Mobile media – cart still before horse?

Carthorse

(Please note, I wrote this piece a couple of months ago but it fell through the gap as I moved to the USA. No less true now of course, particularly for London…)

Two recent pieces of research into the state of our mobile nation emerged this week that combined – or rather, collided – to give some insights into the current state of play in mobile marketing and media.

Firstly, the IAB research into staff perspectives on mobile at media agencies was rife with contradictions:

  • While the majority of media workers claim to have good access to industry research, and around half thinking they have great case studies to hand, 70% still blame their “clients’ lack of understanding” for lack of spend on the channel. It seems a non-sequitur that with a growing body of information and case studies to hand, that any lack of understanding would remain insuperable.
  • And when asked which mobile developments ‘most excited them’ it is surprising to see 4G, NFC and Augmented Reality listed as priorities. The levels of excitement around technologies appear to be inversely proportional to their consumer uptake and consequent levels of effectiveness. One might expect to see greater excitement from more workaday aspects of mobile achieving traditional media values of reach and mass adoption.

While the IAB is certainly equivocal about the progress of the industry and states clearly that there are further areas to address through 2013, what is evident is that we must as an industry take a firm grasp of the basics, rooting our mobile expansion as firmly in the principles of awareness, reach and ROI as we expect in every other discipline. We must above all resist the distraction of the Shiny New Thing.

If we are to accelerate our progress from digital afterthought to our deserved place as preferred communication channel for a huge variety of brands, I propose a call-to-arms – in 2013, everyone in the mobile media value chain must make some concrete steps to get the basics right:

  1. Develop concrete strategies and operational processes for mobile display
  2. Do the same for mobile search, and ensure your share of spend on mobile tracks the proportion of search that consumers are currently doing on mobile devices – currently somewhere north of 25%
  3. Back these up with analytics, and ROI models to prove the value of the channel
  4. If there aren’t landing pages or mobile optimised sites, see to it that they’re built – or use rich media alternatives
  5. Ensure that mobile is optimised to receive incoming traffic triggered by outdoor, print and TV. Get your search upweighted during broadcast, tag posters with mobile search terms and so on
  6. Ensure that every business has a robust roadmap for mobile based on a holistic approach to its commercial challenges

This last point brings me to the second piece of research, showing that only 16% of marketers have a formalised mobile strategy. The most immediate clash with the IAB research is that the CMO study finds that 77% of client-side marketers don’t have best practice or case studies available, implying that we on the agency side (who, according to the IAB, have plenty of them) are simply not sharing or educating our clients. If we agree that the benefits and potential of mobile are clear, we need to demonstrate better the commercial upside that our clients can realise.

While the argument for integration of digital and brand strategy due to the converged nature of our media landscape and consumers’ instinctive cross-channel behaviour is strong, mobile is a channel so pervasive and transformative that it truly does require a strategy of its own – living within and powered by the brand’s overall commercial and marketing objectives.

That the large majority of brands are still flying unguided into this huge digital unknown is probably the most scary thing about digital marketing today. But for brands who take the opportunity seriously, there are huge gains to be made.

Even just among my recent clients, I have found:

  • one media client who has over a very short period come to generate 1/3 of their revenues from mobile and tablets through strategic product development and cross-channel marketing
  • an FMCG about to release a permanent brand touchpoint on mobile devices that will sustain and develop the brand’s relationships with individual consumers while stimulating new consumption occasions
  • a manufacturer who through well-planned mobile advertising and content experiments now consistently deliver treble-digit percentage improvements in lead generation

In 2013, we must all avoid the glittering lure of the Shiny New Thing and concentrate on executing the basics of our marketing strategy using the unique properties of mobile.

We must avoid putting the cart before the horse and concentrate on real revenue driving uses for mobile. Only then will we see the true potential of the channel fully realised at last.

Author, Tim Dunn.
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I'm Director of Mobile at Roundarch Isobar. While I've specialised in mobile for over 13 years, I now work across broad digital marketing strategy, and am interested in interactions, UX, media and marketing theory, and innovation of almost any description. Click About Me for more and info and what this blog is about. Follow me on Twitter @timmcdunn or connect on LinkedIn

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