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June 14, 2013
The Mobile Media Industry: Surrendering Control
 
Mobility will turn us into direct, relationship, and database marketers.

That’s the cornerstone message from two new studies — Forrester’s “2013 Mobile Trends for Marketers” and Urbanairship’s “Connect with the Connected.” The keys to successfully making this transformation will be surrendering control to consumers while continuously creating relevant and resonant content.

Let’s start with a few key facts. 

Mobile is here. By the end of the year, half of all Americans will have smartphones. Most brands and marketers know this but haven’t put either strategy or infrastructure in place. Mobility changes almost everything. 

Smartphones have replaced PCs, watches, Rolodexes, maps, cameras, game devices, remote controls, landlines, books, boarding passes, coupons, and loyalty cards. And they are closing in on wallets. People spend as much time with their phones as they do with TV. 

Smartphones are an appendage for younger consumers. They are their phones, which are very personal, heavily customized, and in constant use. Don’t be surprised if Levi’s or Lees creates jeans with a special quick-draw phone pocket, which also prevents inadvertent butt dialing. 

Apps are “hit” driven. There are millions of them. They rise into and fall out of fashion as quickly as the Top 40. The average person has 40 on their phone but only really uses 8–10. Getting onto a consumer’s phone is tough. Staying on is even tougher. A successful app must either provide instant utility or repeatable entertainment. 

Open beats closed systems. Android is ascendant and will continue to be because it’s becoming ubiquitous. Apple may have a few tricks up its sleeve, but bet on Android, and many variations of Android, across devices and geographies to ultimately dominate. 
Soon apps and native phone technologies will work together and talk to each other. Think about how interoperability might impact your business. 

For example, the accelerometer notices you are walking funny and double checks with the pedometer. The GPS pipes up and says you’re off course on your way home. The med app then quickly checks your heart rate and blood pressure, and then signals the Walgreens app to reorder your meds. 

Context Matters. Where you are (location) and what you’re doing (attention) determine your mood and your openness to brands. “Your customer is not the same person when they wake up as when they are working mid-day — each persona has different needs and desires.” 

Americans are putting computers in their pockets and expecting them to work and add value on demand. Brands have to ask themselves, “Are you interrupting them or making life a little better?” To the extent that consumers use your app, you have an always-on virtual private network (VPN) connection to them. You have to respect this, insure privacy, and use it sparingly. 
There is great opportunity for first movers to claim mind and heart space and an equal opportunity to frustrate, annoy, and alienate. When you’re in, you’re in till you blow it. When you’re out, you’re out for good. 

The implications of these facts are staggering and challenging, especially for brands used to dominating their category, setting the product or sales agenda, or deciding the communications cadence to their customers. 

In order to harness mobility, brands must master these five moves.

Think Differently. Forrester put it this way. “In 2013, the ultra-connected consumer base will continue to grow at a staggering pace, destabilizing marketing as you’ve come to know it. These customers demand personalized, relevant attention, designed around their needs and wants rather than around your marketing channels. If you don’t change the way you think about engaging these customers, you will quickly lose relevance.”

Surrender Control. Interested and loyal customers prefer to drive the relationship. Enable them to set preferences for all aspects of their interactions with the brand. Let them tell you how often they want to hear from you, what channels they prefer, and which products or services they care about most. Ask permission to use location, purchase history, and other data to customize their experiences. 

The guys at Urbanairship point out the marketing paradox. “When customers have the control to customize and limit a brand’s messages, they become more engaged. Less is more. Brands that focus on relevance over reach and value over frequency build enduring relationships and outpace the competition.”  

Target Context. Think about lifestyles, life stages, time of day, and the customer journey with a UX and a service-oriented mindset. Smartphones and tablets are used to do distinct tasks — check an account, make a payment, find directions, grab a coupon, research a restaurant, compare prices, look up a word or a trivia fact, or check product specifications. Figure out what your best customers do and when and where they do it, then map your brand to their lives. 

Most of us are creatures of habit. We have predictable likes and dislikes and identifiable routines and patterns that can cue marketers about what we want. Where can you make things easier, simpler, faster, cheaper, or more fun? Then craft content and messaging to deliver them at these critical inflection points. 
Marketers need to collect, aggregate, and process data to enable your brand to push relevant messages at relevant times or locations to your customers. Well-designed “push” messages deliver increased app usage and brand preference over time. 

Don’t Sell. Smartphones and tablets are personalized tools. Overt selling, especially offers without opt-ins, are strictly verboten. Brands can deepen the relationship by providing utility, value, and content, which, if done right, pre-sells products and services and engenders significantly more awareness, consideration, and preference than traditional advertising. 
This requires nerves of steel and a bit of faith, especially if you’re on the hook for increased revenue or margins. But we are seeing the limits of and a backlash to SMS ads, in-app ads, and social ads today. 

Selling is not so much about buying a product or service. It’s about buying into the gestalt, ecosystem, values, and personality of a brand. These intangibles are best nurtured with personalized, relevant, and useful content as much as deals, offers, and coupons. There’s no happier customer than one who gets a pointed, personal message from a brand they love, at the time and through the channel they’ve chosen, with an offer about something they want. 

Make it Easy. People get frustrated with technology in a nanosecond. Invest in user experience and responsive design. Make sure that your brand assets render and display properly on all devices and that accessing your content, offers, and products is easy, intuitive, and quick. People on the move have ridiculously high expectations for instant gratification. When you meet them, you gain a special, but fleeting, moment of love. If you frustrate them, you are over and out. 

Making it easy also will require substantial investments in database software, CRM tools, and other IT resources that can interact with consumers in real time and in the moment. IT and marketing must be joined and aligned at the hip. Increasingly brands will be judged by their ability to deliver what an individual wants on demand. Given where most of us are today, it’s a tall order.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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