Mike Berry gave this interview ahead of his visit to Lagos, Nigeria to speak at the Conference:

“Digital Marketing Conference 2.0; Deploying Digital Marketing for Competitive Advantage” http://www.digitalmarketingnigeria.com/

Q. So what is Digital Marketing and why now?

Digital Marketing is now really taking off in Africa and, more than ever before, it presents a transformational opportunity which businesses in Africa should meet head-on.

Businesses in Africa and those intending to penetrate the African market must now focus on integrating Digital Marketing into their overall marketing strategy. That is the opportunity and those who seize it will reap handsome rewards.

Digital Marketing is still something of an unknown to many companies and organizations in Africa. Definitions vary but I would define it as “reaching out to an identified audience with a targeted marketing message via the web and Mobile media to conduct profitable business”. Indeed, increasingly the web is Mobile and people are accessing it via tablets and smartphones rather than desktop machines. This definition of Digital would include online display advertising, social media like Twitter and Facebook, Search Engines like Google and Yahoo/Bing, Email, and Mobile apps and most of all Web Analytics to tie it all together and calculate the all-important return on investment (ROI).

Q. But Africa is not particularly advanced in technology, at least when we compare it to more developed economies such as Europe, the US and parts of Asia. So why should we care about Digital Marketing in 2013? Shall we leave it a few years until the technologies are more established?


There’s no need for any marketers to fear Digital. In fact, Africa is comparatively advanced in technologies which are needed to support digital marketing. The rate of internet penetration in Kenya for instance is at an all-time high according to a recent TNS report. Mobile internet adoption and usage In Africa has been phenomenal. There are now over 48 million Internet users in Nigeria; 10 years ago that figure was less than 200,000 (worldinternetstats). What does all this mean? In a nutshell, more and more people that we as marketers want to target are spending more and more time online and on their tablets and mobile phone screens. We know that the customer must always be the focus of our marketing efforts. It is clear that the customer is changing and marketers need to change too; in other words we must “fish where the fish are” and the fish are swimming more and more in the digital lake right now!

Q. So what is the reality at the moment? Are businesses in Africa really ready to take up Digital Marketing?

Well Digital Marketing is still a mystery to many companies in Africa – some think it is only about creating a website – that’s just the start. Some turn to their agency for help, only to find the same old answers: print, outdoor and TV (if the budget is big enough). Others take it a step further to add a Social Media presence on Twitter and Facebook or even building brand awareness via banner ads and lead generation via Google AdWords. The digital marketing picture in Africa is very fragmented at the moment, but that’s completely normal at this stage of development of Digital Marketing in any country.

One of the patterns we’re currently seeing in new Digital markets is that at first there is plenty of tactical activity at the expense of an overall Digital Marketing Strategy ie a deeper and holistic understanding of the role of digital as part of the whole 360° marketing effort. The integration of the various channels of Digital marketing is the next stage but African marketers shouldn’t feel they have to do everything at once; these are early days and some companies are doing a few things really well.

To make things more challenging, the Digital landscape is always evolving which makes getting into digital feel like aiming at a moving target. At the end of the day however, it is still marketing! It’s still about putting your product or service in front of the right target audience consistently and persuasively; Digital and Mobile just give us more ways to do that.

Q. So exactly how do the businesses in Africa stand to benefit from Digital Marketing?

The opportunities presented are enormous – firstly, the whole scalability aspect of Digital Marketing campaigns. This means that anybody, with even the lowest budget, can do some Digital Marketing and have a chance of getting good results. From then on it’s a matter of testing,learning and development. This is a huge opportunity for SMEs in Africa who are driving the economic renaissance of Africa.

Secondly, digital marketing is highly measurable – you can tell what sales came from where and what is the ROI. Indeed the old adage of Lord Leverhulme, “I know half of my marketing budget is wasted; I just don’t know which half” increasingly doesn’t apply; in the Digital world, things are more measurable than ever before which means we can test, learn and improve.

Q. And what about those overseas businesses planning to penetrate the African Market? Is Digital Marketing something they should take seriously?

Yes for sure. Many of these organisations are already have Digital Marketing experience gained elsewhere so that the key task is one of optimizing their campaigns to fit the rapidly-developing African Digital Landscape.

Q. But right now, is there sufficient professional support to enhance uptake of Digital Marketing in Africa?

Not yet, but this is changing fast. Where do you learn Digital Marketing? Most Digital marketers that I know (in any country) tend to start as enthusiasts who learn on their own, from fellow practitioners and also by actually doing Digital in their day-to-day job. They then narrow it down to specialize in a branch of Digital Marketing e.g. Email, PPC, SEO, Social Media, Online PR or even Analytics. Given the current lack of available training to help African marketers develop their digital skills, growth is still held back by a lack of suitably qualified and knowledgeable practitioners. However: organisations like Simon Page are doing a great job at addressing this problem. Marketers must understand all they can about Digital, including learning what has worked and not worked in more developed Digital markets, in order to drive their own Digital education and progress.

Q. Based on your analysis of the markets and trends, how long do you think it will take Africa to fully embrace Digital Marketing?

This is an exciting time, which is why it’s great to be visiting Lagos right now. Things are happening very fast. The market is driving growth: consumers are embracing digital media and so are business decision-makers. As a result, brands and their agencies have no option but to jump on the Digital bandwagon: to learn all they can and crucially integrate digital with their offline activities which are still very important in Africa. I would say that Digital/ Mobile Marketing will be highly developed in most African markets within 2-3 and maximum 5 years from now.

Q. What does all this mean for Africa as a continent?

In Africa, the Digital Revolution has been building for some time now. It’s no exaggeration to say that the web is the greatest driver for economic empowerment and social change in Africa. There is virtually no barrier to starting a business online and the voice of one person can be heard by millions online; almost instantly. This is a great time to be in business in Africa.

Q. How are the figures for Mobile penetration in Nigeria looking?

The numbers are staggering: The number of people accessing the Internet over GSM mobile networks in Nigeria has now reached 32.3 million, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission. (mobile-ent.biz)

Since the end of 2012, the number of people logging on to the worldwide web via their mobile device has increased from 30.9 million to 32.3 million as of February of this year.

Leading the market in February was MTN Nigeria with 21.31 million users, which accounted for a market share 65.9 per cent, then in second place was Airtel Nigeria, which took a market share of 18.16 per cent with its 5.87 million users and Etisalat totaled 4.35 users, equating to 13.47 per cent market share, while Glo registered 801,218 users for a share of 2.48 per cent.

These figures reinforce my belief that Mobile (rather than desktop PC) will be the preferred method of connection to the web in Africa going forward. The sharpest African marketers need to get into Mobile now and learn all they can from other Mobile markets. However bear in mind that you’re not far behind, as Mobile is new to everyone!

Q. Any more thoughts on the Digital Opportunity in Africa?

The growth of social networks and consumer culture in Africa means brands must fundamentally change the way they engage with potential customers. It’s clear to me that Mobile and Digital are driving the growth of the whole marketing sector in Africa.

The emerging economies will play an increasingly important role in the future development of Digital Marketing throughout the world. Already, the ways people consume information, share content and make purchasing decisions in these markets are leapfrogging older, more developed economies.

African marketers should grab the opportunity to embrace the role of technology.

Historically, a low growth rate (less than 5% per annum) coupled with low levels of investment in the African Continent have meant that brands have been slow to innovate and embrace new technologies, but now this is changing – rapidly. Technology is a key area for economic growth in Africa and Mobile phone penetration demonstrates that there is a large untapped consumer market on this Continent.

In Africa, it is clear that the time for mobile and digital solutions has come, which makes this a really exciting market right now. I’m really looking forward to my visit to Lagos, and I’m very grateful to Simon Page Business School for the invitation.

Mike Berry is an internationally recognised Keynote Speaker, Trainer and Consultant in Digital Marketing. He is Adjunct Professor of Marketing Strategy at Hult International Business School, London.