Inspiring CEO & Digital Marketing

Forbes India, in their latest issue, lists the Leadership Awards 2012. Of all the various winners, most inspiring for me was Nitin Paranjape of HUL. Not because he turned around a behemoth in 4 years or because he set it up for the future, but because at 49, he’s willing to learn continually.

Not too many CEOs, let alone those commanding an empire of over Rs 1.4 lakh crore (market cap) are willing to have a 25-year-old tutor. One who can teach them the ropes of digital marketing. Yes, most of them will hire a ton of managers to their bidding, but few will spend time and take the effort to understand “what their kids are talking about”.

Because by his own admission, he couldn’t understand the brave new world his children inhabit. What the hell are they doing spending all their time on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter? In any case, what are these places all about?

In my limited experience dealing with multinationals and local companies in the space of digital marketing, some expectations the companies and their leaders have are that digital will give instant results. Why they presume digital in this way is something I still haven’t understood. Like any other medium, you need to spend time, effort and money in setting up quality presence online. Another myth I often have to fight is that offline (print or TV) advertising will drive online presence. I can assure those who believe in this that this isn’t the case. Driving users from offline to online is doubly harder.

While the fight is still uphill, a strong recommendation is to capture users online itself for conversion online. Easy as that sounds, the issue lies with the fact that companies don’t mind spending millions in print and TV but are loathe to spend even 5% of that in building strong online presence. And no, strong online presence isn’t only about buying ads. Stickiness and engagement are what will matter in the long run.

I know for a fact that Mr Paranjape’s company is doing this and doing it well. So perhaps all the learning he is getting is working out.

Because by his own admission, he couldn’t understand the brave new world his children inhabit. What the hell are they doing spending all their time on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter? In any case, what are these places all about?

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