Dr. Donald Patrick Lim, Country CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network Ltd., has had over 20 years of experience in senior leadership roles in various renowned companies and is considered one of the founding fathers of digital marketing in his home country, the Philippines. Prior to his current role, he was the Chief Digital Officer of ABS-CBN Corporation, and before that, worked as the Chief Innovation Officer of McCann Worldgroup Philippines and Managing Director of the digital arm of McCann, MRM Manila. He is also an adjunct faculty at the Asian Institute of Management, conducts marketing courses at various other distinguished universities and graduate schools and does management consulting for businesses.

Dr. Lim attended Digital Marketing Summit 2018 organized by Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF) as a keynote speaker. During his visit to Bangladesh for the seminar, BBF conducted an exclusive interview of him where he shared valuable insights on Digital and Social Media Marketing.

BBF: Is this your first visit to Bangladesh? How has it been coming along so far?

Donald Patrick Lim: Yes, this is my first visit to Bangladesh. I did not think before that I would be having the opportunity to visit Bangladesh or this part of the world. It has been going great thus far. I am very excited about the summit and meeting all of you; and will take the opportunity to look around the city.

What is your view on creating content for social media marketing? How does it help to generate increased customer engagement?

Social media has much dominated the whole world and has become the basic digital platform for everyone. Thus, a lot of brands have to leap into this opportunity. They not only have to gain likes and followers but also engage their fanbase. For this reason, what I tell brands is that they should follow a content strategy of “hero, hub and hygiene”. “Hygiene” would be something that you post daily about the company or the product. “Hub” would be posts that are created for something that is new and will be talked about in the future. “Hero” would be something that goes viral like a video or even a meme.

Every day and every hour, kids are using social media so it has really become a mandate for brands to advertise and communicate on social media. And so, Brands must now make social media marketing a part of their overall marketing plan for the digital front alongside television and print media for the non-digital front.

What factors do you think trigger the virality essence of a video or any social media content?

For me, the biggest determinant for virality is that it has to be emotional. For example, when people are viewing the content, the content needs to be able to extract the highest level of happiness, sadness, fear or anger – the basic emotions. Secondly, it has to tell a story. When people share the content, they have to be able to relate and express their own opinion at that time; and having a story makes that possible.

Finally, the story has to be authentic. When brands want to include or heavily promote themselves or their products through the content, I would always remind them that it is about telling an authentic unadulterated story and not about hard selling. To ask how many sales this would content generate, would be the wrong approach in this regard.

Do you think that viral videos are just one hit wonders, or do you think that people need to build up to it by continuously pushing out content that people are going to like?

If you look all around the world, you will see that the lion’s shares of viral videos are created by rebel brands such as Burger King or Red bull and they have been successful by not following the traditional rules of marketing. Those who are doing it, are doing it right already. It is about a change in mindset. If that does not happen, you will see brands pushing out maybe one or two viral content in a year. The proper mindset would lead to incorporating such content into their content strategy and making a viral content every six weeks. In some cases, you will also see brands that are unknown to spread the word through influencers. In these instances, it is about building on the digital ecosystem and not simply making a one-hit wonder and then doing nothing.

With your 20 years of experience in the senior leadership positions, what were the major influencers that pushed you to take on these roles?

The most important role that I look for is one that gives me the opportunity to affect change. For example, in my previous role, I had been a chief digital officer of a media company which was the number one across television networks, radio stations, magazines, films, and music ownership. I was given the challenging role and task of disrupting this entire system, overseeing that the company successfully shifted to digital and had the newer audience still tune into its content. People no longer tuned into television shows, purchased CDs for music, or frequented cinemas, thus making the internet as the next outlet for the audience. Thus, I worked with each department and division to oversee the process of change to digital, and it was a learning process for both the company and myself as we figured out what worked best. This opportunity to affect change is what makes my roles exciting and motivates me to take on them.

In your opinion, what are some of the challenges for digital marketing nowadays?

My mantra for digital marketing is “digital done right”. The older generation who are the digital immigrants will face difficulty and confusion when they try to apply traditional advertising methods in the digital space thinking that it should follow the same principle. Whilst they know a good deal about marketing, they lack a good understanding of the digital space. On the other hand, the younger generation, the digital natives, know everything about the digital space but lack an understanding of how the content they are consuming fits into the business strategy. In order to succeed in digital marketing, it is important to find ways to bridge this gap in understanding between the two populations. This can be done by way of collaborating, where the younger digital natives work with their bosses who have more business acumen in order to design experience more apt for the digital platform.

Is it human nature for businesses to follow what others are doing in terms of the latest disruption in the industry or amongst competitors?

Actually, it is human nature to not want to change from that which they are comfortable with, especially if they are successful. It is also human nature to follow what the successful competitors are doing as well. Innovation is hard for any corporation due to the fact that budget allocation is scarce. Even then I advise corporations and the strategic planners of the corporations to do the unthinkable in order to leap forward – the way Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg had done to leapfrog ahead.

To incorporate that from a corporation’s standpoint, I suggest a 70-20-10 rule. 70% of the budget should be allocated for what is safe and has been proven to be successful, 20% of the budget for following and replicating the success of competitors or applying a successful formula from a different industry, and the final 10% should be set aside for innovation and taking risks.

What do you feel about the future use of social media for businesses?

Social media will only increase in scale. If you look at examples like the Philippines or Bangladesh, social media penetration is almost half the population, and I think this will only get bigger. 10 years ago, communication used to be limited to calling and texting via the cellular network, but now you can also see that communications are taking place via Facebook messenger and other social media services. In 5 years, this will become the basic mode of communications and companies all around will be implementing marketing automation. We can see this in chatbots already which will become more and more complex. We will be seeing a lot of robotics and artificial intelligence at play. The advertising we see on social media now will be replaced by very personalized, targeted and very integrated advertisements that will be very relevant to you so will not notice them as advertisements.

Any parting advice for future generations that want to make their name in the digital marketing arena?

The digital marketing arena is moving very fast and what I tell people is that digital marketing is analogous to riding a bicycle. You can read about it, you can attend conferences on how to ride bicycles, but you can never actually learn to ride a bike without riding it in the first place. You have to start experiencing it by yourself rather than simply attending a lot of conferences on digital marketing. Failing, succeeding, and doing it again and again until you get the hang of it is how you can master it.

It is also important to have a culture emphasizing the importance of digital marketing. I would suggest the older digital immigrants give the digital natives a chance to pitch their ideas at the boardroom, and I would also advise the younger generation to respect the experience of their seniors and learn to collaborate.

Interviewed by Syed Ahnaf Bakht

Transcribed by Khondker Faraz Shafiq


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