Recently I was asked to write an opinion piece for the magazine Marketing, capturing my thoughts on the future of mobile marketing which has always been touted as a large and emerging opportunity, but has yet failed to gain critical mass and more importantly material advertiser support. Below is an extract of the article.
THE FUTURE OF MOBILE ISN’T MOBILE
Mobile Marketing has been the long-held, future of advertising. A promise that everyone has got excited about, but few delivered on. I’ve seen numerous reports from industry experts and market analysts, who’ve produced endless business cases and revenue models that never seem to gain any traction anywhere but in a spreadsheet.
Many mobile-based businesses start and fail even before they’ve worked out who they are, where they fit and more importantly what the consumer need and engagement point is. The promise of mobile has been built on a nascent industry that hasn’t really found its feet so far. It begs the question, why have so many people been so wrong for so long? In my humble opinion we’ve all been considering the problem, or opportunity in the wrong context.
The future of mobile isn’t “mobile”. Building yet another disconnected platform, which operates singularly, is the problem. The real question isn’t about what is mobile, it is more about what connectivity and ubiquitous consumer centric computing experiences hold.
The Black Swan of the mobile industry came from an outlier that radically changed the face of what we understood the market to be, Apple. Like it or not Steve Jobs and the Apple crew decided to rewrite the rulebook, grounded in a consumer truth & desire for simplicity when they launched the iPhone.
The iPhone was one simple device that allowed consumers to do almost everything they could on a desktop or laptop, with the benefits of a compact device that had GPS functionality that could fit perfectly into your pocket at the cost of a normal mobile contract. The iPhone ran basically the same operating system as a Mac, it synced seamlessly with all your business and personal applications wirelessly and it was just easy. Combine this with creating a relatively open software platform that developers could deploy a range of consumer centric applications on, with an open software market place where developers could reach a global audience and monetize their ideas rapidly. Hey presto the face and future of mobile changed irreversibly.
The biggest change Apple brought to the mobile industry was they established and built sustainable consumer behaviour, where for the first time consumers could use mobile devices in an entertaining and meaningful way. Almost everyone I know now uses the SAME applications and services on their desktop as they do on their mobile. Tweeting, Facebooking, Googleing, blogging, emailing, taking and sharing photos, reading PDF’s, listening to and downloading music have all become a ubiquitous experience, regardless of the device or location. The iPhone really enabled the “Social Web”, combine this with location-based mobile applications, and the face of the mobile game has changed forever, why? Because Apple rewrote the rulebook.
Apple changed the clunky face of mobile marketing and e-commerce. They did what Microsoft, Symbian, Blackberry, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, HTC et al couldn’t do. All of the previous industry incumbents were all operating based on a set of rules designed by engineers and analysts that had a vested interest in developing a disparate market, not a connected market. Apple innovated that last 10% of the mobile market and that innovation has had a 200% impact on the mobile industry as we know it.
Before you start to think this is a plug for Apple, have a look at the ripple effect across the entire mobile industry. Nokia has launched “me too” devices with their own music store, HTC have launched devices with similar interfaces and capabilities, Blackberry has started to support their developer community with a “me too” application store. The rate of change in mobile is increasing exponentially, all because an outlier rewrote the rules.
So where is the advertising world in all of this though? The advertising community both creative and media is still way behind. Ad Networks are still trying to sell on a silly impression based model (CPM) through serving non-targeted, dumb ad’s that have little relevance to a consumers experience that are at best annoying. Creative agencies and their digital heads have not yet woken up to the fact that it would be a better use of clients funds to build a simple mobile site, designed for a handheld device that delivers consumer utility rather than fight for a full flash and video site that can’t be viewed on a mobile device or indexed in a search engine. It is time to catch up people, understand the consumer and find the right intersection point.
The future isn’t mobile; it is ubiquity of experience across any device that delivers consumer utility and meaningful brand engagement.