By Gaita Wamucii
Never before have we seen a technology shape our lives in ways beyond imagination like the internet is doing. Don’t you think it is an interesting time to be in Africa? What I explore in this article, though, is what is slowly becoming and will be of the new digital marketing era in Africa.
1. The Re-Birth of The Digital Advertising Agency : A New Approach
Every Digital Media Advertising Player will tell you: It is the trend, world over, Online Marketing Advertising is steadily surpassing TV Advertising to become the top advertising revenue generator. Africa is no exception. Companies are soon going to shift their budgets and opt for the often cheaper, more targeted methods available from digital advertising. Search Marketing is going to be a key component in this. Online advertising is the future and the future is here. More and more people are spending more time online and less on TV. Allow me to use the words of Paul Wanderi Ndung’u, a gentleman I respect when it comes to sharp business acumen and astute timing, when a week or so ago: “My kids spend a lot more time on the laptop compared to watching TV,” he said. “This is where we are headed. Pretty soon everyone will spend more time on their computers or laptops browsing the Internet.”
Customer is King and the King is indulging more and more Online. Who shall carry the Message to the King, in his new abode? Digital Advertising Agencies – how many do you currently know in Kenya that are really determined to shake things up like Kamal Krishna and his team at the Squad Digital Media or Moses Kemibaro?
Now, something is going to happen and it is the realization that more and more people in and outside Africa are searching for local business-value information Online. Businesses are going to appreciate the need to tap into this which will create a business niche for Search- biased digital marketing agencies.
2. The Social, Cultural and Political Movement of Change In Africa
Whenever I get to read through Ory Okollo, the White African, Kachwanya, Marvin Tumbo, Wanjiku, Mark Kaigwa and other prominent African Bloggers,I delve into gems of amazing thoughtfulness, intelligence, insight and action-bias. I have no doubt whatsoever that a new generation of Africans is coming up and they are using the web platform to inspire and shape opinion. They are using the web as a tool for social change and the web is not only the great equalizer for them where they can voice and influence but also network with others in carrying through to the same. When it comes to selling ideas and mindset shaping, Africa is not going to be the same again. We are going to see some of the most advanced Digital Political Campaigns right here in Africa. No doubt, political campaigns, non-profits, advocacy groups and other organizations are going to use online advertising and other paid digital platforms to spread their messages, persuade voters, influence legislators, get the vote and of course amass resources including mobilizing supporters, volunteers and raising funds. You know I can’t wait to see this shapes up very soon.
3. Mobile Internet Revolution In Africa:
Mobile Internet is the craze in Africa. However, look beneath, here is the game changer: Mobile Devices in Africa are going to find usage, not for social networking and email alone but also as a content creation and delivery platform. Politicians are going to embrace it, Imams and Parish Priests alike are going to embrace it to reach out and the beauty of it is that it is going to happen in the African Style- so unconventional yet so practical. In Africa we have used car tires to make life lasting shoes, have Mobile Phones for money transfer and When it comes to Mobile Internet and Search, I have no doubt whatsoever that it is going to follow a different, not-seen-before model. When Google’s first employee, Craig Silverstein said:” Mark my words: In 10 years, almost all the searches that you do are going to be from a phone — or from a phone-like device that hasn’t been invented yet . . “, I Project this against an African background and I see a revolution whose form and structure I can’t speculate but would like to allude to a twitter insight from Mbugua Njihia that opined: “What I love about the mobile revolution is its un-American nature…”.I wonder what else he would say about African Mobile Revolution.(Adwords / Google Mobile Search)
4. The Cradle Of African Entrepreneurs: The Web As A Platform For Innovation -Based Start Ups:
A couple of weeks ago, Richard Branson was asked what kind of business he would start with a budget of $3,000 if he was to find himself 24 again. He gave this response-more of a reflex and yet so profound: “That’s an easy one. It would definitely be some kind of Web-based business and I’m not sure it would make a difference if I had $3,000 or $25,000 to start out”. For web-based start-ups, there is little if any, entry barrier. And given the power of Online Marketing, fully mustered and tapped into, Africa-based start-ups are no more going to be obscure foundings – it is going to be more and more easier to find exposure, pull a larger customer base and no doubt if they have value they got to offer, survival rate is bound to go higher and is just a matter of time before a Silicon Valley kind of founding takes root somewhere, not necessary as a physical equivalent founding but more as an innovative culture akin to that of the Industrial shift of Post War Japan – which leads me to the fifth influence.
5. The Culture of Doing Business in Africa: A New Breed Of Entrepreneurs:
There is going to be a shift to situational relevant businesses in Africa whereby they are going to become more and more consumer/ customer-centric . This is more likely to happen especially for web-based start-ups and businesses which are quick enough to figure out how an online approach can fit into their overall business strategy. Again, when it comes to innovation and commitment to come emerge top, businesses are going to do all that it takes to have talent aboard. Let us face it: there is a direct correlation between talented & strong employees and innovation and a company’s growth; more start- ups are going to embrace this. Africa is no short of talent. Coupled with a nagging need to be situation-ally relevant, a new culture is bound to come up. I like to compare this to Chris Sacca describing the Silicon Valley Culture vis-à-vis the Mahogany Boardroom one : Silicon Valley is a way of thinking about business: it’s a way of focusing on end users and their problems; it’s a way of hiring smart people, paying them relatively little, but giving them equity in the company; it’s a way of sharing information with the people that you work with, flat transparent organizations… peers working side by side to solve problems; it’s a lot of optimism, it’s a lot of focusing on big problems and audaciously trying to pursue solutions there.” No doubt bring on board, people who are curious and driven is necessary to build a successful company. Talk of a magical intersection.
6. New Online Marketing Industry Fields: Maturity of the Online Marketing Industry
Highly regarded and rewarding Online Marketing Fields such as Web Analytics, Conversion Rate Optimization, Search Engine Optimization, Email Marketing, PPC Campaign Management, Copywriting and Social Media Marketing are going to gain foothold in Africa.
In addition, the industry is going to attract very smart people. Where in Africa do you learn Online Marketing? All the leading online marketers that I do follow are self taught and learn-on -the job enthusiasts. Given their diverse backgrounds, they are able to comfortably approach Online Marketing as both a science and an art. These are smart people with immense web enthusiasm and I have no doubt they are going to shape this industry in Africa. Whereas we have world renowned scientists like Karl Blanks (A former rocket scientist) bringing on board scientific techniques to Online Marketing, I see more of this happening here in Africa and is definitely key in establishing the industry.
More Training opportunities and Industry-Oriented Conferences e.g. (Damian Cook’s e-Frontiers Tourism) are also going to form part of the Online Marketing Industry.
7. Google In Africa
There is something about Founders that stirs me up- no matter what it is that they founded. (I highly recommend reading Founders At Work By Jessica Livingston). The founding spirit of Google that has been carried over to this day tells me that the company which is closest to an advantage point in Africa is Google. In addition to the overwhelmingly dormint search market share of around 70 % are amazing products and tools in the field of Online Marketing including Google Analytics,Website Optimizer and Google webmaster Tools.
Something tells me that Google has learnt from the case of Baidu that you can’t simply apply the case of one size fits all – replicate the model from outside Africa into Africa. Given the near autonomy that I imagine Google Africa has , I expect revolutionary innovation and solution-oriented propositions in the African Context seen no where else in the world as far as Google is concerned. Conversion Based- Billing Adwords model for the African Market to drive up adoption to revisiting Google Voice in the African Context might not in the end be so far-fetched. Other products like the Google Education Suite give a unique relationship-building point with the Africa’s digital consumers of tomorrow. I hope Google too will somewhere along the way find key solutions to some of the key online Market expansion challenges including integrated Online Mobile payment systems that would take the place of Google Checkout in the African Context.
Google and Creation Of Content in Africa & Evolution Of The Search Industry
Again , Craig Silverstein in 2007 opined, “If Google had started a year or two earlier, it wouldn’t have worked.” I couldn’t agree more. It was simply a question of content. Prior to 1998, searching for something was less like the present proverbial needle in haystack.
In terms of content, for Africa it is still very akin to immediate post 1998.Content -wise Google Search has to be positioned such that it opens revenue opportunities for local content creators and I would imagine having a slightly different approach to Local content especially when it comes to Search Ranking Factors even if that means revisiting the Entire Ranking Algorithm for Africa Data Centers. For instance, Domain Age / Authority and Link Popularity (the holy grail of ranking in Search engines) might have to be accorded lesser factor-weight as compared to in other datacenters. In so doing, the time it takes for local content creators to yield value from freshly created content on very new domains will shorten thus perceived value will lead to an increased effort in content creation. I would also love to see how Personalization of results and mobile search take shape factors in this. In my view, this is a sustainable model of content creation that benefits all.
For Google, speed is of essence in this. Ironically, it is from Rupert Murdoch, the same man who has quite a volatile relationship with Google that I hope Google Africa will learn from in order to gainfully grasp the African Digital Zeitgeist : Big will beat small no more, it is fast that will beat the slow.
PS: It is no more “The pioneers take the arrows, the settlers take the land.” .The common market wisdom that being early in a market is great but being too early can be near deadly is a case no more here. In the present Africa, how do you classify the African digital Marketing Market? Is it existing, re-segmented, or even new?
Given that the market type determines the approach to growth and the customer development process in general, how then do you come up with an approach in an isolated case as this which does not follow the predefined concepts and flows? Whichever be your answer, one thing is certain for sure, in the African Digital Market today, arrows await no one. It is an interesting time to be in Africa and beyond the plundering of casseterite in Congo, the commando style parachute-dropping of ransom on hijacked sea vessels off the Somali coastline ; beyond the pain and indignity of poverty and its downward spiral effects, something else is happening in Africa, and it is a quiet digital revolution. Finally, renaissance is coming from within and in our life time. No doubt, we are the lucky generation. Africa is rising.