As the mobile marketplace continues its rapid evolution to becoming the primary digital screen with which consumers engage with the world, the stakes for mobile marketers have become much higher. The mobile device has become the persistent interface that guides the connected consumer through the rapidly-evolving landscape of the digital-optimized world. How then, as marketers, do we evolve in order to not only keep pace with this emergent medium, but to utilize it as it was intended?
Given that the device is so intensely personal, so intimately integrated into our social graphs, is superior to any other medium in its contextual awareness of time and space, its hyper-connectivity, and the reality that is nearly always within arm’s reach, the smartphone has, in essence, become a natural extension of our human selves. Yet, with all the newfound wealth of opportunities available to marketers associated with this new medium, we have continuously failed to utilize it effectively to engage consumers in innovative ways. Quite simply put, we’re doing it all wrong.
As is customary this time of the year, many of us resolve to take proactive steps to improve areas in our lives that we feel could use refinement. Often these resolutions are ultimately doomed for failure from being overly ambitious or unrealistic but, more often than not, our resolve simply fails us and we sink back into our cycles of destructive habits. In the case of mobile marketing, however, the areas of improvement are too many and the stakes have now become too high to fail. Unlike our secret resolutions to whom we have no one but ourselves to answer, in this case the world is watching.
With these inarguable truths in mind, I offer the following New Year’s resolutions for mobile marketing with the hope that we will all look back on our innovations achieved at the end of 2012 with collective pride and knowledge that we have been integral players in a special time in history.
Resolution One: We Will Treat the Mobile Medium as Unique
Mobile consumers are moving targets, therefore engaging with them requires consideration be given to the variability of exchange. Where is the consumer right now? What is she interested in? How can I compel her to visit my store location? What can I reward her with to increase her loyalty to the brand? What can I do to make her feel included? How can I use the medium to make her encounter with the brand more efficient? What experience can I provide to her that she would feel compelled to share? When viewed through this lens, the possibilities for engaging consumers are limited only to the imagination and ingenuity of the brand.
Resolution Two: We Will Be Increasingly Contextually Relevant
The mobile medium represents the most powerful mechanism for delivering contextually relevant consumer-brand communications yet experienced in marketing. To take advantage of its unique capabilities, however, successful marketing strategies must evolve beyond the employment of a unidirectional approach to communicating with customers. The digital natives of today’s hyper-connected world seek contextual relevance in their engagements with brands. Their experience is defined not only by the message itself, but the context in which the message was presented. Marketers who effectively solve the variables associated with the mobile medium will provide unique experiences for consumers, irrespective of the constraints of time or space, in ways differentiated, highly relevant, and intensely personal. Only then will we collectively realize the power and influence of marketing in the moment.
Resolution Three: We Will Become a More Collaborative Storytellers
The essence of any brand is the story it conveys. This essence must be infused with creative vision and continuous innovation as its underlying narrative unfolds across a widening array of mediums to engage consumers and create a vision of a lifestyle to be desired. Traditionally the consumer has only been capable of experiencing the story in a disconnected way. Mobile, as a medium, is innately transitive in nature, serving as a persistent interface for consumers to navigate an ever-evolving digital ecosystem of retail touchpoints and become, themselves, players in the storytelling experience. Strategically dissecting the brand narrative to take on an episodic form allows the brand to engage audiences in the on-going drama, create desire to see where the story will lead, and establish emotional connections in the process. We will become more effective storytellers to inspire deeper levels of involvement and engagement with the brand.
Resolution Four: We Will Always Offer Value in Exchange for Value
Establishing consumer relationships through mobile marketing, as with any successful, productive relationship, inherently requires a mutual exchange of value. Whether consumers are opting-in for brand communications via SMS or engaging with the brand in a single instance through scanning a QR code, the onus is on the brand to deliver value in return for customers’ valuable time and information. Without the perception that value has been exchanged for value, the relationship becomes essentially one-sided and unrequited attempts at interaction on the part of the consumer will spell the end of the relationship – perhaps permanently.
Regardless the strategies or technologies employed, successful mobile marketing relies heavily on a fair and evenly balanced value exchange between consumer and brand. Given the intensely personal nature of smart devices, coupled with the fact that the device is nearly always within arm’s reach, it is more important in mobile marketing to avoid being intrusive and irrelevant. Consumers will not give up their valuable information in exchange for clutter or noise. We will focus with an understanding of the currency of mobile marketing and utilize it to create an exchange that delights both our audience and the brands that value them.
Too often, in the infancy developmental stages of mobile marketing, we have settled for simply scaling down traditional strategies to fit within a four inch form factor. Not only have these strategies proven ineffective, they are counter to the differentiated elements that define the smartphone as unique and powerful. As we near year’s end and look forward to a new beginning in 2012, we will strive to keep at the forefront of our minds exactly why the mobile medium presents such an incredible opportunity to engage consumers in ways revolutionary and previously unexperienced.
We resolve to focus our attention on an awareness of time and location and the implications of context in the consumer experience. We resolve to focus with an awareness that mobile devices have become natural extensions of our human selves and why this necessitates personalization of the experience. We will strive to engage consumers in innovative and creative ways that reinforce the strengths of the mobile medium and we resolve to consistently provide value in exchange for value.
As T.S. Eliot once wrote, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” For all of our self-congratulatory accomplishments of 2011, they belong categorically with the uninspired. With strict resolve and an innovative spirit, the voice of 2012 will be the voice of inspiration and advancement.