Archive for 2015

Latest Internet User Statistics for Sri Lanka - 2015

UPDATED: 2016 Statistics are in this latest post. has published the latest figures for internet users worldwide and according to them the latest internet penetration figure for Sri Lanka is 25.8%.

This is a total of 5,689,800 internet users in Sri Lanka as of 31st December 2014. Mind you, we are in the December of 2015 and these numbers are already one year old. If we apply a modest 20% year over year growth rate (YoY growth rate for Sri Lanka was always higher than 25% in past five years), we can expect this number to stand at 6,827,760 internet users in Sri Lanka as of 31st December 2015, which will be a penetration of 32% of the total population.

For last three years, I have been publishing an analysis about Sri Lanka internet penetration figures on my blog. Previously, I’ve blogged about when Sri Lanka reached double digit mark in internet penetration, and then I wrote this blog when we reached 3 million internet users in SriLanka. Last year I published a blog when Sri Lanka reached the 4 millioninternet users.

Here's the latest. Sri Lanka has officially crossed 5.5 million internet users as per International Telecommunications Union.

In all my previous analysis, I took and International Telecom Union (ITU) as my source of data. However the credibility of these sources was challenged by some people.
We live in a country where there is no proper institute carrying out research and surveys on internet usage. We don’t have ComScore reports for Sri Lanka, we don’t have eMarketer reports, no BuzzMonitor or anything reliable as an information source. Whatever the local initiatives we have here are far less credible and reliable than ITU and

Central Bank of Sri Lanka reported, that the number of internetconnections in Sri Lanka counts to about 2 million end of 2014. If we apply an average of 3 people using one fixed line connection that will be roughly about 6 Million internet users.

According to Google Adwords Display Ads Planner tool, advertisers can target 5.5 Million to 10 Million unique cookies (a cookie is assumed to represent one person, but there can be duplication).
Facebook reports 3.5 million monthly active Facebook users in Sri Lanka. If apply the global Facebook penetration (to internet users) figure of 50%, we can forecast roughly about 7 Million internet users in Sri Lanka.

If we put all these sources of information on the table and take a look, we are seeing a number in the range of 6.5 Million to 8 Million as the total internet user base in Sri Lanka.

Where there is no absolutely accurate source, people may still argue the credibility of the estimations we come up with available sources of data. But, we cannot wait until all the systems become perfect to keep up with the rest of the world.

Implications for Marketers

In my 2014 post about this topic, I mentioned it’s not going to be easy for any newcomer to compete on Digital Advertising platforms. This will remain to be true for 2016 as well. Already we see the CPM rates are increasing on most digital advertising platforms, even though it’s still not as expensive as TV or Print. Engagement rates and organic reach rates on branded Facebook pages keep dropping; meaning just having a Facebook page for your brand is not going to count as a proper digital advertising tactic.

These changes call for one thing; that is better expertise in digitally lead advertising and marketing strategies and tactics. Your company cannot afford to leave the digital marketing decisions of your brands to a set of interns with IT degrees. It requires better expertise, strategic thinking and common sense. 2016 is going to be a complete red ocean in Digital Marketing job market. Companies will try to headhunt expertise from other companies aggressively, creating more and more demand for Digital Marketers in the job market. As a buddying marketer, are you geared to cater this demand? 
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Have You Found Your Digital Nirvana?

When prince Siddhartha walked out of that royal mansion in Kapilvastu, in search of inner peace and a path to Nirvana, there were many teachers and schools of thoughts in ancient India about finding the noble path to Nirvana. Each teacher had their own way of defining Nirvana, and they practiced different rituals as methods of getting there.
Siddhartha explored all these alternate paths and realized most of those schools of thoughts about Nirvana were flawed in one way or another. He then realized finding his own path to Nirvana was the solution. He eventually found the path he was looking for as he enlightened to be the Gautama Buddha, and became the founder of the world’s oldest religion based on a philosophy preached by a human being.
Today, the field of Digital Marketing for me is somewhat similar to what it looked like in 600 BC India where many false thoughts and rituals about path to Nirvana was embraced as the absolute truth. Today we see similar confusion among people about what ‘Digital’ can do for their business, although hardly most these people understand a difference between ‘Social’ and ‘Digital’. In all honesty, I believe the phrase ‘Digital Marketing’ itself is flawed. Long before the traditional admen created the word ‘digital marketing/media’ to categorize all the things that they don’t understand and put them into one basket, we used to call this ‘e-Marketing’ or simply ‘internet marketing’. There again we had so many confusions. For some people, e-Marketing was electronic marketing, while for others it was email marketing.
There is no better example to show how confused the marketing fraternity is about the definitions of these words than how veteran Digital Marketing guru Dave Chaffey explains how he changed the titles of his famous text books on Digital Marketing.
“The books I've written have actually had three different titles, updated with the times. I started with Internet Marketing, then Emarketing and in 2012 renamed the original Internet Marketing book to Digital Marketing, about time too since I was involved in developing the syllabus as an examiner for the IDM Diploma in Digital Marketing back in 2004-5 when the term was hardly used at all - so it's been great to see 'Digital Marketing' adopted as the 'de facto' term!” (Source)
Now that the term ‘Digital Marketing’ is accepted as a legit sub-discipline in Marketing (Well, CIM offers courses in Digital Marketing, so there’s no reason to doubt it) let’s try to understand how it differs from Marketing.
The official definition of Marketing according to The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) is: “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” (I love this definition! It’s the best definition of Marketing for me).
Now the question is how digital marketing differs from marketing? Dave Chaffey in his book defines digital marketing as ‘achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies’. Perfect. In the end, it’s just about the application of a technology to achieve your marketing objectives.
It was long time back (in 2003) when Nicholas Carr wrote to HBR that “IT Doesn’t Matter” in business anymore, so why do we believe that technology really does matter in marketing anymore?
Yes, I use ‘Digital Marketing Professional’ as my LinkedIn title, but that’s just to differentiate myself as a personal brand among many other marketing professionals. But, prefixing ‘Digital’ to everything won’t necessarily help you to differentiate from your competition in your category, because there’s no competitive edge in using technology in business or in marketing anymore. 
I think it’s now the right time for people to stop thinking ‘Digital’ as a magic pill which solves all your marketing problems and focus more on improving the essence of your marketing strategy; that is to identify, anticipate and satisfy customer requirements in a profitable manner for your business.
There’s no Nirvana in digital, so don’t waste your time finding an end in merely a means. Stop being over obsessed with a ‘digital strategy’, but broadly be in focus on your ‘marketing strategy’ and seize the opportunities you see emerging in these digital platforms around you.
Originally posted on LinkedIn on this link. Please join the conversation on LinkedIn if you have opinions to share.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

What’s the Difference between Designing a Website and Buying a Saree?

Recently I got involved in a couple of projects of website revamping, including the website of the company I work for. I suddenly started to realize how outdated are the websites of most Sri Lankan companies (yes, including our own one). The web has evolved drastically over last five years or so with heavy focus now given on factors such as user experience & user interface, loading speed, navigation flow of the website, mobile responsiveness, singular call-to-actions and many more hot topics.
Sadly in Sri Lanka (and I guess so is the case in most other emerging markets) still the prominence is given for factors such as color theme, special effects (ok.. flash animations are still cool in Sri Lanka), and aesthetics of the design layouts. People still think of their websites as a piece of art to impress others. This is why I always say, designing a website for a Sri Lankan company is more like buying a Saree for your wife (or any other significant woman in your life). It will take enormous amount of time to decide on the perfect Saree to buy. You shop for the perfect colors, perfect design, whether it matches the occasion, whether it fits your budget and all sorts of factors. After going through this entire process (and just as you start thinking that your wife is happy about the Saree you bought), here comes her best friend (or her mother) and make a nasty commentary about how lame that design is.
This is exactly the same thing what happens when you design websites for Sri Lankan clients. As Google Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik always says, the HIPPO approach to internet marketing is the biggest stumbling block today in creating outstanding marketing results through the web. (Don’t know what HIPPO is? It’s ‘Highest Individually Paid Person’s Opinion’).
People don’t visit your website to solve a puzzle or to critically evaluate your CEO’s aesthetic taste. They come to your website to solve a specific problem, and they will take not more than 15 seconds to decide whether your landing page can solve that problem or not. Within 15 seconds of landing on your website, 55% of the people decide what to do next, and I’m quite sure that, their decision is not to write a review about your website’s color platter or how exciting your flashy animations are (Do something really exciting #ThingsYouHearInAgencies).
Think about world’s most successful websites; Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest (and LinkedIn!). All these websites have no more than 2 colors in their color platter. They are neat and clean (no flashy animations), and very clear about the call-to-actions. For example, “Contact Us” is “Contact Us” on most successful websites. They don’t put an ambiguous icon of a half opened door and expect website visitors to figure out that, it is the contact us link of the website.
Be very clear about what actions you expect your visitors to take on every page. Don’t leave more than 3 call-to-actions on deeper pages. Deeper you go inside the website; more focused your call-to-actions has to be. Don’t try to brain tease your website visitors by trying to be over creative. Tell them what you want to tell them in plain English (or whatever the language your website is in). Use an Analytics software to track behavior of your website visitors, doesn’t matter how small the volumes of traffic to your website. It gives you a clear picture of how people end up landing on your website, what they are looking for on your website, and how they leave your website with or without finding what they were looking for. After doing this analysis for a while you will realize that your CEO’s wife’s opinion doesn’t really matter when taking critical decisions about your company website. After all, you are not buying Sarees. You are building your company’s online branch.
Originally posted on LinkedIn on this link. Please join the conversation on LinkedIn if you have opinions to share.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Google Live Traffic Updates Now Enabled for Sri Lanka

Here is great news for all Sri Lankan drivers who own a smartphone as well! Recently Google enabled their live traffic updates feature on Google maps for Sri Lanka. From now onward, when you check a route on Google maps on a busy Colombo neighborhood, you will see a heat map overlay to signify how intense is the traffic jam on the road you are planning to take.

First, you have to enable traffic updates on your Google Maps app. To do this, open the app and slide the screen from left to right. You will get the detailed menu to enable different features of Google Maps and then select “Traffic”.

Click to Enlarge

I tested the live traffic updates while I was driving to work this morning and found that it is quite accurate. It shows the intensity of traffic jam in Colombo roads on a heat map overlay from green to red, where red being a high traffic situation. This is really useful to plan your route in advance. You can select an alternate route with less red areas in the traffic map, instead of the usual route you would take.

One thing to remember is, the map being red doesn’t necessarily means that the traffic is “jammed”. Basically it’s just an indication of ‘lots of vehicles’ in a particular area, and these vehicles maybe moving in a decent speed. It doesn’t mean the vehicles are in a stand still mode in a traffic jam. For example at this particular point of the route (see below screenshot) my car was moving at an average speed of 25Kmph. This is reasonably a good speed compared to the average speed of vehicles moving inside Colombo city limits during the rush hours.

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This can be a handy tool for Sri Lanka traffic police, if they really want to do something about the decreasing average speeds of vehicles moving inside Colombo city limits. Two years ago it took me only 30 minutes in morning rush hours to drive from Nugegoda to Barnes Place (approx 10 KM). Now it takes me average 45 minutes. If Sri Lanka Traffic Police deploy some qualified analysts to look at these stats, I’m sure they can come up with optimization plans for traffic in Colombo city, without just blindly making some random roads one-way.

I’m sure you might ask me the question ‘how does Google predict traffic jam?’. According to Google Maps bases its traffic views and faster-route recommendations on two different kinds of information: historical data about the average time it takes to travel a particular section of road at specific times on specific days and real-time data sent by sensors and smartphones that report how fast cars are moving right then.

This is what Google has to say about how they do this.

“If you use Google Maps for mobile with GPS enabled on your phone, that's exactly what you can do. When you choose to enable Google Maps with My Location, your phone sends anonymous bits of data back to Google describing how fast you're moving. When we combine your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousands of phones moving around a city at any given time, we can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions. We continuously combine this data and send it back to you for free in the Google Maps traffic layers. It takes almost zero effort on your part — just turn on Google Maps for mobile before starting your car — and the more people that participate, the better the resulting traffic reports get for everybody.” (Google Blog)
Oh! BTW, with Google traffic updates now enabled for Sri Lanka, we will see real conversations like these very soon.
Click to Enlarge

So I’m sure you got a pretty decent idea about how Google Traffic Updates work on Google Maps. Next time you drive to work or back home, make sure to check the Colombo traffic updates on Google Maps. But please don’t use your smartphone to check the traffic updates while you drive! It’s better to get to where you want to go a little late, rather than not getting there alive at all.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Who Owns Digital Marketing at Your Company?

Maybe you are a genius in electronic engineering, and you know how to build a television set from scratch on your own. You know exactly to use which circuit boards, the correct transistors, ICs, resistors, sensors and all other electronic gadgets which make a perfect TV set.
But if I ask you to direct and produce an Emmy award winning Television series, you will definitely struggle, won't you? Emmy Award winning TV directors were not electronic engineers.
This is why a company’s Digital Marketing decisions should better be left with qualified marketers not with qualified IT professionals.
There is a difference between networking your company PCs and Social Networking. Simply because you were an early adapter of internet based technologies, you won't become a marketer on the internet.
Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, for whatever the reason I still can’t understand, IT departments are having a say in the Digital Marketing decisions made by companies. Is this the case with other emerging/less evolved markets?
Originally posted on LinkedIn on this link. Please join the conversation on LinkedIn if you have opinions to share.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Buy 1 Ticket and Bring Along a Friend or a Colleague to the Social Media Marketing Boot Camp

Early this week I shared the news of upcoming Social Media Marketing Boot Camp which happens on 14th November 2015 in Colombo.

I told you the news that EBA is planning to offer an attractive 2 in 1 deal for early registrants to the event :-)

Yes that’s right. You can buy one ticket to the workshop and bring a friend or a colleague 100% free of charge. This will be a limited time offer open for only a few hours on 14th October 2015, and only for a limited number of seats.

You can visit the page on Monday 12th October between 8.00am to 6.00pm and register for this exclusive deal. Yes, you are allowed to share the cost of the ticket with your friend but the payment for 1 ticket has to be made in full within 72 hours of receiving a confirmation of the offer.

Want to get notified when the 2 in 1 offer goes live? RSVP yourself on the below Facebook event page or follow the hash tag #BootCampEBA to stay in touch.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Social Media Marketing Boot Camp Returns to Colombo This November

After two successful workshops in December 2014 and April 2015, I am pleased to announce the third repetition of the Social Media Marketing Boot Camp program again in this November.

Social Media Marketing Boot Camp I conducted for eBusiness Academy is designed and delivered in a way it covers all the essential things a marketer should know about using Social Media in marketing. It’s a workshop which goes beyond the popular myth that Social Media is all about gaining likes on Facebook, or all about boasting of the number of Social Media platforms one’s brand is having profiles.

This time I am happy to have Milinda Tilakaratne as a co-trainer for the workshop. Milinda had been in the scene of Social Media Marketing for over 6 years for one of the leading telecommunications company in Sri Lanka and is among the elite group of few Sri Lankan marketers who can really boast for having hands on experience in Social Media Marketing for more than 5 years.

Outline content of the workshop will be more or less be the same as in last two versions of the Boot Camp. If you have participated in any of the previous Social Media Marketing Boot Camp sessions I conducted through eBusiness Acadamy, you are recommended not to register for this event. (Instead, I would be really grateful to you if you could recommend this workshop to someone who has not participated in the Boot Camp before). This time too the venue for the workshop will be Grand Oriental Hotel in Colombo. Reserve your calendar for 14th November 2015 and wait until EBA opens the registrations for the event.

As far as I know, there going to be an attractive 2 in 1 offer for early registrants to the event :-)

You can buy one ticket to the workshop and bring a friend or a colleague 100% free of charge. This will be a limited time offer open for only a few hours of the registrations opening day, and only for a limited number of seats.

Please keep an eye on all updates coming from me and EBA to know more about this special early bird deal!

Click here to see the workshop details.
Monday, October 5, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Should Companies Restrict Employees Use of Social Media?

I recently met a university batch mate of mine, who is now in the field of HR. While discussing where we are and what we do now, eventually it opened up for a very fruitful discussion on the topic of role of social media in the field of HRM. 

My friend complained social networks as a productivity killer and something, which all companies should get rid of at all costs. This did not surprise me at all, as this used to be the same sentiment I noticed from all HR professionals I meet. In fact, it is not an opinion limited to HR professionals, but also a common belief among most of the senior level executives in many companies I know. Surprisingly enough, these executives somehow agree with me more often than not, about the value of social media as a marketing communications channel. They never show any doubts about using Facebook and Twitter for brand building, customer care or lead generation. They are always very keen in learning more about social media as a marketing tool.
Friday, May 1, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Five Trusted Ways You Can Help Nepal Earthquake Victims Online

If you are like me, who is saddened by the natural disaster in Nepal and looking for ways you can help the victims, here are five trusted charities you can do online donations.

Help Nepal Network is a local charity network in Nepal operating since 1999. After the disaster strike, they have opened a PayPal donation link on their home page through which you can make a donation starting from US$1.Click here to donate.

Oxfam America has opened an online donation link as well, through which you can make monetary contributions to relief efforts they are rolling out in Nepal. Click here to donate.

Save The Children charity organization has opened an online donation link too. Click here to contribute to Nepal Earthquake victims through Save the Children

UNICEF as an agency of United Nation is a trusted source you may use to make donations starting from US$50. Please click here to accesstheir donation link.

Care International has put up an online donation option on their home page. Simply visit their home page on and fill the donation form.

Yesterday Sri Lanka embassy in Nepal established a hotline for any inquiries about Sri Lankans in Nepal. Call 0097 79851020057 to access this hotline.

A friend on Facebook shared this message. Apparently, Sri Lanka government is looking for volunteers to participate in Sri Lankan help mission in Nepal which is already in operation.
“Volunteer doctors, nurses and paramedics needed. [Please share] Prime Minister's Office of Sri Lanka is coordinating the logistics of flying out urgent help to the victims of the earthquake in Katmandu. If you are any of the above medical professionals willing to volunteer please call 071 249 248”
This morning it was reported that the first emergency rescue team of 44 soldiers &4 Doctors, aboard an SLAF flight leaves for Nepal.

Please update in the comments section any other methods people may help the earthquake victims in Nepal.

Sunday, April 26, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

HTC Desire 620G Review – Good Value for Money with Few Minor Bugs

Last month I switched my mobile phone from Samsung to HTC. This was after using two different Samsung devices and a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 as my tablet (still using it) for three consecutive years since I switched from HTC WildFire to Samsung S-Duos 1 in 2012. This time I bought the HTC Desire 620G, which was officially launched in December last year. Here is my small review about what I experienced and what to expect.

First of all, it’s an Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) device with dual SIM capability. When selecting a smartphone, dual SIM capability has become a mandatory requirement for me as I have to carry around my official phone number (paid by my employer) and the personal one I use for last 10 years. It’s a headache to carry around two phones and it’s too expensive to maintain two different smartphones as well. 
I am not going to talk about the technical specs of the phone as everything can be easily accessed on Let me focus more on the usability and other key features.
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

How Do I Change the Name of My Facebook Fan Page? (After Reaching 200 Fans)

The name of your Facebook fan page cannot change once it reaches 200 fans (likes). This is what we all know about changing names of Facebook fan pages. However what if you genuinely want to change the name of your Facebook fan page due to various reasons, including but not limiting to things like a small typo in your page name, or change of business names?

There can be several such legitimate reasons why someone would want to change the name of their Facebook fan page. In my career I have faced this questions multiple times from my clients; ‘How to change the name of my Facebook fan page after it reaches 200 fans?’ or ‘can I change the name of my Facebook fan page?’ I used to say this is not possible, unless you get hold of someone at Facebook directly to do this.

However, lately Facebook has enabled a new option which allows page admins to change the name of their Facebook fan pages. Good news right? Now hear the bad news (read on, I have another good news after this). As of today (21st April 2015), this feature is only rolled out for page admins residing in USA, Canada and a very limited list of other countries. If you are a Facebook fan page admin based in Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan or any other Asian country you will not be able to access this facility through your admin panel.

Let’s get to the other good news. I managed to get the name of my blog’s Facebook fan page changed! As you already know, I’m based out of Colombo Sri Lanka but still I managed to get this done. Facebook fan page of my blog used to be “Amis Space – Marketing 2.0” but if you check the fan page now, you will see the page name is now changed to “Amitha Amarasinghe”.
How did I do this? How did I change the Facebook fan page name after reaching more than 200 fans (1,450 to be precise)?

There is a small workaround which I am happy to share with you, but I will only share the trick with those of you who are really interested knowing it. If you practically have a requirement to change the name of a Facebook fan page, all you have to do is dropping me a tweet on @Amisampath. If you are not on Twitter, the second method is to leave a comment or a wall post on my Facebook fan page. If all these two methods are not working for you, the last option (least preferred for me) is to dropping me an email to the address encoded in “Contact Me” tab on this blog. I’m very slow to respond emails, so first two options would probably work faster.

NOTE: I'm not going to charge you a service fee or anything for sharing this work around. You may find this same method elsewhere on the internet. My past experience is, once you share something like those too often on too many sites, 'someone' will introduce a fix for that workaround. That's the reason why I don't want this to be published publicly on my blog.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

How Credible is Brand Finance Lanka Ltd’s List of Sri Lankan Superbrands?

Recently I stumbled upon  this article on Daily FT containing a list of ‘Sri Lanka’s superbrands of the year’. The list was published by a company named Brand Finance Lanka Ltd., the local subsidiary of Brand Finance PLC who claims to be the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy.
On their website they say, the reports they publish are used for various business needs such as technical valuations for accounting, tax and legal purposes, valuations in support of commercial transactions (acquisitions, divestments, licensing and joint ventures) involving different forms of intellectual property and valuations as part of a wider mandate to deliver value-based marketing strategy and tracking, thereby bridging the gap between marketing and finance.

All are valid reasons why the corporate world should access and trust their reports. However, reading through the article on Daily FT I found this interesting list published by them with the title “Strongest Digital Marketing Brands in Sri Lanka”.

Managing Director of the company which published this report comments on the achievements of Kapruka and Dialog.
“Think Kapruka. And it requires a sustained and long term commitment to ensure it continues to generate value. Think Dialog. Taking the long view is key to building brands because of the time it takes to nurture and develop them.”
All this expert commentary is made about a list they composed using Facebook likes! I have no doubts Kapuka is a great local brand which made a massive progress as a dot com business. Dialog, we all can agree is one of the best case studies of how to build a strong brand. But is “Facebook Likes” the only factor Brand Finance Lanka Ltd could think of as proof to validate the success of Kapruka and Dialog?

To compile a list of ‘Strongest Digital Marketing Brands’ a research agency must use better credible criteria than Facebook fan count. Even a grade 10 schoolboy can put up a list like that using the free version of SocialBakers analytics. Is that the quality the corporate world can expect from a world renowned brand valuation consultancy?

Ok, assuming that Facebook like count is a strong enough criteria to put up a list like this, now let’s dig deeper into the fan count reported for few of the brands in top 5 brands published in Brand Finance Lanka’s list of ‘Strongest Digital Marketing Brands in Sri Lanka’.

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From what we can see on this SocialBakers analysis of Dilmah fan base, majority of their fans are from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia and Egypt. Dilmah being a global brand targeting multiple markets is reasonable to have more non-Sri Lankan fans on their global fan page. However, my little knowledge about Ceylon tea tells me the market for Ceylon tea is largely from countries like Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, UK and Australia. Maybe Dilmah’s international markets are different, and ironically their most popular markets seems to be the same list of countries which are famous for Facebook “Like Farms” as exposed on this YouTube video.

That’s about Dilmah and let’s now look at a comparatively a more local brand. I don’t think we have any ambiguity about Mobitel’s target markets.

Click to Enlarge

According to this analysis, looks like 28% of Mobitel’s fans are non-Sri Lankans, quite significant amount for a brand predominantly targeting Sri Lanka. If it was 10% we would have concluded it’s by accident, but 28% fans from countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India seems to be something which Mobitel did by choice.

About a year ago a blogger named ‘Veritasium’ published this video titled ‘Facebook Fraud’.

In this video (which was watched by over 3 million people since uploading) he explains how freelancers based in third world countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Philippines, Turkey, India and of course Sri Lanka are making money by selling fake likes to brands world over. Go to and you will find dozens of freelancers who would offer you 10,000 likes for anything you have on Facebook for an investment of just US$5.

Maybe the brands listed on Brand Finance Lanka Ltd.’s list have not purchased fake likes from these like farms. But there’s another side to it. They would have most probably targeted their legitimate Facebook ads campaigns to one or more of these geographies. When you set your Facebook ads goal to “more likes for my page” and let Facebook decide where to target your ads, the Facebook ads algorithm will automatically deliver your ads to the users who are most biased to click “Like” button on anything they see on Facebook (based on past behavior).  Unfortunately, the fake FB accounts from that third world like farms are doing only one job from morning to night; clicking on “like” buttons. Automatically, your FB ads campaigns now get targeted to the FB accounts created for like farms and they will click on your ad and like your page, just to make sure that there have “variety” in the things that they like (to fool the Facebook system, to show that they are not only liking content from certain FB pages only). In the end, your page will accumulate thousands of fake likes from these farms. If your aim is to achieve that one KPI of hitting X number of fans before your competitor does the same; yes this is an easy tactic to impress your CEO.

It’s obvious that the people who composed the list of ‘Strongest Digital Marketing Brands in Sri Lanka’ at Brand Finance Lanka Ltd, has no clue about this reality about Facebook likes. It’s ok to be ignorant about something but it’s not cool to assume rest of the country is ignorant about it too and that’s exactly what BFL did. They would have thought, nobody will suspect the credibility of our list and simply went ahead and published a report without proper substance.

Bigger issue here is something else. It’s clear Brand Finance Lanka did a low quality job in selecting the strongest digital marketing brands in Sri Lanka. Then, how can we believe their other lists? What if all their other lists too lacking a mix of credible criteria to evaluate the brand worth? What if those lists too are done in a hurry, by just looking at surface level criteria? Should the corporate world base their business decisions on such a substandard list of superbrands? Where is the credibility?

Thursday, April 16, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

What Turns a Situation into a Social Media Crisis?

We all can agree on the fact that Social Media is not like traditional media, but when it comes to sensitive conversations about a brand on Social Media we quickly tend to forget this truth. Moment you see someone talks negatively about a brand, the first question most managers ask is “can we do something to stop this guy?”

“Do something” is a very popular way of briefing agencies, especially in the field of Social Media Marketing. Just like a wife goes out of her mind when she sees a cockroach in the kitchen and shout at the husband “do something!”, the client goes all crazy when they see these negative (sarcastic) posts appearing on social media, and shout at the agency “do something!”. I’ve seen on many occasions, this lack of patience to understand a situation before responding, turns harmless situations into fearful crisis’ for a brand.
Friday, April 10, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Festival of Media Asia Pacific 2015 - Post Event Thoughts

Google Singapore managing director Joanna Flint (center)
 taking a group selfie with her selfie stick. 
I am back in Sri Lanka after attending the Festival of Media Asia conference which happened in Singapore last week. I’m sure some of you would have followed me on Twitter for all the live updates and pictures from the event.

I wanted to do daily sum-up posts here but it was too tempting for me to get some time off after the conference to go and explore the Lion City :-). I had to make maximum out of my time in Singapore, so I didn’t want to be stuck in a hotel room and update my blog after the conference is over.
All in all, it was two days with highly concentrated high quality content on latest trends in media and communication. Selection of speakers for the event was excellent, and timing of sessions, the order of activities was organized in such a way that participants would never be bored by being there for two days.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe
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Official website of Festival of #FOMA15 announced today that Twitter has teamed up with the Festival of Media Asia Pacific, Power98FM and Starcom MediaVest Group to launch #YPL (Young Promising Leaders Program), a competition where five internships are up for grabs at Twitter.

The #YPL program promotes the mission of supporting young talent deserving of developmental opportunities with a view of spotting, nurturing and training the next generation of leaders in Singapore. Candidates are invited to enter the first stage of the competition by submitting a pitch via a Tweet (text, photo, video) on why they should be selected, along with three Vines of supporting endorsements.

 Finalists will be invited to make presentations at the Festival of Media Asia Pacific conference, where the public will be asked to vote and tweet for their favourite candidates. The five winners will be announced at the Festival's awards gala dinner ceremony on the evening of Tuesday 24 March 2015 at the Capella Singapore Hotel.

 Check out the details of #YPL program on FOMA website here.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Understanding ICC’s Brand and Content Protection Guidelines for Marketers

With the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup coming closer to its business end, we see more and more local and international brands getting aggressively involved in Cricket World Cup related marketing promotions campaigns. Even in Sri Lanka, we see a lot of radio and TV stations, super market chains, Telco companies and many more companies doing various marketing activities in parallel to the ICC Cricket World Cup.

However, most of these marketing campaigns are done in a manner they violate the stipulated rules and regulations by the ICC to protect ICC’s own intellectual property rights (IPR) and the best interest of the ICC commercial partners.

Oh wait…Are there regulations like that? I suppose, some of you may ask. Yes, it’s true most marketers in Sri Lanka do not know that there are such regulations governing a brand’s ability or inability to run a CWC associated promotion and from the ones who are aware of that fact, a vast majority is simply ignoring the rules thinking that the ICC is not enforcing those regulations in Sri Lanka.

I am not a lawyer, so please don’t take any of the opinions and recommendations mentioned below as legal advice. If you are a marketer who is concerned about the implication of these ICC regulations, please consult your company’s designated legal partners to get the best interpretation of ICC regulations.

Let’s start with what are these guidelines and where are these rules published. You can download the full ICC branding and promotions guidelines for CWC 2015 on this link.

This document clearly defines what are the protected IPRs of ICC and clearly explain why the interests of ICC commercial partners are protected in these guidelines. All the ICC commercial partners pay a huge sum of sponsorship fee to ICC for the conducting of ICC Cricket World Cup. After investing that amount of money for this gala event, is it fair for ICC to turn a blind eye on the competitors of these commercial partners getting mileage out of Cricket World Cup? Definitely not. That’s why, ICC is putting this much emphasis on the rights of the commercial partners.

For example, after investing a huge sum of money to become the official beverage partner of ICC World Cup, Pepsi would never want to see Coca-Cola running an under the crown promotion to give away World Cup match tickets (a simple example). By now I guess you realized it well; this is why the Sri Lanka cricket team is not wearing their official sponsor’s logo on their world cup jersey. Because, Reliance India is the official telecommunications partner for Cricket World Cup so for their best interest ICC has ruled out the possibility of any other telco brand to have space on player jerseys for this world cup. Yes, Dialog may be the official sponsor for Sri Lanka cricket team but ICC is bigger than SLC. In that scenario, Dialog is considered a competitor of a commercial partner of ICC for this world cup and hence being deprived of taking any advantage of their national team sponsorship during the World Cup matches.

 Now, does this mean none of the ICC commercial partners can do any marketing communications with related to the World Cup? No, it’s not the case. As you may realize, all these things are governed by a “law” and as always every law has a flaw in it.

There’s so much that ICC can do to protect their commercial partners. Beyond that, the competition can take control. For example, according to the television broadcasting rights agreements, every channel who gets the license to broadcast CWC matches in each country are supposed to offer their sponsorship deals exclusively to the ICC commercial partners in the first round of offering (no bidding allowed). If any of the ICC commercial partners are not buying the advertising properties on the TV channel, then the channel can put it openly on sale for any interested advertiser. This is how Channel Eye studio discussion advertising property ended up in the hands of Mobitel. Now, Mobitel being (technically) a competitor of Reliance, can still use a CWC property to advertise their brand (which is perfectly legal). Problem arises, if Mobitel (for example) start running promotions during this broadcast directly linking to the CWC matches. For example, asking questions like “what would be the first innings score of today’s Pakistan Vs UAE match?” and then selecting a winner would be a violation of ICC promotions and brand regulations (refer the doc).

Now, there are lawful ways of brands sneaks through these promotions guidelines.

In reality, Reliance, LG, Pepsi, MRF, Emirates, Reebok, Castrol, Moneygram, Hyundai, ESPN Star, and SAP are the only commercial partners ICC has who can have a commercial association with the ICC World Cup.

Any competitor of those brands attempting to create a commercial association (running promotions directly linked to CWC matches, offering tickets to the final etc) with World Cup is both unlawful and unethical.

HOWEVER, anyone (including brands - who are legally "persons") can use their Social Media profiles to "report", "discuss" and "engage" about matches which takes place in the CWC with an intention of "information sharing" (no commercial/trade association).

For example, when Mahela Jayawardene scores a century, Samsung or CEAT Facebook pages may put a status congratulating his achievement, but LG or MRF can't make a lawsuit out of it for violating ICC regulations. Technically, a tweet is not an advertisement, so mentioning “Congratulations Mahela for that wonderful century against Afghanistan” on Samsung Twitter account is not at all creating a commercial association between the Cricket World Cup and brand Samsung.

You can run promotions for your brand during the World Cup season, using only the word “Cricket” (and not World Cup) or the other way around (World Cup, but no mentioning about Cricket). You can run “Cricket Quizzes” and give away non-CWC15 related gifts during the World Cup season, which is perfectly a legal way of riding on the cricket wave. Or, you can run “World Cup” related raffle draw and give away non-CWC related gifts. Because, ICC’s IPR protects only “Cricket World Cup”, as FIFA, IRB and many other sports bodies maybe sharing the term ‘World Cup’ so nobody can claim exclusive rights for that.

OK, those were my interpretations and as I mentioned before, take this advices at your own risk or consult your lawyer :-) I am not responsible for you getting sued by ICC for trying out any of these suggested options.

For better clarity, read the full document published by the ICC. For simplicity, let me quote two of the most relevant paragraphs from that document to end this blog post.

What uses are unlawful without a licence from the ICC?The unlicensed and unauthorised use of any of the ICC CWC Names, ICC CWC Marks (or any other marks or logos that are confusingly similar to, or likely to be mistaken for, them) or ICC CWC Footage is strictly prohibited. For example, without a licence from the ICC, it is unlawful to
(i) use the ICC CWC Names and ICC CWC Marks in a manner likely to cause confusion among P a g e | 6 members of the public as to the existence of a commercial association with the ICC CWC 2015, or
(ii) reproduce or distribute items using ICC CWC 2015 IPR in the course of trade. The ICC CWC Names and ICC CWC Marks cannot be used on goods, in business names or in advertising or promotions without a licence from the ICC or one of its authorised licensees that, in turn, has the rights to grant sub-licenses.

It is also unlawful, through the use of ICC CWC 2015 IPR, to falsely represent or imply any association, affiliation, endorsement, sponsorship or similar relationship with the ICC CWC 2015. It is important to note that a formal or pre-existing association with any of the participating national teams, players or the tournament venues does not permit a team partner, team sponsor, player sponsor or venue sponsor any right to use the ICC CWC 2015 IPR (other than the specific rights such team is authorised by the ICC to licence) without the prior authorisation of the ICC.

When can the ICC CWC 2015 IPR be used?
The ICC CWC 2015 IPR can be used with the licence and authorisation of the ICC or its authorised licensees that have been expressly granted the rights to grant sub-licenses. Such licence and authorisation will only be given to official ICC CWC 2015 sponsors, partners, licensees and noncommercial partners. There are very few situations in which the ICC CWC 2015 IPR can be used without the ICC’s explicit licence and consent.

The ICC CWC Names, ICC CWC Marks and, to a limited extent and subject to the ICC CWC 2015 Media Accreditation Terms and Conditions and news access guidelines (and all relevant copyright laws), the ICC CWC Footage, may be used for news reporting purposes in noncommercial editorial-only pieces without the ICC’s prior authorisation. In certain circumstances when reporting and providing information on the ICC and/or the ICC CWC 2015, journalists are able to use the ICC CWC Names and ICC CWC Marks to illustrate their editorial-only feature subject to full compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Such use of ICC CWC 2015 IPR must be in compliance with these Guidelines. The ICC’s intention is not to restrict people from interacting with the ICC CWC 2015 or providing or sharing information on the ICC CWC 2015, but, when they do so, the ICC’s legal rights must be recognised, respected and fully adhered to.

Mentioning on certain brand names on this post was solely for the purpose explaining the concepts, but in no way I intend to mean those brands are violating the ICC brand and content protection guidelines.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Full Agenda Announced for Festival of Media Asia Pacific

Finally, it’s confirmed. I will be travelling to Singapore for the Festival of Media Asia-Pacific which will take place from 22nd to 24th March 2015 at Capella Singapore, Singapore.

They have announced the finalized agenda for the conference and there are some exciting topics lined up throughout the two day conference.

I’m particularly looking forward for some sessions, covering the emerging techniques in digital media.

TV and programmatic is the topic for Chris Dobson, Executive Chairman of The Exchange Lab which is scheduled for the day 1 of the conference itself. “Traditional media has become digitised; cinema distributors have moved to digital formats, outdoor has invested in digital billboards. TV is the last of the traditional media sectors to move into programmatic. These 'next generation' advertising solutions all have one thing in common, technology. It's the connective tissue between content and the consumer, brands and advertising.” That’s an impressive synopsis of the session Chris is planning deliver at FOMA15.

On day 2, there is another interesting topic lined up “Working offline for the masses”, a session by Deepak Ravindran, Co-founder & CEO of Innoz. This session discuss a topic very much relevant for the Sri Lankan market. How do brands reach millions of consumers that own mobile phones, but not smart phones? How can you create effective campaigns that resonate and generate brand engagement for the offline mobile user? It’s going to be very interesting to find answers for these questions before us.

These are some of the topics I found very interesting among much more valuable sessions lined up. It’s only four weeks more for the conference, and you still have chance to reserve a place for you.
Drop me an email (contact me) if you are planning to take part on this conference, we can catch up during one of these networking sessions :-)
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Social Media Bootcamp Colombo – Saturday 4th April

Please note the change of date. Workshop is postponed to 4th April 2015

I am conducting the first Social Media Bootcamp for the year 2015, on 4th April 2015 at the Grand Oriental Hotel Colombo. This is the 2nd public workshop I’m conducting after I returned to the business of Social Media training :-)

For those of you who are new to this blog, I conducted my first Social Media workshop in 2009, and then I conducted several successful workshops with eBusiness Academy in 2010 and 2011. Busy work scheduled kept me away from the social media training scene for a while, until I joined Suranga and Rohan for the Digital Marketing Bootcamp in December 2014.

This time, the one day workshop will focus only on Social Media. I will be covering topics like ‘developing a social media strategy, social listening and monitoring, social media crisis management, calculating the ROI of social media, optimizing Facebook newsfeed visibility, and advertising on Facebook.

If you are interested in participating, contact EPITOM Consulting on 071-3195614 or 011-5920258 for inquiries. 
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

I Want to Target Top CEO’s and Business Leaders in Sri Lanka. What’s the Best Email List?

Well, this was a question asked from me just today, by a colleague working for another Ogilvy discipline in Sri Lanka :-). Of course this wasn’t a question she had; she just passed this question to me when a client of her pointed the question at her.

I did answered her question, explaining why I cannot recommend such a silver bullet email list solution to target all the top business executives, CEO’s, CFO’s and CMO’s in Sri Lanka. I’m not going to re-post my answer here but the point of this blog post will be about this primitive thinking behind most marketers about targeting their audiences.

 Email Marketing Myth in Sri Lanka 
For most marketers in Colombo, eMarketing or digital marketing still means sending out an email blast to a list of addresses. While email marketing can be a real effective way of communication, the way it is abused in Sri Lanka by some of these ‘email list marketers’ is pathetic. They come up with a list of 100,000 or 200,000 email addresses (they say, but nobody have seen the list) and sell it to these unsuspecting customers at Rs.2,500/- or Rs.3,000/- a blast who believes once an EDM is sent to one of these lists, it will actually receive those 200,000 addresses.

When we start working with many new clients, they automatically want us to have these EDM shoots in their emarketing mix. We explain them the ineffectiveness of these shoots, but rarely people understand and tell us “It’s just Rs.3,000; why don’t we give it a try”. Like that, they spend Rs.3,000 into 4 to 5 shoots with 3 different list owners which makes their monthly budget on these list shoots about Rs.45,000/-. Still cheaper than what you will spend to buy a 20 seconds spot on TV, right?

But have you really measured the effectiveness of these campaigns? In the past we have asked for click through reports and open rate reports from these email list marketers for some of the campaigns they did for our clients. They never support their campaign performance with such trustworthy reports. Then we used Google Analytics UTM tags to track clicks coming from these EDM’s to our clients’ websites. After doing this with multiple list suppliers for multiple campaigns we realized a shocking fact. An average EDM shoot which cost you only Rs.3,000/- only attracts 17 clicks in average to your website.

 We once showed this analysis to a client who used to do email shoots for so many years without measuring the effectiveness. The marketing team suddenly realizes the point we have been trying to make, and immediately decided to discontinue this ineffective tool. But yet, in most of the companies the marketers still trust email databases as an effective way of doing online marketing. They don’t understand the fact that these are unsolicited, non-opt in, spam email addresses they are dumping EDMs. It not only damages the image of whichever the brand uses this method of communication, but also shows how primitive your company’s digital strategy is.

If your brand is backed with a proper digital strategy, and if your digital presence is managed by properly qualified people, you will not ask questions like “what’s the best email list I can use to send EDM’s to CEO’s and CMO’s in Sri Lanka?”. Instead you will ask better questions like “how can I target CEO’s and CMO’s in Sri Lanka more effectively?”.

For questions like that, a good digital marketing consultant will have many options as answers. Even with repeated explanations about ineffectiveness of EDM list marketing method, some of our clients still brief us to use this technique.

I have realized they want us to do these EDM shoots foe one or more of the below reasons.

1. It honestly works for them in one way or another. Good for them!

2. “I don’t trust the agency advice. I know my digital strategy” attitude

3. My boss checks promotional emails. If he doesn’t see our EDMs in his inbox (spam box) he blames us not doing “digital” right.

4. This EDM list marketing company is owned by a very good friend of mine

Finally, to end this post let me say one thing. We live in an era where pin-point targeting is a reality with various precision targeting methods made available by advanced digital advertising tools. Sending EDMs to a list of unsolicited email addresses is not a digital strategy. There are no such email databases which will guarantee you reaching top CEO’s and CMO’s in Sri Lanka. If you want to do proper email marketing, spend some decent budgets, subscribe for some decent tools, pay for a decent agency/consultant, and do it the right way. There are no short-cut solutions to implement a proper digital strategy.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

How In-Market Audiences on Google Adwords Can Improve Your Marketing Budget ROI

In-market audiences and affinity targeting on Google display network are two great tools you can use to reach your precise audience through better targeting.

In-market audience targeting was available for Google Adwords users for quite a some time but many people did not harness the maximum potential of this option due to lack of understanding on how in-market audiences work.

Let’s take a quick look at how Google’s in-market audiences feature works. A prospect in an in-market audience for you is someone who is currently actively search/interacts, researching or comparing the exact types of products or services you sell. Using in-market audience targeting you can reach to your potential customers at the right time, when he or she is researching about products or services that you are selling.

This is somewhat different from affinity targeting. Affinity audiences consist of people with a strong history of interacting with certain types of content/products on the internet. As against to this, in-market audiences focus on people who are currently interested in the types of products you are selling.

Let’s take an example. Imagine I spend two to three weeks researching about professional cameras, reading reviews, comparing products and clicking on ads for cameras. Over this three week’s period my behavior will create a huge affinity towards cameras and photography and I will be added to the affinity category “shutterbugs” by Google. Now, think you are Nikon and want to target your latest camera at me, through affinity targeting. Eventually you will target me based on three weeks old data, by which time I have already purchased my Cannon camera. Being the marketer for Nikon, you have spent your ad money on targeting a person who already converted to Cannon.

Compared to this, if you use in-market audience targeting you will reach with your messages to the people who are currently having a purchase intention for buying a camera. This method will help you to further fine tune your targeting and hence increasing your media budget ROI.

Here’s a small video clip from Google team, explaining In-Market Audiences in plain English.

If you are Sri Lankan and have no clue about what I’m talking about; affinity targeting and in-market targeting are the latest additions to Google Display Network’s targeting efficiency. Google Display Network already was a thousand times efficient method of reaching the right audience at the right time compared to a typical TV advertising schedule for your brand, and now with affinity targeting and in-market audiences, the efficiency has been further fine-tuned.

And yes, these are already available for anyone who wants to try this in Sri Lanka J
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

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