Why brands in Kenya have a hard time #BuyingDigital

This post was inspired by a recent @BrianMbunde interview where when he was asked about some challenges he has faced as a Digital Marketing Consultant at SCANAD, he stated:
What is #BuyingDigital?
Digital Marketing is marketing products and services using digital channels to reach customers. This can include Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube…), Google Ads, Online Articles and some digital platforms which don’t require the internet e.g. SMS-based marketing. #BuyingDigital is therefore buying such services from an individual consultant or an agency.
So why do brands have a hard time #BuyingDigital?
1. Marketing ROI (Return on Investment) can be hard to measure – brands want comprehensive marketing analytics that can measure real ROI. Save for a few campaigns which go viral e.g. “,” where contributions = impact of campaign, ROI in Digital can get hard to track. The truth is, some ROI cannot be immediately measured. A good example is the  campaign by Daily Nation. By our Agency standard, it was a great campaign. But if the Daily Nation bosses were too old school, they’d ask the agency for a direct justification of budget spent in increase of newspaper sales that month or the following month. In reality, most people may not immediately change their buying pattern of newspapers after that campaign, but they will associate Daily Nation with being cool and having great content based on the campaign.
2. Low cost providers – every other day one agency’s quote for Ksh 1 million gets undercut by those new guys who say they’ll take Ksh 100K. And as you’d expect, the client/brand decides to try them, gets slightly satisfied and ends up thinking the agency was a rip off. Then the guys who took the 100K vow to up their price and never quote so low again as the job ended up being more than they had quoted for. This little back and forth with pricing for the same services makes brands very skeptical and speculative of from agencies.
3. Why pay when we can do it in-house? This emerging trend is coming as an “Agency Substitute Solution” & you’ll have noticed that a lot of brands have been advertising “Social Media Intern Position” who is given the job to “Handle everything Digital” and gets paid very little or nothing (after all, it’s an intern).
So how does Digital Marketing work?
This short explanation on how agencies and social media consultants achieve success in Digital Marketing will highlight the need for the use of professionals (in-house or via an agency) in Digital Marketing:
Brands (CEOs, Marketing Managers, SMEs) have the general idea that once they invest in an agency and the agency starts putting out content to the TA (Target Audience), the TA will consume that content, and be inspired from it to go and make a purchase. And that is ROI to them. How this myth works:
1. “We have invested in  and they (our agency) have started creating some really good content. Wow look at these graphics!”
2. They’re using great platforms – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat… We’re getting really good exposure!
3. Look at these likes, comments, shares, impressions! Wow! This month or next month, we expect very many new customers!
4. If just 2% of these guys convert, we expect XXX new customers! And that is a moderate estimate!
But that’s not how it works. In reality, an agency must repeat steps 1 (creating great content) and 2 (using the right platforms) again and again and again until they get good at it and find that piece of amazing content that really resonates with the TA. In most cases this takes a lot of trial and failure, which agencies must pace through quickly, because clients signed up for a service that will “Grow their business through Social Media Marketing” or something of the sort, ASAP.
What makes people buy a product/service via Digital Marketing?
Now steps 3 and 4 are almost never the case. Very rarely does the TA see great content and think “Let me go buy that product/service” or “Let me sign up to their offer.” That almost never happens. What does happen is that people come many times to view your content especially if it is great and consistent. They essentially grow this memory about your brand and what you do and they build up somewhat a “Positive Experiences Bank Account” with your brand. Not a bank account of coins and money, but experiences and touches with your brand. Those content touches, those social media touches, those touches that come via performing a search and your brand ranks among the top. Those build up the capital in the “Positive Experiences Bank Account” of that specific person in the TA experiencing your brand. Once this bank account reaches a certain level of memory and this positive association about the brand that a person has experienced all these things through, then that person might, when they have the need, purchase the brands product or service. Or they may perform a search query and because your agency has done steps 1 and 2 so many times; your brand shows up. Because of that, then that person buys your product/service
So who is failing?
Brands fail to understand the required time and effort involved in this process. Then again, that’s not their job to research and understand these dynamics, sometimes it’s the agencies that fail to communicate this properly at the onset of an engagement. This is hugely costly because a tonne of pressure sits with the agency to perform step 1, 2 and voilà great sales in step 4 very fast.
How long does it take for an investment in #BuyingDigital to bear fruits?
Research in the US shows that it takes the average person about 7½ great positive interactions with a brand (or 7½ deposits in a persons Positive Experiences Bank Account) for them to consider buying from that brand. Kenya has been famed for having people who are “Hard to Please” especially by those in the music industry, so we can safely estimate that It takes 10 great positive experiences with a brand for the average Kenyan to consider buying from them. This can be a span of less than a month to several months or over a year (depending on the brand’s consistency, level of interaction with their TA and other marketing dynamics). #BuyingDigital is important, as are agencies. But this general process needs to be put into account. We say general because for anyone in Digital Marketing, you’ll notice that there are very many different approaches that can be used to attain success, but the principles remain the same.
Should brands Hire Agencies or have it done In-house?
As for having in-house teams, that can only work well if proper training is invested in. Training on how to create great content, how to tie it with current affairs, how to make it appeal to your specific TA, how to identify what story your brand needs to be telling, how to tell your brand story well, how to unify all communications with your brand story, how to deal with a crisis… and so on; which is what a good agency is constantly doing for it’s staff and creatives. That’s our two cents on #BuyingDigital in Kenya.
What’s your take? Feature image courtesy of: www.webanywhere.co.uk
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Anthony Muhia

This was very insightful. I am just from campus and digital marketing has been something I have been aiming to add on to my skills.
How can I get in touch with professionals like yourself?

posted 5 years ago   Reply

I simply want to tell you that I am all new to blogging and absolutely liked your website. More than likely I’m want to bookmark your blog . You surely come with good articles. Thanks a lot for sharing your webpage.

posted 5 years ago   Reply

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