Super Glue

“When do you think mobile marketing is going to take off?” That’s the frustrating question I’ve been posed twice this week. Firstly, by a journalist writing for a business publication, and secondly, by the COO of a large agency group. Both, quite frankly, should know better.

My initial reaction was to cite numerous case studies that reflect some of the great work from this industry, from major household brands and bright new pretenders, all of which demonstrate quite clearly that mobile marketing has taken off already. A quick browse through the news stories of this magazine (and indeed any web search) will confirm that there is no consumer-focused industry and no consumer product area that are not utilising mobile marketing in some way or another.

There are laggards and those with questionable strategy, but most sectors are building mobile sites, launching apps and running CRM programmes that include mobile. Similarly, there is a growing number of seemingly-profitable companies servicing mobile marketing.

Engagement levels
Instead, I pondered why this question is still being asked. Despite great sites and apps being launched, fantastic opt-in rates and superb engagement levels, people seem unaware that the channel is growing faster than any previous channel has ever grown. This is because mobile marketing isn’t as visible as it should be, either to the man in the street or to the marketing community as a whole, as it is not well integrated into marketing plans.  Instead, most of the best mobile work ends up sitting on its own, and seldom benefits from cross-promotion from other elements of campaigns.

The majority of “traditional” digital agencies (a.k.a. “fixed-line” web agencies) have few, or no, influential mobile experts. Mobile, however, can be tricky for many of the people who are responsible for the massive main sites of big FMCG or automotive clients, for example. It’s usually not easy to provide a “mobile version” of an existing fixed-line site from the perspective of navigation, asset re-purposing and catering for the markedly different context of a mobile visitor, let alone the huge issue of allowing a site to dynamically adapt to the variety of handsets, operating systems and firmware versions.

High-end focus

It has been far easier to brush mobile under the carpet, or to approach it in a way that is more comfortable. As a result, there is a huge focus on the high-end where, no coincidence, you can still use the JavaScript and CSS that your non-mobile developers are used to.

When they say: “Yes, the main site we are building for you will work on mobile”, what they mean is: “It’ll fit the screen.” And when they say: “High-end smartphone users can browse the ‘full’ web, and they are the only people online on their mobiles”, what they mean is: “Lalalalalalalala, I’ve got my fingers in my ears”. This latter assertion isn’t true, was never true, and even when it does becomes true, will be irrelevant, as it’s as important to design for the mobile context as it is to cater for the form factor of a mobile device.

A squished up version of your fixed-line site doesn’t cut it. Neither does ignoring a huge amount of non-smartphones that don’t support JavaScript and CSS very well, but are 3G and have capable browsers. There is a need for a properly-built site than provides an optimal experience, regardless of the device that the person wishes to use. The point here is that, unless you have covered off the hygiene issues and developed a good mobile site, then you can’t push that channel on a poster or press ad. An opportunity to gain interaction from many more people is then lost, and your poster does less work than it ought to do in achieving overall campaign objectives. Perhaps even worse, the people who do hit the site from the poster on their mobile have a terrible experience, and decide that the brand is not for them.

The idea that mobile only realises its potential when it is properly integrated into an overall campaign is not a new one. However, it is an increasingly critical one, as more and more people are as likely to go online via their mobiles (see massive smartphone growth, with IDC raising its sector growth forecast for 2010’s final figures to 55.4 per cent).

Point of interest
The huge opportunity is at the point of interest, and the point of interest is when consumers are looking at your ad on TV, at a bus stop or in a magazine. Previously, marketers using offline media had to drive a message home in the hope that people would interact later. Mobile dispenses with this and allows immediate interaction.

The problem is that all of these executions are handled by different agencies, with different objectives and points of view. It is surprisingly difficult to get the agency doing the TV ad, for example, to promote the fact that there is a mobile site that the person can look at right now because of “aesthetic reasons”. This is exactly the same as the resistance to adding web addresses to ads 10 years ago.

For us in the know, mobile marketing, and the opportunities it affords, is hugely exciting.  However, there is clearly still a lack of appreciation in the wider world of how mobile is radically transforming marketing. With marketers feeling they have enough on their plate, there is probably also an element of inertia which is holding the market back. Many clients are “saving” mobile to look at when everything else is done.

It seems that us mobile marketers have a job to do to ensure that clients have a clear understanding of how an integrated campaign that fully utilises mobile from the outset can give them more than the sum of the individual channels. We need to show them that mobile is the glue that binds the channels together. Collaboration is a word that is being used increasingly in marketing circles, and that’s the other key to mobile success. We all know about blurring lines, so we need to be grown up about it and work with other agencies to optimise mobile integration. Maybe then, I’ll never hear that question again.


Douglas McDonald is head of mobile at digital and direct agency, Tullo Marshall Warren