January 7, 2013

In-Depth: Nicolle Pangis

Nicolle Pangis, President at Real Media Group, discusses mobile, the distinction between online and offline and the ever-growing significance for brands of social media

How do you see the future of mobile and its integration into broader marketing strategies?

Everyone has a smartphone now. Even in regions round the world where people don’t have any other technology. By virtue of that alone, it’s an incredibly important piece of technology, and a way for brands and content providers to get their messages across. But it needs to be part of a larger strategy. The key thing to remember is that mobile doesn’t exist in a silo. 

Are marketers getting to grips with the potential of targeted and localised messaging?

Pre-Foursquare there was a debate going on about whether location-based marketing and targeting was too intrusive. What’s happened since then is that more and more people have become happy to volunteer information about where they are, where they’re shopping, who they’re having dinner with and so on. All this profile information is becoming part of what I think of as our own personal, online ‘brand’, and that’s something that’s going to become more and more important. As an industry, we need to make sure that by having that information, we can provide people with something genuinely useful to them.

Is the distinction between online and offline becoming less distinct, and if so what do you think the implications are?

It is, in that retailers who were traditionally offline are moving online. But what’s really interesting is that it also works the other way and digital retailers are now looking at bricks and mortar stores. The two are no longer separate areas. It’s also about bringing all the digital information that we have into the real world, whether that’s in the form of digital displays or cross-marketing between offline and online. It’s definitely getting more complex, but I think this provides more of an opportunity for digital to move into a broader universe – one that isn’t restricted to a computer screen or a mobile but which opens up a whole new avenue for messaging in the real world.

There are other issues though. There was an interesting story in the US where a major retailer knew that a teenager was pregnant before her family did. The girl’s browsing and purchasing behaviour followed a pattern which the retailer recognised as being associated with people who are likely to be pregnant. That’s an example of where retailers need to find the balance between having a lot of information about users, yet avoiding that ‘creep’ factor. 

How successfully do you think businesses are adapting to social media? Are there cases where businesses themselves need to change their model to fit in with the new landscape?

Social has really changed how brands interact with people and users are becoming incredibly influential. If someone has loads of social media friends and a very strong likability factor and then they ‘like’ a brand – right there they’re generating a sense of allegiance towards that brand.

Brands themselves can’t control what happens to them anymore. That’s where the question of whether businesses themselves need to change arises, and I think the answer is an absolute ‘yes’. The brands that will be most successful over time are the ones that will be able to engage with their customers in a pro-active way, and that includes customers who may not have had a good experience. For example, if I had a bad time flying with a particular airline and I’m an avid traveller, brands need to work with me, simply because I have so much more influence now, via social media, than I did when I was just angry in my living room. Now I can talk to 400 people, rather than four. If I want to rant online, that’s a very big difference. 


Interview by Jon Fortgang