Beyond the screen, our mobile devices are reflections of ourselves. They are mirrors for who we are, what we care about, how we spend our time, who we want to be. These vivid reflections are based on the apps we download to the information we tap in and choose to share, serving as statements of our personalities that we carry around with us in our pockets.
Couple this with the fact that we interact with our handsets up to 80 times per day -- in concert with the “mirror” theory, this may be a statement of our growing vanity -- and it’s easy to see how advertisers are clamouring for our attention via m-commerce. We are addicted to our handsets, and brands are obsessed with getting their heads around how they can monetise our mobile behavior as a channel. As we’ve found from our own research, more than half of American adults now own a smartphone and one in four also owns a tablet. Consumers are using them in unexpected ways, revealing unique roles that mobile devices play in each of our lives.
The reason we’re so addicted to our mobile phones lies in the fact that they have become, essentially, social vehicles for us. They help us to plan, to share, to connect and to purchase. We use them to research, recommend and redeem product. They tell us where we are in the world and where we need to be next. They’ve become digital life coaches.
While many conversations about mobile marketing focus on the individual needs of brands and customers, it is often appropriate to consider the commonalities within mobile -- those behaviours that we all share -- rather than too-specific or fringe experiences that pertain to the few. Mobile is a social medium, certainly, but even more so, it’s also just another screen in the broadening digital story. One of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is to rely exclusively on mobile statistics when planning its untethered strategy, particularly when common sense can outweigh the data alone.
Yes, it’s partly about number crunching over which apps 18-24 year-olds are downloading and which sites they are visiting, but it’s also about listening to what they’re saying – not only what’s creating a buzz, but also what you believe may actually resonate with them through your own circles of trust and exposure. In a pinch, here’s a rule of (mobile) thumb: if you would do it, if you know five other people who would do it, figure there may be a consumer pattern worth contemplating. Conversely, if you know the buzzword but no one else does, while it could be a first-to-market gem, it could also be a flash-in-the-pan that hasn’t yet found its cauldron.
For advertisers and marketers, the trick is to work out how to assess the human-like roles our phones are playing and learn to monetise them, but in a non-invasive way. This isn’t an easy task. As our devices rapidly transform into mobile wallets, ask yourself if consumers really want brands popping up left, right and centre? A measure of engagement, of opt-in, of invitation should be applied. As an example, there is still a debate raging over whether geo-location services are the panacea for targeted advertising, and in turn, if they can be counted upon at scale. If an ad offering a discount at the coffee shop around the corner pops up, is it making life easier for the consumer, or is it going to irritate them? At worst, there is the potential for the conflation of services like Groupon, Living Social and the lot to cloud up inboxes, notification centres and pixels on screen. At best, savvy consumers will opt in to savvy opportunities nearby as long as these deals are properly paced (and placed). Time will tell.
Ultimately, we are at a stage when advertisers are trying to find ways to reach the two most intimate objects that we have in our possession – our mobiles and our purses. It is going to have to be done with intention, deliberation and of course, with respect... and respect for all involved: the publisher (whether app or m-site) where the ad is served, the brand marketer paying for the placement, and the consumer’s attention, patience and stamina for the barrage of potential directions the device can lead.
That mobile interfaces are becoming more intuitive by the second – to the point where they understand where we are and what we need at a particular moment (a la Google Now) – helps tremendously. While mobiles and tablets deliver limitless content possibilities, they also serve as ‘de-stressers’ – we can stay connected with the office without being chained to our desks, and when we are, we can use our devices to stay connected with friends and family. For brands the trick will be to tap into this intuitive mindset and create mobile experiences that enhance, rather than interrupt the daily life cycle.
As technical a channel as mobile is, advertisers should never lose sight of the fact that it is also one of the most personal ones. “Mobile” is as complex as it is because it is a direct reflection of who we are... and personalities and interpersonal relationships are inherently complex, are they not? Perhaps, then, mobile marketing should be approached as a social science. And “social” softens the science and technology here, which brings art into the equation as well. As stated earlier, if mobile is just another screen in the larger digital story, it might be best to also treat it just as we would those other canvases. And if that metaphor resonates with you, I suggest you fill that canvas with a point of view.
Television may not translate to desktop, and desktop may not translate to tablet or mobile, but one thing is clear: all of these screens are digital and one meaning of the word digital is “of or relating to touch.” So, give consumers something to touch, something they can explore, consider, form an opinion over, and ideally, an appetite around. The brands that can grasp this concept will be the ones to deliver the deepest messaging and receive the greatest reward.
By Doug Grinspan, vice-president of strategic partnerships, Say Media