Chapter 10 - The New Laws of Mobile Marketing

The author reiterates some key points: mobile is growing, the technology continues to improve and it seems to be a matter of time before smartphones are ubiquitous. However, the methods of marketing to customers cannot simply be moved from old channels to mobile, because mobile is different: messages must be very short and highly relevant to get the attention of the mobile user. This is because of the way in which mobile is used, not the technology, and as such it is unlikely to change.

The digital channels are also changing the approach to marketing from inside-out to outside-in, as the individual user demands to be in control of his experience and does not welcome uninvited intrusion into his daily life. This is a very difficult shift for many brands, and most of them that are dabbling in mobile have clearly missed the point: it is not about stimulating a demand, but satisfying an existing appetite.

The real power of mobile is different to broadcast advertising channels: it must be personal and immediately relevant to the user, where he is at the moment, if it is to be at all successful.

Mobile Innovation

There's some general speculation about the way in which mobile will continue to grow and evolve. Then, the customer focuses on two areas:

Mainly, mobile payment systems are likely to evolve in the near term. Customers and retailers are both clamoring for it, but what is lacking thus far is a feasible solution that can be readily implemented on sufficient scale, as exists for credit card payment processing. The solution must not merely allow the user to show his device as a payment method at the cash register, but to send payment authorization through alternative means (such as SMS message) or to provide payment information to multiple devices (to pay by phone at a vending machine, or with a set-top receiver for pay-per-view entertainment).

A secondary thought is that mobile seems like an ideal platform for impulse buying. Mobile is an instantaneous channel, in which customers expect their demands to be filled in seconds, making it an ideal message for the gratification of impulses. Supermarket retailers have become especially good at identifying the items that a customer might purchase on a whim at the register - with scrutiny it should be possible to identify those items a customer might purchase on a whim using mobile.

Mobile Intelligence

Another aspect of mobile the author finds compelling is the ability to reach the customer at the exact time and location in which they are primed to take action: if you can observe patterns of behavior, it should be possible to predict with a fair degree of accuracy when a customer is about to do something specific.

The present problem is that most companies simply do not pay attention to their customers well enough to interpret their behavior: their attention is focused on the moment of the sale and anything that happens before or after is of little to no interest.

One example that is presently used is a snack food manufacturer that offers a contest on single-serve products that are sold in convenience stores and other locations in which the customer is likely to consume the product immediately rather than store it for later consumption. The company gathered valuable intelligence from the promotional campaign, and as an added bonus they found that many would visit their mobile website each time a text was sent.

Experimentation and observation is critical - a mobile campaign is not likely to be successful unless a firm has some experience in the channel and becomes familiar with users and their habits - so prior to making a sizable initiative, it is highly advisable to invest in research and test campaigns that are not likely to be profitable, but which will provide insight for future ones that will.

Mobile Verb Branding

In consumer product marketing, a strong sign of success is for a company to own a noun: customers demand a Band-Aid rather than an adhesive bandage, a Xerox rather than a photocopy, a Kleenex rather than a facial tissue, and so on.

In mobile, he suggests it is more powerful to own a verb. You want customers to "Google" rather than search, to "Facebook" someone rather than connect with them on social media, to "Amazon" a book rather than buy it online. (EN: My sense is that this is for services marketing, and it is already commonly in use - e.g., you "FedEx" a package rather than shipping it overnight.)

(EN: The author doesn't have much advice to offer in this regard, but is simply marveling at a linguistic phenomenon and speculating that it is valuable to a brand - which is already common knowledge.)

It's Not About Technology, It's About the Value

Perhaps the most important point the author wishes to impress upon his readers in closing is that the mobile revolution is not about technology for the sake of technology, but about technology as a means to obtain value. The difference between fads and revolutions is that a revolution effects a permanent change rather than a temporary distraction. Some may be drawn by the glamour of something new and different, but their interest is short-lived unless it offers sustained value.

The social aspect of mobile amplifies the success or failure of any effort. When people hear about their friends and acquaintances getting value out of a mobile experience (such as a special discount for subscribing to a brand's mobile service), they will be drawn, and then their friends, and so on. But when people hear about friends and acquaintances being disappointed by a mobile experience, that gets passed along as well.

Firms are also encouraged to be aggressive in getting into mobile - as with the Internet, it is a medium in which those who move early take command of the channel and latecomers have a difficult time catching up. Brands such as Amazon and Netflix took command of the Internet, and by the time the more familiar brick-and-mortar brands joined the party, it was too late. Arguably, latecomers aren't shut out entirely - but it becomes difficult for them to offer something better to wean people away from the services they are already using.

The fact that most companies are making token efforts in the mobile space and not doing very well in terms of the capabilities they are leveraging and the value they are providing means that there is still ample opportunity for a brand to come along and do things right, and take command. And given that mobile is positioned to be bigger than every other channel on a global scale, it's well worth the investment of effort in wooing customers on the third screen.