During a presentation on its research, Iris Singapore, quoted a mother who said that as soon as she awoke in the morning she checked her mobile for messages and then answered her emails and finally got around to getting the children ready for school. A study in the USA showed students could not for all practical purposes function without their mobile device and other surveys have shown people suffer anxiety after a day without the phone. There is no doubt people spend much of the day being connected digitally to various sites and apps. Iris showed its audience advertising they had created which had attracted huge audiences. Unless my memory serves me wrong, a recent Heineken promotion reach 3 million people. That is two thirds of the population of the island of Singapore! But now I start to have a problem. Heineken’s “Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach” campaign by CDP London was highly popular in the UK but was not shown to increase sales further than other breweries in the same period. TBWA Amsterdam’s “Walk-in Fridge” was seen widely on TV and downloaded umpteen times from YouTube. The Green Music Room from Bates 141 Singapore appears to have been a successful idea, too. Why, then, is Heineken not the No. 1 beer in this market? Of course, as every marketing director knows, there are many reasons that can hold back the growth of a brand. However, I have a niggling concern, not just for Heineken, which I find an excellent beer, that these large numbers have little effect on the purchasing habits of the consumer. Undoubtedly, people do respond in huge numbers to online games created for products by their ad agencies, but is this translating into sales or even creating changes in preference from current brand choice? I fear that we face a market of people who enjoy being entertained but their engagement may not go any deeper. We as an industry are putting a lot of time and effort into ”engagement” or as Iris dubs it, “participation” type of online activity and we need to be sure this translates into hard sales.

Leonardo O’Grady of Coca-Cola told me last week that his company has started to measure the results of such online promotions and he is getting some indication that sales are directly influenced through Internet activity. There needs to be more research into this.

At the moment our activities in the digital world are reinforced by solid advertising in the traditional media. But this is changing. Our consumers are spending less time reading newspapers and magazines or watching television receivers and more time actively involved in the cyberworld. Before online marketing grows further, we need to make sure what we are creating is translating into sales and market share. I suspect the industry still has
a lot to learn.