What is the most important trait that a social media expert should possess?

That is a very good question. First and foremost a social media expert in my opinion isn’t someone who knows how to operate a social network platform. A social media expert is someone who adds value to the company, community, and the purpose of the activity. To do that, this person must understand communication really well. Must be creative, good at writing, quick on the keyboard, but also understand how to drive an audience towards action. It is someone who is naturally geared to live in the moment.

Skills like business acumen, curiosity, care for people, and behavioral psychology are important. And of course an attitude of never stop learning.

 “A social media expert is someone who adds value to the company, community and the purpose of the activity”

4. How do you see the digital marketing industry evolving in emerging economies? 

Piet Hein once said, “TTT – Things Take Time, often 3-5 times longer than we think”. That is worth remembering.

Digital marketing will evolve in emerging markets. But slowly. While adaption rates for new technologies will be quick, peoples’ habits (still) change at a very slow pace. That’s what we have seen in Europe and North America. Emerging markets are more than likely to experience the same development.

In Bangladesh, for example, there are already some super talented agencies. Some of them do work that compares to more experienced agencies in the west.  So the agency side talent to ideate, strategize, and implement is there. But brands are going to be holding back – they will be adapting slowly, but surely. This is because they will try to align their adaption to the actual digital consumption trends in the country as a whole.

Interestingly, many emerging markets will see hoards of consumers go online for the very first time. But not using a desktop-based device – as we did in the west. But they are more likely to use mobile devices. This is very interesting. Because the behavior of a native mobile user is very different from that of a native desktop user.

 “Behavior of a native mobile user is very different from that of a native desktop user”

5. What are your thoughts on the “Social-Local-Mobile” trend in emerging economies?

SOLOMO is indeed very important and an area that local brands should take very seriously. For brands that manage to implement all aspects of SOLOMO appropriately, there are huge advantages. But this stuff is complicated. A whole lot more work is involved. So often brands ask themselves; how will this pay off? When is the right time to invest in an “all-in” fashion? How can we trust that the Google people won’t once again change their modus operandi?

I recommend an initial focus on the mobility aspect. Get responsive in place first. Then look at the local search aspect and finally understand how local content impacts the consumers and/or business buyers. Understand how local languages or customs, if relevant, might play a role in how a local area is approached.

If I were a CMO working in a B2C category in Bangladesh I would be spending a whole lot of time understanding social-local-mobility.

“I recommend an initial focus on the mobility aspect. Get responsive in place first”

6. What advice would you give to Bangladeshi companies to facilitate their digital transformation?

The consulting answer is; it depends. It depends first and foremost on how the market is moving. What are customers and prospective customers doing online and offline, how are their behaviors changing? How soon will preferences change – from printed news to digitized news channels, for example.

Often the transformation starts with identifying an omnichannel approach. In that, consumer-orientated brands, for example, need to understand how to best integrate digital with all other channels. Use the power of offline reach to create an online or mobility experience. Keeping in mind that a large proportion of segments or fragments are not yet “digitized”.

Again, habits change slowly. Just because someone owns a connected smartphone doesn’t mean that they are using that device in the same way you and I do.

“Often the transformation starts with identifying an omni-channel approach”

7. What advice would you give to the upcoming digital agencies in Bangladesh?

Keep the eye on the ball! That means; a digital agency may think they add value because they know digital. But the value is not in the channel, the tools, or the treatment. The value that comes as a result of a strong digital presence can be measured in tangible results no matter how incremental they may be.

So being objective-driven on behalf of clients is important. Being truthful about what can be achieved, how soon, and at which cost is of paramount importance. And – not to forget – educating the market and clients.

I am sure that digital marketing agencies in Bangladesh are going to do a great job adding value to brands and organizations.

“…But the value is not in the channel, the tools or the treatment”

8. What is your inspiration? What keeps you going every day?

Apart from my wife and children, I am blessed because I get to interact with people from all over the world every day.

I don’t have a job, I have a purpose. Being able to share my experience, thoughts, and ideas knowing that people are listening is fulfilling that purpose. It is good to know that many years of hard work paying attention to the little details and the world around me have paid off.

“I don’t have a job, I have a purpose”