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The Digital Marketing Scene in Barbados: Slow and steady wins the race?

Possibly.

However, if you are a realist such as myself, you know that the only race slow and steady wins is the one running in the opposite direction.

On the international scene, digital marketing is exciting, dynamic and, most importantly, integral to the overall marketing plan of any business. It is seen as a key component to ensure high brand exposure to attract new customers and as a means to stay connected with past customer in an attempt to both bring them back into the buyer cycle. Encouraging past buyers to also fill the role of a sort of brand ambassador by their spreading news of the business through word of mouth. This acceptance of digital marketing has been so embraced that a quick search reveals guidance, education courses and materials all aimed at businesses and its employees to help them live in what is undoubtedly a digital age.

When you think of Barbados you think of paradise connotations. White sandy beaches, clear blue skies and an ocean like blue crystal. However, when its marketing techniques are juxtaposed against its international counterparts it becomes a dry, desert land. Marketing in Barbados has been extremely reliant on traditional methods. Namely, print offline advertisement and outbound as a means by which products and services are promoted.

The Changing Consumer Behaviour and pressure to embrace digital

A Moz conducted study found that 67% of buyers were influenced by reviews they read online. (If you are interested in this study you can find it here http://bit.ly/1JOfZc9) For any business owner this highlights a need to be active in monitoring your online presence as consumers are now researching products and companies online before they make their purchase (which may be online as well) When added to the fact that the millennial generation has not only been shaped by technology but has also influenced marketing trends as they have become a new target audience due to their buying power (you can read the full report here http://ibm.co/1Baj9Q9 ) it is not difficult to see why businesses feel the pressure (and many have adapted) to re-evaluate their marketing strategy.

With regards to its growing use of technology and online presence the Barbadian public is no exception to this with many being active on social media and the internet. However, businesses have often been hesitant to adopt newer practices resulting in them moving at an almost snail like pace to restructure their marketing practices to fit the changes in audience behaviour,

 

A Needle in a hay stack

This is not to say that there has not been movement with digital marketing in Barbados. Companies of note include ‘Digicel’ and ‘Flow’ who both utilise heavy digital marketing campaigns to support their services. It is also interesting to point out that these are both telecommunication companies with branches in several parts of the Caribbean. As major direct competitors, it is therefore unsurprising to see that these companies would be at the forefront when one examines digital marketing in Barbados and the wider Caribbean.

Moreover, over the years there has been a rise in the number of marketing agencies either expanding or focusing solely on digital media. Not only has this increase shown that there has become an awareness to redevelop marketing practices, but it has also opened more opportunities for those in the creative fields such as writers and graphic and web designers.

However due to the fact that, again, most businesses in Barbados have an overreliance on traditional offline marketing, it is often the hard task of the to convince businesses of the benefits of embracing digital marketing. Internationally practiced concepts such as inbound marketing (which focuses on reaching out to buyers and attracting them to your product during their buyer cycles) have to be explained to business owners in an attempt to get them to embrace digital marketing.

Unique Strategies

When examining those who already incorporate digital marketing techniques in Barbados there are minor differences when compared to the international scene (as is to be expected). Factors such as local culture and dialect become key areas of consideration when planning marketing campaigns.

For example, while the official language of Barbados is English, there also exists ‘Bajan” on the island. This is a form of creole derived from English. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘broken English’. As such, variations in pronunciation and spelling in regular English words (along with sentence structure) might be seen.

Phrases such as ‘Come town’ or ‘Direct Ruffness’ (both seen on promotional posters) may seem grammatically incorrect but they reflect either phrases or spelling in Bajan and are therefore effective techniques in gaining the attention of the wider Barbadian public.

This deviation should be of no surprise to anyone in marketing as it is a solid tactic where it is encouraged to tailor your message and activities to suit your audience and this includes both culture and language.

 

Moving Forward

A noteworthy point is that this delay in fully embracing digital marketing is also reflected within the University education. At the writing of this, the only marketing programmes at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus are a Certificate in Marketing, Pr and Advertising and a Bsc/Msc in Management with a Marketing concentration. Within the coursework of the latter there are only 1 or 2 courses which directly target the topic of digital marketing. When compared with other international universities which offer, not only, full degrees specifically in digital marketing, but also subcategories of the field for example copywriting, it become further evident that there is room for more development.

This fact has resulted in a number of persons interested in digital marketing either pursuing degrees at the sister campuses on the other islands, travelling to international universities or investing in distance learning.

With regards to the business scene, as these digital trends continue to progress, it will become imperative that Barbadian businesses become more adaptable in order to gain customers and compete.

 

Author: Leondra Nightingale
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