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Kenya Shifting towards Digital Marketing

Kenya Shifting towards Digital Marketing

Lately and you can bare me witness, digital marketing in its many forms and shapes is more and more becoming the focal point by those in the know. Print media and traditional advertisement avenues are slowly dying and its victims are trying to remain relevant hence their rebirths in digital form online. The only way to do that is to embrace the killer of their now “used to be” jobs – social media/new media. And I don’t just mean publishers and journalists but also the men and women at advertising agencies who have for too long only understood Radio, TV, and Print Media. Digital Media in reference to TV and Radio today is almost archaic. We are a generation of Podcasts, YouTube, Vimeo, Blogs, Social Networks,

But the dawning reality on ad agencies is damning and hence the rush to the goldmine that many expect digital advertisement to be in a few years time. This awakening is seeing many start-ups, traditional advertising companies, and a couple of smart PR Firms tuning in to the right digital frequency. They now realize that the Fibre Optic impact extends far beyond the cliché pitching statements made by ISPs to the core fabric of the country, influencing everything especially where and how we access information. It has also been responsible for shifting our core influencers from TV and Radio to online personalities with digital currency like @bankelele and @whiteafrican etc.

This new reality has caught many especially the old guard off-guard and they are running around demonizing new media/social media on the major dailies; failing to understand that we now have new influencers and that they are digital. This generation refuses to acknowledge the power of digital media simply because they do not understand it.  It is new, it does not sit still as it is ever changing, it is a case study in motion whose gestation period is not decades or years like many theories but months. Basically, they want it to sit still long enough for them to study it and write doctorate papers on it and present concise action plans yet due to its nature they cannot keep up with it. It is almost amorphous and their structured ways hate it. So they loudly preach its death while privately fearing for their own.

The smarter ones among them have taken cue and are quitting their old media jobs to start new media jobs and companies – pun intended. The result has been the launch or impending launches of start-ups solely focusing on one aspect or another of digital marketing. The bigger firms that have not only acknowledged the importance of going digital but also that they cannot keep up with its many facets are buying up or partnering with digital ad outfits that understand this un-chartered territory better than them just so they do not get left behind.  Clearly, the younger generation of Kenyans has the upper hand in this arena and I see a descent number of millionaires emerging from this digital revolution.

And I dare say that this is it. This is the changeover and the transition is well on its way. Just because the research on the influence of social media in Kenya today has not been sanctioned should not in any way mislead you into joining the chorus of the old guard who claim it is a fad? So get with program as a business and make sure that your next advertising contract comes to me and the rest of digital marketers out who understand the new landscape that is digital marketing. As far as PR goes, ensure that the PR Firm you hire is proficient when it comes to digital PR by inquiring on how they would response in the case of an online onslaught.

Your thoughts?

  • Tony B. Karanja

    Great article.

  • Marvin Tumbo

    Thanks Tony.

  • Nice piece Marvin. Oh and don't worry the old guard isn't just digging their heels into the ground in KE, this happens pretty much everywhere. In fact, over the past two to three yrs countless numbers of US print media and traditional agencies have been put out of work but only now several years later does it seem like yesterday's media elite are finally beginning to consider turning over the reigns.

    I think there is one hurdle in Kenya though that may be a bit different than the US…There is not yet a critical mass of consumers buying online in KE. Of course, this is changing and it looks like the technology in KE is up to the challenge but now its the consumers mindsets about online shopping as well as the lack of a flourishing online payment gateway industry there that stands in the way of that crescendo of online shopping in Kenya. But once the number of online shoppers gets past a certain point (I don't know what Kenya's tipping point will be but would imagine that once online shopping is a third of the size of the country's offline shopping that more companies will DEMAND online expertise) Kenya's own web version of the Berlin Wall ( so to speak) will fall and the new generation of marketers will pick up where yesterday's left off.

  • Marvin Tumbo

    Hi Benin,

    Thanks a lot. I just visited your website and now understand and appreciate where such a considered and in-depth comments comes from.

    You are right, I am now observing a fight between Mobile Money transfer providers and local developers because the latter has refused to to provide the latter with the APIs needed to enable the latter to monetize their online activities.

    Most Kenyans are skeptical about credit cards but have come to greatly appreciate and actually cannot live without mobile money transfer services. This therefore holds the key to a flourishing online shopping market in Kenya.

    Good to know that the old guard is the same everywhere. But there are many people who are getting things ready so that whenever these payment avenues are ready, they will ready to go and that makes me happy.

    Thank you for dropping by.


  • No doubt Marvin. You're right mobile tanager services just might be
    the key, as in KE they have moved way beyond the early adopter phase
    and are headed into mainstream status.

    I think one of the best authorities on this topic is Erik Hersman.
    I'd be curious to hear what he has to say about the tug of war that
    you mentioned and whether there's a way for the mobile transfer
    services to create portable solutions that could allow merchants to
    bypass the whole developer dilemma. You never know.. something like
    this may already be in the works…

    Sent from my iPod

  • Marvin Tumbo

    Hey Benin

    Sorry for the late response. Been having crappy internet access for a day or two now.

    I like Eric. He is the top most Tech Blogger in the country and a very reliable source on anything tech in the country and across the continent.

    Been following his posts but aside from slight mentions, nothing concrete yet on the tug wars in the mobile money transfer industry. Only the top coders in the country are crying foul for now. I will however drop him a DM and ask for his thoughts on the issue.


  • No worries, Marvin. Your contribution to Kenya's web space as well as to the broader social media space is immense. And by the way out of the social media sites I follow your feed gets prominence in my reader. Please keep up the terrific work!

  • Marvin Tumbo

    Thanks a lot Benin. Greatly appreciate the props. Will keep trying to do the best I can.

  • NonieBranding

    I disagree that print and TV are archaic as communications mediums. Whilst the advent of social media is undoubtedly something that cannot be ignored, a complete brand communication strategy must encompass all avenues. There are benefits and negatives to all avenues, what matters is how the strategy employed handles the opportunities all communications platforms present.

  • Hi Noni. True, its great to get an alternate perspective on this. But I
    must say that my interpretation of Marvin's argument was different-I don't
    believe that he was calling traditional media, itself, obsolete. Rather, it
    seems that he was saying that the mindset adopted by many
    traditional media executives is dated. If this is the same mindset that I
    have observed where handfuls of traditional media executives believe that
    they are the ones that get to say what is important to the viewers versus
    what isn't-then yes, that would be an example of archaic thinking.

    Because whether execs accept it or not digital media has empowered the consumer to the point where today its the consumer who gets to decide what's important and what's irrelevant. I don't think that this was intended by the web ecosystem, but rather it was just an unintentional byproduct of recent online developments.

    What is interesting to me though is that digital marketers are learning to embrace this new paradigm that places the consumer at the center or the equation, while it seems that traditional marketers are still trying to push their messages on the consumers.

    Don't get me wrong though, there will always be a place in advertisers
    hearts for mass media because it can offer the quickest route to building
    awareness. But I'm just saying that traditional media firms should
    recognize that their solution is no longer the only solution. Additionally,
    they should begin to recognize the limitations of traditional media-namely
    the difficulty in tying specific adjustments in traditional media to
    specific results. Of course digital media has limitations too and in this
    way you are again correct that these channels should be used in ways that
    compliment each other.

  • Marvin Tumbo

    Thank You Benin, I could not have said it better.

  • Marvin Tumbo

    There will always be a place for TV and Print media but their control is diminished because social media is giving people simpler, cheaper, effective and actually more efficient opt-in alternatives. Most of us change channels when we see adverts on TV today. That is the reality businesses are waking up to.

  • Exactly, and again Noni made a profound point- with respect to the
    need to use both traditional and online channels. I guess the biggest
    obstacle that we, as agencies, face when pitching digital is the whole
    scalability issue. TV programming can reach millions within 30
    minutes, whereas to do this would be difficult online. Another
    weakness of our industry has been our silo-like approach to
    analytics. Instead of showing the impact that online campaigns have
    on muliple channel buying we tend to only emphasize online purchases.
    The technology though has evolved to the point where we are able to
    use online analytics to provide offline insights, as well. Shifting
    our thoughts in this direction could be another way of getting buy in
    from the traditional community.

    Sent from my iPod

  • NonieBranding

    I agree that social media has the ability to do what marketers dream of, a true connection with their consumers. It also allows for a brand to seem more 'human' and available. I just think that it's the communication style of an organisation that truly matters, not the medium. A complete campaign that cohesively blends in all communication mediums, TV, Print and Online to tackle the consumer's needs and wants is the breathe of fresh air that we need. Corporates that insist on having their message heard in the name of brand awareness are not going to survive the current and future market environments. Because it's all about conversation these days.

  • NonieBranding

    Besides not that many people talk back to you on social media platforms, in the same way not many people remember an advert.
    For you to be memorable you have to relate to your audience in a unique way. For example Nation Media's facebook page had no impact on me even though I'm a member, I do however, remember their tv 'matrix girl' advert.

  • Marvin Tumbo


    Thank you for that. When it comes to social media, think of depth.

    This post for instance, it has developed a great deal of depth from the comment section and that is the reason TV and Print Media is losing appeal. There is no platform for you to question/respond/inquire/and influence perspectives from the comment discussions that ensue.

    I agree that Adverts can have an impact that is the reason companies now are releasing adverts on social channels like YouTube because people can respond to them and let them whether they suck or not.

    It is about the conversations.

  • Hello Benin, Marvin, Nony; interesting discussion going on here. It's quite notable how new media, and more specifically the social networking space, is being 'demonized' by traditionalists as a viral fad that's probably not worth much to the business owner. We obviously all believe otherwise, but at the same time i can tell you from experience that it is a hard bargain trying to monitor, analyze and monetize a brand's value and effect in social media. What we need is more 'Voices from the wilderness' to proclaim that new media is a huge complement to traditional media. After watching your company's TV advert, how would you like it if a twitter user with 4000 followers wrote a tweet about how on point your advert is? Or how much it sucked! I'm not seeing anyone losing a job here, but more jobs being created and the local communications sphere becoming even more fun to be in 🙂 It's not a war. Keep up the heat Marvin.

  • That's a great article…really impressive

  • Imani

    Hi Marvin, I have been following your line of thought in regards to the various developments taking place in Kenya on the e-commerce front. Perhaps the introduction of Prepaid Virtual Credit Cards to the Kenyan market will encourage more Kenyans to make online purchases as they are relatively safe. I have come across a Kenyan website offering prepaid visa cards that can be bought by anyone using Mpesa or Zap. I have tried these cards and they seem to work perfectly well for online purchases. I have no doubts that more and more avenues are opening up to Kenyans, thanks to the mobile money transfer.

  • Marvin Tumbo

    Hi Imani,

    A prepaid virtual credit cards sound like a life saver. I think these will go a long way in laying the grounds for an online economy in Kenya. I wish such providers would do more in terms of getting themselves known. Currently, most of us stumble across such solutions. This would be great to allay the fears Kenyans have of online payment gateways.

  • Imani

    Thanks Marvin. The cards are available on http://tumapesaonline.com, you send money via mpesa/zap, receive the card via email within 30 minutes to 1 hour. The only downside to this card is that you can not redeem any money left, meaning you have to spend it all. It is therefore advisable to buy a card with a value close to what you intend to spend.

  • I love the discussion but i don’t rely agree to your prophesy spelling out a doomsday to other forms of advertisement at the mercy of internet. radio, Print, TV are not going anywhere any soon, as much as we would over blow tweeting, face booking….. an advert aired on TV during prime time news stands out.
    have a good day

  • Antoinekembola

    Finally, our own Kenyan made social network is here. If we all join and invite others to join, we can very easily compete with twitter and the rest. Let’s all join http://www.wingley.com and make Kenya proud!