Going digital

As the technological explosion in communications continues so, in tandem, do the associated challenges, particularly in relation to fraud. Bonin Bough gave an entertaining presentation on the subject at this year’s Global Compliance Solutions conference. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull was in attendance and reports.

The worrying trend developing among the tremendous onslaught of technological advancement in communications is the lack of regulatory oversight in terms of usage, said B. Bonin Bough, Global Director of Digital and Social Media, at PepsiCo at the fifth annual Global Compliance Conference, held at the Marriott in October.
 
To that end, Bough said it was up to experts such as himself to work with companies, from the CEO to the legal team to the risk management department, on marketing their brand using the new digital landscape.
 
Since joining PepsiCo in 2008 it has been Bough’s job to get PepsiCo on the social media map and into the hearts and minds of online brand influencers. He has achieved this by tapping into online community building, social media, social video, and digital marketing, and as such, he has been instrumental in integrating social media and the so-called “online conversation” into PepsiCo’s overall brand vision, engaging online consumers, and tracking behaviour and trends that the brand can leverage successfully.
 
“IT changes the world,” he confirmed, “so welcome to the revolution!”

Email is old hat
Generations Y and Z now believe that email is passé, according to Bough, and the proof of this incredible appetite for new means of communication is in the number of You Tube videos currently (at the time of writing at least) numbering around 100,000,000.
 
It is important to recognise that this explosion in media is not demographic specific, according to Bough, and to highlight this he said that research had revealed the surprising statistic that the biggest new group of Facebook users is the 55 to 65 year old female.
 
Bough also demonstrated the speed at which new communication mediums are being sought and said that one of Business Week magazine’s 2005 covers said that ‘Blogs will change your business’. In 2008 a front cover said ‘Beyond blogs’.
 
The landscape where we receive news has changed dramatically and therefore this has profound implications on how we operate as a society, according to Bough.
 
“Just as the invention of the clock changed how we conducted our lives, giving us specific times as to when we eat, etc, so the invention of social media such as Twitter has also changed our behaviour,” he said.
 
Bough continued: “Technical evolution will be less about how we manage to adapt to it physically, and more about how we manage and adapt to the sheer amount of knowledge we have created.”
 
This speed of movement has opened doors for criminals from the sheer size of the network available at their fingertips, Bough explained. The anonymity of this technology aids them as does the speed of communication.
 
“It gives criminals the opportunity to take advantage while staying connected. Technology increases vulnerability, especially when it comes to credit card fraud,” Bough said.

The meaning of money
Bough cited the example of the band Radiohead launching a recent album on the search engine Google, whereby they encouraged fans to pay what they considered the album was worth, rather than a fixed price.
 
“Millions of copies were sold and the band raised more money for this album than any other,” he said.
 
However, with this boom in commerce via the internet so the chance of fraud increases.
 
Bough said that iPhone usage, via which many small micro payments taking place, was a breeding ground for fraud.
 
“It doesn’t take much for these small payments to be captured by fraudsters, soon amounting to a small fortune,” he explained. “But because they are such small amounts, who will notice?”
In response to the dramatic increase in electronic payments for online purchases, Bough said that companies such as Visa have broadened their scope much further than the traditional credit card business to include PayPal services which allow for easy online payments to take place, all pointing to the need for far greater oversight by regulatory bodies, Bough suggested.

Era of the advocate
“Word-of-mouth is by far the strongest form of advertising,” Bough said. The internet allows consumers to see word-of-mouth actually taking place and can promote its spread much further and more rapidly than conventional communication methods, he added.
 
Bough cited the ‘Fiesta movement’ as one such example whereby the Ford Motor Company gave 100 of their newest Fiestas to individuals and asked them to blog their experience driving the new model.
 
“People talking with such passion about the newly launched model was the best advocate for the company,” Bough stated.
 
Conversely, he also warned that consumers can also drive a negative response to a brand, just as quickly as a positive one and thus having a tool to monitor such responses is crucial for an organisation, particularly for stopping a possible flow of negative comments turning into a tidal wave and thus irrevocably harming the brand.

A trusted source?
Traditional advertising, according to Bough, is the least trusted source for information, with many more gleaning information from the internet.
 
“Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia originally created and updated by users themselves, is now one of the most trusted sources of information. Indeed the internet has become a tool for opinions to be shared and trusted, whether those opinions are positive or negative,” Bough said.
 
He noted the statistic that when individuals search for information on the top 20 largest brands they just as likely as not use Google search results found from blogs, videos and product reviews. Unfortunately, this increasing reliance on the internet for real information is allowing fraudsters to create fake testimonials on products which can result in defrauding consumers.
 
“An entire generation has grown up ‘digital’,” he said. “We need to be careful that this does not pose a security risk. It’s unregulated and most organisations lack the knowledge to accurately track conversations. The network nature of how we communicate means the scale of possible fraud is huge.”
 
Bough then gave the audience a peek into his world, explaining his aim for the immediate future was to transform one of his company’s products, Gatorade, into a more reachable brand, and the basis on which he would reach that goal.
 
“Our mission control will be the adrenaline that transforms Gatorade’s engagement into a spectator sport of its own,” he said. “You have to decide what your mission control really is. How do you track conversations to find out how they are affecting business?”
 
Individuals need to appreciate the scale of social media such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and so on and learn how to manage networks, content creation.
 
“Twitter, for example, is a way of connecting with each other, to be a part of each other’s lives,” he explained. “It’s all about seeing life in between emails and phone calls. You have to choose your platform and engage.”

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