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Watch out Kenya goes digital

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 – Kenya, like most countries in Africa, is classified as a developing country. But if the growth rate of internet and mobile telephony were to be used as the yardstick, then Kenya’s story qualifies for an Ivy League study.

According to a survey by internet usage across Africa has grown by about 1,400 percent between 2000 and 2009. In Kenya, it has more than doubled in the last two years making it the fastest growing media, now with more than 3.5 million monthly users. 

The same study found that the duration of daily internet usage in Kenya is now close to that of television. 

Kenya is also trailblazing the world in the usage of mobile phone technology. In 2009, 45 percent of internet users in Kenya access it via mobile phone, compared to 13 percent in 2007 as indicated in a study by local research firm Synovate. 

The missing link, you might ask? Well, it seems Kenyan companies are yet to hop onto this huge medium for their marketing campaigns.

According to Waithera Kabiru, head of Capital Digital Media (responsible for the web portal) many marketing managers are yet to see how to convert the millions of internet users into brand loyalists.

“Internet advertising has for a long time been looked at only in terms of placing a dormant banner on a website. It’s just like a billboard,” she says.

“However, brand and marketing managers are now seeing the benefits of online advertising. On internet, you capture the full attention of your audience, and the most important bit about it is that the audience communicates back with you – they click, respond to queries, make purchases, giving you instant feedback,” explains Ms Kabiru.

The potential that Kenya’s fast internet growth offers as a marketing medium is better exemplified by news that the world’s biggest communication services group WPP – which holds a controlling stake in ScanGroup – has launched Squad Digital, an online marketing agency.

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“Squad will provide expert consultancy on all aspects of the digital marketing mix, including mobile marketing, digital advertising, online media buying, online reputation management, social media marketing, search engine optimisation and marketing, and travel technology services,” says Kamal Krishna, the Squad General Manager.

Squad Digital is a joint-venture between Scangroup, leading Indian digital marketing and technology businesses Smile Interactive Technology Group, and Quasar, part of WPP Digital.

It hopes to use its experience from the Indian market to tailor digital marketing campaigns for Kenyan companies.

“We want to introduce Kenyan brands to the online interactive experience. We shall create a 360-degree campaign for them – from the communication strategy, placing campaigns on sites that are visited by their target audience, managing the information flow and monitoring the campaign’s effectiveness.”

Like its parent company Scangroup, Squad aims to narrow its focus as a marketing aid for brands. With the Indian experience plus Scangroup’s understanding of the regional consumer trends, coupled with WPP’s global muscle, Kenya’s digital marketing revolution has just begun.

Therefore, Kenya’s advertising landscape is about to change for good. Traditional media – Radio, TV and print – now have a more formidable competitor for a share of the advertising cake. Online marketing’s interactive features make it more attractive for brand managers who want to see results and track minute-by-minute effectiveness of their campaigns.

Watch this space.

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