After waiting years for the mobile revolution, I'm regularly frustrated by the ongoing semantics debate about what "mobile" actually is. Though SMS still dominates mobile messaging —6 trillion text messages were sent in 2010 —mobile marketing is no longer limited to text, search and display.
"Mobile" today is actually an amalgam of multiple platforms —search, video, music, gaming, payments, retail transactions, location-based services and augmented reality. Mobile is social too. In fact, social networking is now the fastest-growing mobile activity.
Yes, 2011 is the year for mobile, but even those headline-grabbing stats of recent memory aren't telling the whole story. Mobile ad spending in the U.S. may be expected to grow by 80 percent this year and reach $1 billion, but $1 billion is an imperceptible dent in the total global ad spending of nearly $450 billion (not even a half of a half of 1 percent).
Sure, an 80 percent growth clip is impressive, but mobile is just getting started. The rapid adoption of smartphones by consumers will soon outpace sales of personal computers as soon as 2012. That's just five years after the introduction of the first iPhone. Then there's the launch of Apple's iAd mobile advertising network and Google's acquisition of AdMob. Both have given mainstream credibility to mobile ads, making them a legitimate choice for mainstream marketers.
So what's holding marketers back? A big part of the problem for marketers is figuring out which foot to put forward first. Those decisions depend on a careful calibration of brand, base and message, but, generally, the best strategies emerge from continual testing and fine-tuning, because when it comes to mobile, what's needed now is a little less conversation and a little more action.
Mobile requires flexibility. Planning must be rapid, deployment swift and quick-and-dirty field-testing the norm. Marketers must actively experiment with new apps (in the first quarter alone, we are launching six apps for various clients) to figure out what appeals best to their target consumer.
Here's my perspective on how companies can start embracing mobile:
IT'S OK TO FAIL, JUST FAIL FAST. In the start-up world, the only way you get better is to try, fail, learn and retry. The key with being good at failure is failing fast. Don't stall at every setback. Instead, be ready to adjust as you go.
FIGHT ANALYSIS PARALYSIS. I am all for making sure you have a plan in place, and having research to support that plan is great. But if that plan is being used as a crutch to avoid getting started in mobile, then you need to find a way to move through it. Which brings us to the third point.
REMEMBER HENRY FORD. Mr. Ford is often quoted as saying, "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse." Visionaries like Steve Jobs often use this quote to emphasize why they do things that are contrary to what research might indicate is the right path. Sometimes your customers don't know what they want until you give it to them.
GET IT IN YOUR CUSTOMERS' HANDS. Today, successful start-ups work hard to get their product in front of customers as soon as possible. This allows them to get immediate feedback and fine-tune until they've developed a product that people will use. With mobile, testing campaigns or apps in specific markets —and rolling out functionality as you go —is a great way to get invaluable and timely input from customers.
And, lastly, ask yourself: DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BE AN IMMOBILE BRAND?
Do you want to be a brand that is severely limited in where and how you interact with customers? If you're continuing to find reasons why your company isn't ready to start testing mobile, you'll just keep standing still.
Subscribe to receive the latest research
and insights from Engauge.
Engauge is a full-service marketing agency for the digital and social age. We help grow our clients' businesses by leveraging creativity and technology to connect brands and consumers through the most relevant content and channels. The proliferation of content and channel opportunities for both consumers and brands has forever changed the communications landscape. But - what haven't changed are the fundamentals of marketing: The ability to richly understand a consumer, to derive a thoughtful insight, and to create a big idea. For years, Engauge has helped lead its clients by staying true to those fundamentals, while focusing on talent, technology, innovation and building a dynamic range of capabilities - from the tried and true, to social, mobile and whatever's next. Today's marketing is assuredly more complex, but to us the premise is still quite simple: Listen to the client, listen to the consumer, and deliver big ideas at the right time and place. And, most importantly, engauge.