Thursday 23 December 2010

2010: The Year (in Mobile) That Was Part 1 - The Smartphone Race

If I had a pound for every time that I heard someone say "if I had a pound every time someone said that this is the year of mobile, I'd be a rich man", I'd be a rich man...  Denying that there was, or will be, or even should be, a "Year of Mobile" has become more annoying to me than claiming that any given year was it.  So given that, I will try and phrase the following very carefully:

2010 has been a year in which we have seen an unprecedented growth and evolution of the mobile market.  In the last 12 months, we have seen record and increasing spend within the mobile channel as well as a slew of brands executing campaigns with an, often tactical rather than strategic, mobile element.  Record display and search spending and the increasing visibility of mobile above-the-line and use of it as a below-the-line comms channel, facilitated by the pace of development of mobile technology and the consumer uptake of this, mean that Mobile is as prominent as it has ever been.

Compared to the wider digital channel, Mobile still needs to be considered as an emerging medium, if only in terms of spend, but the increasing penetration of mobile into every part of our everyday life mean that it holds a unique position.  It is not just an ethereal channel such as a Social Network – in part it is a physical device, with a tactile interface, meaning that user experience is more than just a site map or user journey; and it is more than a piece of hardware used to access content – consumers carry it almost all the time; it is often the first and last thing that people look at each day; and it is used for communicating, browsing, engaging with a Social Network, playing games, finding a location and navigating to it, redeeming coupons or voucher and increasingly for making purchases.

So it is in this context, and with 2010 nearing its end, that I have taken a (UK focussed) look at some of the important events that in my opinion have occurred in the last 12 months and helped to shape and define the market in 2010 and beyond.  In further posts, I’ll look at how 2010 saw technology develop and brand/agency adoption increase, and what I think may happen in 2011 and beyond but this first post will focus on what is probably the most eagerly fought and exciting area of the market: smartphones.

The smartphone race

Although some commentators may say that the smartphone has been around for many years, the reality of it is that the early Nokia N-series devices such as the N70 and N95 would not go many rounds against their modern day descendents.  Perhaps we should consider these the missing-link of the mobile device world – the phones that bridged the gap between those that were used only for voice, SMS, maybe some MMS and more rarely a bit of WAP browsing, and the current mini-computers-with-voice-and-messaging that are achieving increasing market penetration.  In that case, Nokia does deserve some credit (don’t worry, I’ll make up for that later) but in truth, as I’ve mentioned before, the major catalyst of the smartphone era is undoubtedly the iPhone.  Its first incarnation had significant limitations and is very different from the current iPhone 4, but its impact on the market is undeniable.  The smartphone market is increasingly where the consumers, brands, developers and, most significantly, margins exist.  And so it is this battleground that is so keenly fought over (notably from all directions like a game of Risk) by the carriers, device manufacturers and OS/service providers (I’m mainly thinking about Google here of course) – and where some companies occupy more than one of these roles.

So what has happened then?  Well, where to start......?

1.     The iPhone 4 and iPad was released

The original iPhone was released back in 2007 and, as I’ve mentioned, redefined the smartphone paradigm in such as way that it took until this year for its competitors to really get into a position where some of them could argue that that they are truly competitive.

I’ve commented about the release of both the iPhone 4 and iPad previously so won’t dwell on that here, but as far as the iPhone 4 is concerned, although iOS had been through a couple of updates, by this year the hardware was in need of a refresh and boy does the iPhone 4 look and feel good.  My main worry about the iPhone is that now, as they are undeniably being caught-up by competitors, there is a need for iOS to be updated or they risk being left with an outdated UI.  Will this be one of the stories of 2011?

As for the iPad, Apple are again redefining the rules of the game.  As I’ve said, they haven’t targeted an under-exploited market opportunity with the iPad, they’ve created one - a beautiful, portable, touchscreen device for the consumption (and enjoyment) of content.  This time round, however, the competition are already on the case and a following swiftly – they do not want to be left standing as they did with the iPhone.

2.     Android achieved critical (and competitive) mass

Probably the most credible competition to Apple comes in the form of Google’s Android operating system.  They have taken a different tack to Apple in that the OS is to a certain extent device-agnostic.  This has seen a number of traditional feature-phone manufacturers (e.g. Samsung and Sony Ericsson) and emerging players (e.g. HTC) focus on producing a device and allow Google to ship their OS and, of course, services (I still find it fascinating that the strategy behind an entire OS and mobile services (such as Goggles, Translate etc.) is so finely focussed on one thing – advertising revenue).  This means that Android does not solely focus on the high-end smartphone market alongside the iPhone, but reaches the mid- and lower-tier smartphone markets and in doing so addresses a larger (and typically less tech-savvy) market.  Their market share (UK/all devices) as shown by comScore rose from 0.7% in Jan 2010 to 4.3% in Oct 2010*, that's a x6 rise (for reference, in that same period iPhone penetration increased from 4.7% to 8.8% and Blackberry from 4.7% to 5.2%, whilst both Windows and Symbian suffered reduced market share*).

2010 has seen the number and, importantly, the quality of apps in the Android Marketplace rise.  They are still way behind the App Store, and the iPhone is still the default option for a mobile app in the majority of cases but the comparative ease of deploying an Android app and the broader nature of the market that can be addressed make it an increasingly viable option.

3.     Nokia failed again to produce worthy smartphone

As I mentioned above, Nokia can probably be credited with producing the first ‘recognised’ smartphone.  However, also as I’ve mentioned, Symbian (the “Woolly Mammoth of operating systems”) has lost market share.  There is an argument that Nokia knows exactly what it is doing and is executing its smartphone strategy very well.  Unfortunately this argument somehow fails to recognise the obvious truth – that Nokia is in no small amount of turmoil.  With a change of CEO and followed by a number of other high profile departures, including the EVP and Head of their Mobile Solutions business and the Chief of MeeGo (their fabled new Linux-based OS in joint partnership with Intel), and their market share and profits in decline, I cannot imagine a great amount of cheer at their Board’s Christmas party this year. 

Nokia cannot be compared directly with their traditional feature phone competitors, not just because of the scale and breadth of their operation but because of the position that they are trying to move themselves into.  Equally, they cannot really be compared to Apple or Google as, again, their positioning and focus is different.  And so they need to be considered solely on their results and forecasts based on current position and strategy. 

They are trying to utilise their significant market share (across all devices) to drive uptake of their smartphones, and in doing so driving use of, and revenue from, their services.  Put simply, the money to be made a manufacturer is limited - you need large volumes to deliver this given the low margins.  Nokia has that scale, but the opportunity for growth in a saturated market of which they already had the major market share is negligible and in an increasingly smartphone focussed market, this would only be eroded.

But the smartphone market does bring opportunity if you can either focus on the high end (low volume, high margin) like Apple or services (i.e. advertising) like Google.  So this is where Nokia want to be, whilst not neglecting the still-massive feature phone market (hence their restructuring of the business to separate and distinct units).

But they’re failing. 

The N8 was supposed to be their break-though device that re-established them as a serious contender.  Unfortunately it suffered from similar issues as its predecessors such as the N97: the hardware, although not in the same class as the iPhone, is strong; the device capabilities are also good; and, although it suffers from too few quality apps and too much content, the Ovi store is nicely integrated given the need to support so many devices in so many markets. 

The issue is the operating system and the UI that is presents.  Unfortunately Symbian is not up to the job of supporting a modern smartphone and Symbian ^3 is, if you pardon the expression, just the latest polishing of that turd**.

Release of their latest device, the E7, which is basically an N8 with a slide-out keyboard has been delayed until next year, capping a dreadful year for what was only a few years ago (and in many ways still is) one of the most respected, trusted and admired brands.

In my opinion, Nokia needs to take a leaf out of Microsoft’s book and start from scratch.  Now that may be what they are doing with MeeGo but if the N900 (running Maemo) is anything to go by then Nokia haven’t yet learnt that they need to understand what users want and then deliver it.  It unfortunately feels like many of the decisions that they make are based on false or incorrect premises and (I can say this having worked in the business for over a year) are hindered by the time it takes internally to both make a decision and then execute on it.  I want Nokia to succeed.  The market could do with a European business in the upper-echelons.  I’m sure that they can, but I’m not really convinced that they will...

4.     Windows Phone 7 was released

I have a confession - having owned a Palm Treo back in 2007, I actually quite liked Windows Mobile.  The only possible explanation that I can find for this (you may consider this a convenient bit of post-rationalisation) is that it was a familiar interface.  Having always been a Windows desktop owner, and wanting to browse and use email from my device, it was one of the few viable options.  As a phone it was awful and the OS wasn’t great – but I kinda liked it.

That said, I was in a very small minority.

And so, following rounded criticism of their latest upgrade/release, Windows Mobile 6.5, Microsoft took the approach of starting from scratch with Windows Phone 7 (WP7).  It could be said that 6.5 was very much a compromise, trying to appear to be in the game and fill some of the inevitable void caused by the revamp.  In any event, 2010 has seen WP7 launched to general approval.  There was not necessarily whooping from the rooftops but Microsoft is never going to generate that kind of fervour is it?  It is not a perfect mobile OS and there are certinaly improvements that can be made, but there are similarly some nice features such as the live tiles, a smart look & feel, XBox Live integration and Silverlight support meaning app development is a smooth process.

Given the years of monopoly/duopoly in the smartphone space (ok a triumvirate if you include Blackberry), it is at least good to see a credible alternative from Microsoft that I hope will evolve in the coming months.  It will no doubt take time for the industry to come on board but, as do Apple and Google, Microsoft see mobile as a key plank in their future strategy and so they will certainly be putting their effort behind it.  And consumer uptake should grow, recent reports of 1.5 million being “shipped” should not be confused with “sales”, but are a relatively good sign nonetheless.

The good news for us all is that in any such market with competition amongst a number of serious players, innovation and capabilities are driven upwards whilst prices are driven in the other direction.  I hope...

5.     Blackberry shifted focus towards the consumer market

Given all the other moving and shaking that has gone on elsewhere, you could think that it’s been a quiet year for RIM but that isn’t really the case.  Their UK market share remained pretty flat, but their year has been marked by challenges in international markets regarding the access to the encrypted transmissions sent via their Messenger (BBM) and email services, and a change of approach to move away from their comfort-zone of the Enterprise market to focus on the consumer market.

Blackberrys have been the business device of choice for a number of years.  Whilst other manufacturers have made some inroads, and will probably continue to do so with Exchange integration via ActiveSync so straight-forward, the security controls that RIM has created around communications via/from/to their devices mean that for many large corporates, it is the only real option.  This encryption has caused some issues with a number of Nations (such as Saudi Arabia) wanting to gain access to the details of and, in some cases, the content of communications for National Security reasons.  Such issues rarely come to head as there is always a solution to be found but I don’t doubt that some headaches have been and will continue to be felt at BB Towers for a while.

However, more interesting to me is the way in which, seemingly almost by accident, Blackberrys became a device of choice for the younger generation of mobile owner.  Blackberry Messenger (BBM) is an instant messaging/chat functionality in their devices that is free to users.  Given this, it’s easy to see why it gained traction with younger users.  This gave RIM a nice challenge to make their devices, pricing and marketing more consumer focussed – one that they addressed this year.  Their devices certainly still have issues: the browser, for example, is in real need of improvement and the available apps are lagging well behind. 

But you can’t argue that they typically occupy a top-3 position in the smartphone market, and so have to be considered – probably more than they usually are...

What it all means

Well, it means that next year will be exciting.  There is still a lot to play for and whilst my next post will look at other activity in the world of Mobile in 2010 (such as the technological developments and agency/brand uptake of the medium) I will also, probably in the New Year, have a look at the future of the eco-system in 2011 and beyond and you can be sure that the smartphone arena will be a massive part of this.

comScore MobiLens data – 3 month ave. month ending as stated
** Please note that I think Symbian is without doubt the OS of choice for feature phones

Friday 17 December 2010

Now THAT is how QR codes should be done!

What?  Is Bod banging on about bleedin' QR codes again?  Will he let it lie - we get it, he doesn't like them...

Ok, so the last couple of times I've commented about QR codes I've been critical of their execution, but that is not because of a problem with QR codes per se, just their execution in those examples.  So you know what?  Sod you all.  I'm going to flip-reverse it and talk about an execution of QR codes that I really like.  You see, I don't dislike QR codes - they are a really effective way of driving users to a destination (or indeed to provide them other information such as contact details).  The caveat being that they rely on the user having a smartphone; having an appropriate app to decode the code on their phone; and being savvy enough to understand what they are and how to use them.

QR codes have been around for a good few years already.  They were massive in Japan in 2007/2008 and there have been moves to try and establish them over here for years (anyone else remember the attempt by The Sun a couple of years back?).  The issue in the UK has always been that the penetration of smartphones (and installed apps) didn't support their use as an effective call-to-action.  It's for this reason that I've had to talk a client down from using them on more than one occasion - not because they are not effective, but that they are only effective under the right conditions, to the right audience and when executed in the right way.

And blow me, I've only found an example...

If you've picked up a copy of the Metro today (name-check for Mat Meir who found it and showed me) you may have seen this ad for Sky TV's Little Crackers (a season of autobiographical comic shorts from a few of Britain's better known comedians).  And so what makes this such a good example of the use of QR?  Well, let me explain...:

It's used in the right channel
Print is spot-on for the use of QR codes.  It means that the code can be scanned easily and you can provide information along with the code that needn't be digested and acted upon in a split second.

They educate how to use the QR code 
The ad doesn't just say how you use the code (scan it with your phone), but it also explains what you need to be able to do this (a QR code reader).  So as well as supporting the CTA in this ad directly, it is educating the audience and so indirectly supporting the ongoing use of QR codes as a CTA in the future.

They provide an alternative CTA for those not familiar with, or unable to use a QR code
So if you don't have a QR code reader or don't want to get one, for example, you can still participate. No-one is excluded.  And they don't just give you a single alternative, they go and give you two!  You can either send and SMS and receive a URL back by reply, or you can type the URL directly into your browser.  What more could you ask for?

Each different CTA is tracked with a URL parameter
In conjunction with providing multiple CTAs, each one uses a different URL.  The one provided for users to enter into their browser is, and the QR code and SMS URLs are distinguished by an additional parameter (source=qr and source=sms respectively).  This is really important.  It means that they can see how each of the CTAs is being used, including by which devices, and then integrate these insights into future activity.  I am really pleased to see this kind of (simple but often overlooked) thought going into the execution here.

The use of QR is contextual
Yes, a print ad in the Metro is not targeted so everyone/anyone sees it (a criticism I levelled at the Waitrose execution).  But in this case the context is clear - users are invited to preview exclusive content on their phone.  The ad is for the series in general, but it is offering something additional for those that are capable and have devices that support it.  This is clear in the ad so the user's expectations are set perfectly.

So in what may be my last post of the year (I'm thinking of writing a 2011 predictions piece but am struggling to decide between one that is serious and thoughtful or just outright frivolous and sarcastic - thoughts welcome) it is great to talk about something like this that I think has been really well executed.

Thank you Sky TV and may your response rates be high (I'll wager they're better than those for Waitrose or Moleskine)...

Monday 29 November 2010

Waitrose includes QR code in TV ad. Great News! Well, err, actually...

This weekend Waitrose ran what has been touted as a UK first - a TV ad including a QR code call-to-action.  That's pretty big news isn't it?  Well, I guess so yes.  But not for the right reasons...

For those that haven't seen it, the ad shows Delia Smith (Norwich's most famous daughter) showing us how to cook Roast ribs of beef with Yorkshire pudding

There it is.  An Epiphany for Mobile Marketing.  The defining point in the acceptance of a mobile call-to-action in what is, one of the most jealously guarded pieces of advertising real-estate.  Mobile has reached the big-time.  Everyone in the Mobile industry should raise a toast.

Well... err... I don't think so...

When I heard about this on Friday I got a little bit angry.  In fact, I needed coaxing down from the light fittings by one of the Account Manager here.  Why?  Because it it this kind of inappropriate use of Mobile that really really riles me.  As far as I am concerned, it is another example of what I mentioned in my post back in August about the number of poor executions of Mobile in marketing.

Let me explain...  The ad is very much in keeping with the recent Waitrose ads - one of Delia or Heston showing a 35 second recipe which, obviously, needs a series of ingredients from Waitrose which are nicely bundled up in-store for you.  As I understand it, the run has been very successful for them and an effective response to the "food as sex" M&S ads.  And if you watched the video, you will probably have noticed a funny looking square in the final frame.  Here it is again:

There, in the final frame is a QR (quick response) code.  A 2-dimensional barcode that, when scanned by an application on a mobile phone can include plenty of information (such as a contact record) and do plenty of things (like auto create an SMS), but is most frequently used to launch the phone's browser to a particular URL.

So let me explain with why this isn't as good as it should be...

The QR code is on-screen for 2-3 seconds and, as you can see, is accompanied by absolutely no explanation.  So given this, who could respond?  Well, you're looking at smartphone users (c.30% of the phone-owning population) who either already know what a QR code is, or are so intrigued by the funny looking square that they do some research to find out about it, and who have (or know that they have) a barcode-reading app on their device.  Oh, and they have to get their phone, open the app and scan the barcode within 3 seconds.

When it comes to CTAs, particularly mobile ones, I like to apply what I call the "Bedford Test" - I like to imagine that were I to walk into Bedford town centre (the nearest town to where I live) and ask a random selection of the people that I come across what a QR code is, would they know what to do.  Well, what do you think?  Does this pass the Bedford Test?  I don't think so.

So, just taking the ad and the placement of the QR code at face value, I wonder who the target consumer is?  If it's Digital Executives based in London then we're all good.  If it's 35-45 year old females then we're not so good...

Ok, so let's assume that the consumers are savvy in this kind of thing, and are able to scan the code using their phone in the 3 seconds that is available to them (or have Sky+).  What happens?  Given there is no explanation, you may assume that you get pushed to the URL that is alongside it in the ad (and is not mobile optimsed BTW).  Nope.  You get pushed to a URL to download their Christmas app.  It's pretty clever in that if you have a supported device (iPhone or Android only) you get pushed to the app in the appropriate app store/market.  But what if you don't have an iPhone or Android device (there are more smartphones that aren't than are...)?  You get pushed to a page like this:

* Sorry for the poor image quality.  It was from an N97 after all...

Basically, a page called "Other phones", that says the Christmas app is not supported on your phone.  Oh.  Thanks for that Waitrose!

So, in short, it'll generate a low response rate and for those that do respond, a fair proportion are likely to get a poor user experience.

There's a few (kind of) counter arguments that have been levied at me over the last few days, so let me address these:

But this is great for Mobile.  It's a mobile CTA on TV.  Think about the exposure.
Well, I can't argue that the exposure is large.  But that is the frustration - there have been a significant amount of projects that I have been involved in where we have deployed something really nice but which has suffered because the client has failed to back it with activity to drive awareness or activity.  ATL media space is jealously guarded and there is often a real reluctance from the lead agency to include a mobile call-to-action.  So when you do get the chance, you should use it wisely - it's like being given a test drive in a F1 car and crashing on the first corner.  If the activity is going to be measured on response, then there is a danger that a poor response will result in all Mobile being tarred with the QR-brush and being consigned to BTL comms.

The exposure at image this gives to Waitrose is great.
If Waitrose want exposure in the Mobile or Digital press then fine, this may very well give them what they want.  However, I've also seen an awful lot of "why oh why" type comments from the Twitterati...  But I would be very surprised if there isn't a metric around response rates (this is a direct response CTA after all) and I would also be surprised if it meets it.  As I argue above, if you've got the chance to include a Mobile CTA, please use it more wisely.

But QR codes are cool.  Everyone is talking about them and they're going to be huge.
No they're not.  And no they're not.
QR are codes are a nice mechanic, they're a quick and easy way to drive users to an online destination.  Used at the appropriate time, in an appropriate way they can be very effective.  But they are not widely recognised and the broad consumer understanding doesn't exist - the UK isn't like Japan (where I've seen QR code tattoos!), and the uptake of QR codes will only ever be slow.  Let me dispel the thought that these are cutting edge - does anyone remember The Sun trying to introduce them into the mainstream and including a pull-out all about QR codes?  In 2007!  I just love the line "your technology-crazy Sun is going to be at the forefront of the revolution".  If the combined force of The Sun and Keeley don't manage to bring them to the fore of the collective consciousness then I'm not sure what will...

So what would I have done?

Pretty simple really, I'd have included an SMS call to action "Text WAITROSE to 8NNNN":
- Everyone with a phone can send an SMS (it is the only killer-app for mobile) and so no-one is excluded.
- It is memorable, so the consumers don't have to grab their phone and respond whilst the ad is on-screen.
- It allows you to respond to the consumer via SMS, meaning you can set the consumers expectations with your reply.
- You start a conversation - you've got their mobile number and so can have a dialogue with them, and so engage with them in other ways.

At it's simplest level, SMS is the most democratising of channels, as everyone can engage if they want to.  After all, what does using a QR code say to Waitrose's customers?

Surprisingly, I don't like knocking other Mobile activity.  But equally, I do like to see it done well as, for whatever we say, it is still an industry that is fighting hard to be recognised alongside other channels.  And so because of this, everything that "we" do, on whatever scale, needs to be as appropriate and effective as we can make it...

UPDATE: My latest post discusses how Sky TV have done a far better job of executing a QR code campaign:

Friday 19 November 2010

Is O2 More finally living up to its name?

Mobile operators are in a unique position.

They hold a wealth of information about your mobile usage which means that, as consumers increasingly use their mobiles for more and more, they are subsequently able to derive greater insight into the individual, their habits, and preferences than ever before.

Typically this information is jealously guarded by the mobile operators - it is, after all, one of their key differentiators in an ecosystem where they are being squeezed by device manufacturers such as Apple and Nokia on the one hand and service providers such as Google (and Apple again) on the other.  In the era of the smartphone and tablet; the hyper-connected world of social-networks, apps and data services, carriers cannot afford to sit back and watch as they become little more than dumb pipes.  Mobile ISPs.

Indeed, I am sure that it is with this in mind that they consider the outlay that they would need to make in order to implement the next generation of mobile networks, LTE, as without an increase in mobile bandwidth the clamour for, and use of, WiFi with mobile devices will rise - resulting in their networks being bypassed and the data available to them being reduced.

Network logos

Of course, the carriers have recognised that they need to share some data in order to help to stimulate the market.  Without the insights for media planning that is provided by GSMA Mobile Media Metrics, the pooling of mobile browsing data from the five UK carriers, it would be difficult to convince media planners of the viability of the medium.  However, it is important to note, that this information is completely anonymised, meaning that insights are aggregated to a level well away from the individual.

Which means that the carriers retain their differentiator.  Consumer data.

And so some of the carriers are turning this information into a revenue stream by using it, and any explicit preferences that have been provided, in order target marketing messages to their subscribers - indeed, this was the founding premise behind the MVNO Blyk when it was launched in 2007 (although this turned out not to manage to sustain them well enough).  It is important to note that carriers are not "selling" their subscriber's data, they are offering brands and advertisers the opportunity to market to their base with defined defined targeting parameters (e.g. males, in London, who have indicated that they like sport).  In addition, such programs are opt-in and contact rules are applied to prevent any bombardment of messages.

Beyond Blyk, the notable programs are those run by Orange (Orange Shots) and O2 (O2 More).  Now, having been an O2 subscriber since I first had a mobile phone in 1999 - of course it was BT Cellnet in those days - I cannot comment on the consumer experience for Orange Shots so in this post I'll restrict myself to comment on O2 More, to which I signed up in December 2009.

Dressed up as a service for consumers "about giving you offers we know you'll love", up until the last week or so, I have been decidedly unimpressed with what I have been sent.  The messages have been sent patchily, one per day for 3-4 days and then nothing for a fortnight, and pretty much all of the offers irrelevant (although of course that could be blamed on the preferences that I selected).  The absolute nadir of my experience came when I was sent an offer for maternity wear (I certainly didn't opt in to that!).  To be fair I was sent an apology message, but was then sent the same message again.

Twice.  A week or so later.

However, the previous three offers that I have been sent in the last fortnight have all been notable - not only because of the brand and the nature of the offer, but also because of the their executions and two of them for good reasons...:

1. Starbucks

Firstly, this was the first MMS that I received from O2 More.  It wasn't great - a simple static image that was not tailored to my device, but it was ok.  The offer was a discount on a drink, their Via product, and the impressive element was that this utilised location.  The MMS didn't just tell me about the offer, it also told me address of the nearest Starbucks from where I could redeem the voucher.


Now this wasn't the nearest one to my house - but the nearest one to where I was when I received the MMS (if you're interested, it utilised the behind-the-scenes pull nature of MMS to calculate my location from the network cell I was connecting to and customise the MMS text accordingly).

Location has become one of the hot-topics of mobile in recent months so it is great to see this leveraged for more than display advertising and search.  A push offer that becomes all the more compelling by telling me where I could redeem it.

Unfortunately, the main criticism that I have of this is that the voucher included a generic redemption code, meaning that apart from measuring the volume of response, and being able to make some inference based on the locations at which the redemptions were made, there is little post-campaign insight that can be made.

2. Tesco Direct

I blogged while ago about the work that Tesco is doing in mobile, in many respects setting a benchmark for other retailers.  It was reported on the 8th Nov, that they have launched an mCommerce mobile-optimised site for their non-food division Tesco Direct.  Again, it's not the prettiest of sites, but it's there and it works.

Clearly they are supporting this launch with activity to drive traffic as I was sent an SMS via O2 More, with an offer of £5 off a basket of £25 or more.  The mechanic was straight-forward - a link in the SMS, driving me through to the Tesco Direct mobisite.

What pleased me about this, besides the simplicity of the offer and mechanic, was that it was completely trackable - the offer required me to use a voucher code at the checkout.  I cannot be certain but I would hope that this code was unique to me and so means that O2 are able to learn as much as possible about who redeems the code, when they do it and maybe even what they bought.  It sounds a bit creepy but it is the lack of post-campaign insight that is the failing of far too many pieces of mobile activity (Starbucks included).

3. Gap  

And finally, just this Wednesday, I was sent another SMS from O2 More - this time for Gap.  A whopping 30% off anything at any Gap store.  To be honest, other than the brand, the only thing of note about this was negative...

Firstly, it only included a generic voucher code.  Your typical Gap discount that often does the rounds on email and serves only to drive footfall in store, with the only measure being general uplift and offer redemption.

And secondly, the voucher was to be accessed via a link in the SMS clicking through to a mobisite.  But to redeem it, I had to print it out and take it in-store.  From my mobile...  Now, I may be able to work out a way of doing that, but I'm not convinced your average O2 subscriber would.  This mechanic may work for email vouchers, which you receive on your PC and so are connected to a printer, but it is either laziness or stupidity (and perhaps both) not to recognise that the mechanic would need to be adjusted for mobile.  Did the campaign manager at O2 not read the SMS copy and think to point out that you can't print direct from a mobile?

It does a real dis-service to the channel to use such a mechanic that is bound to under-perform and so risk alienating a brand from mobile as a result!

So I guess that for completeness, I should complete this post by answering the question posed in the title.  Is O2 More living up to it's name?  Is it offering consumers and advertisers, something that it advantageous to both?

Well, in theory, one should lead to the other - the more attractive the service is to advertisers, the more offers will be available and so it is more likely that consumers will be provided offered that are relevant to them.

Clearly, as brands' recognition that mobile is a viable (significant) channel increases, as will their need to advertise in the medium.  And so it is then, that its capabilities begin to be utilised fully.  With the location-relevant message from Starbucks; and the trackable and (potentially) immediate journey from offer to purchase from Tesco we get a glimpse at how mobile could be used in both an engaging and effective way for push marketing.

So given this, I guess my answer is: maybe.

Monday 15 November 2010

Why have a mobile call-to-action if your're just going to ruin it?

To cut a long story short, I lost my notebook and figured "Hey, I work in an agency now. I'll get myself a Moleskine".  So I popped out to Ryman's and got myself one of these little beauties.

More exited than I had any right to be, I skipped back to the office and, whilst unwrapping it, caught sight of something pretty novel.

There was a QR code, right there, on the product label.

(Apologies for the crumpled label - like I said, I was very eager to open it up)

I was on the verge of explosion I got so excited.  You just don't see that kind of thing, even these days - a mobile call to action on a product as ordinary as a notepad (even if it was a Moleskine).  Of course, I gave the QR code a bash and sure enough, it directed me the the product page for my chosen notebook (soft cover / plain sheet / black in case you are interested) on

Now, I can accept that this took me to their Global site rather than their UK specific site - I presume that they ship the product to numerous nations so they should err on the side of caution there.  And I am also ignoring the fact that there was absolutely no explanation as to the purpose of the QR code - it was just there.  But  what I cannot accept is that the site that you are directed to is in no way mobile optimised.  It just takes you to the same page that you'll see if you click on the link above.

So, to reference my title, why the bloody hell bother?

I can kind-of follow the thought process that says that if a user has a device with a QR code reader, then it will be more capable of browsing.  But do they not realise that most (if not all) Nokia S60 devices ship with a QR code reader?  Have you tried any serious browsing on one of those...?  My other gripe about this site is that it had no transactional capability (randomly, unless I wanted to visit the Italian version).  Why is this not a push to an online destination with the capability to purchase another (and take the retailer out of the equation and increase your margins)?

So, what I am now struggling to understand is why include a QR code at all.  There is no reference on the packaging to an online destination other than this, so they clearly want/expect mobile traffic.  Which just confuses me more - they are actively encouraging mobile traffic but then not providing a destination that either provides an optimal browsing experience, or the most likely functionality that a consumer would want.

So from my initial excitement, I am afraid this is a bit of a #fail for Moleskine I am afraid.

Monday 8 November 2010

Can anyone else feel the momentum in mobile?

A little over a week ago I wrote a post about how brands, agencies and the mobile industry in general needs to stop regarding the "mobile internet" as something distinct and unique, as this only serves to continue the isolationism that all too often is projected by the industry.

After all, it's just the internet.

The key point being that consumers don't differentiate so why should we?  Those that are in the know may understand that there are some fundamental differences between both the way that different devices access an internet site/page and what a consumers motivation/needs are when doing so - but any differentiated treatment based on the device should be completely hidden from the user and their experience should be seemless.  It's like suggesting you should drive a car differently on the basis of whether there is unleaded, diesel or 4-star (maybe LPG would be a better example) in the tank.

Increasingly, brands need to try and operate in that space that is the union of innovation and inclusivity in order to achieve this (I'll re-print my canny diagram that best illustrates this space below):

Well, blow me, Tesco are only going and helping to set the pace aren't they? 

Tesco you say?  Yes indeed.  Tesco.

The NMA today reported that the world's third largest retailer has launched its first transactional mobile website, an optimised version of Tesco Direct, their non-food operation.  This follows swiftly on the heels of the launch of the Tesco mobile apps for food purchases - currently on both Ovi and iPhone (somewhat notably, Tesco chose to launch on the Ovi, which provides broader reach, before a "cooler" iPhone version).  So if you go to on your mobile, you'll get redirected to the and be able to browse and purchase as you see fit.  


Of course, this move sits as part of a wider strategy within Tesco as they look to branch out into other markets that are currently dominated by the likes of Argos and Amazon (both of whom have mobile on their agenda too of course), but it does serve to demonstrate how important it is to support browsers using a mobile device.  Tesco have stated that 7% of traffic to Tesco Direct was from a mobile device (it would be interesting to know if this includes tablets) and that this has grown by 300% over the last year.  It is that kind of evidence that all brands, not just those with the big kahunas like Tesco, will need to take heed of or risk being marginalised in an increasingly digital, and mobile device centric, future.

Note: Whilst I am very pleased to see what Tesco are doing, the fact that their main website ( is not optimised for mobile devices, is a black mark I'm afraid.  But maybe I shouldn't be so fussy...

Friday 29 October 2010

It's just the internet.

I'll be honest with you, I'm caught in a bit of a quandary.

On the one hand I'm a firm believer that, because of the ubiquity and democratising power of mobile, there should be no discrimination.  Mobile activity should support all users irrespective of their device, carrier, location or whatever.  However on the other hand, there have been massive strides over the last 18-24 months in the capabilities of top-end devices; the underlying and supporting technology (be that apps, messaging or the mobile internet); and the understanding of the medium (although, to be frank, the progress here is less impressive).  With that in mind and the desire for continued innovation in the market, we should ensure that we are always pushing boundaries in the work that we, in the digital and mobile industry, are delivering.

So there's the quandary, because whilst these two positions are not necessarily mutually exclusive, it can often be different to reconcile them - particularly when there is a demanding client, limited time and resource, and finite budget.

But to address this (near) dichotomy is to miss the point.

We know, for example, that between June 2009 and August 2010, the percentage of users accessing the mobile internet increased from 26% to 38%*.  So whilst we sit and argue the toss one way or the other, consumers are just getting on with it.  And that is the point.  Because as far as consumers are concerned there is no such thing as the "Mobile Internet" - they just want to access the "internet" using their mobile device.

The "mobile internet" is a fallacy.

And this gives us all (I mean "us" in its broadest possible term to include brands, agencies and technology providers) a real challenge because it has implications across the board.  For starters, let's look at discovery.  The idea of a brand's mobile internet site residing behind an or domain has long held sway.  Why?  So consumers know how to find it.

Bollocks.  Only (some of) the mobile industry gets mobile specific domains.  Consumers access a brand's site via either search, typing (or com) into their browser or clicking a banner/email link.  The direct implication of this is that, for a brand to ensure that they are delivering the inclusive experience that means whatever device a consumer is using they receive an appropriate experience, they need to manage this across all of their properties.

Now this is by no means easy, but it is possible and I hold up the BBC as a great example of this.  Try it now - go to on your PC/Mac browser and on your phone.  You'll see similar content, but delivered in a way appropriate for the device you're using.  The BBC are by no means providing a bleeding-edge experience for top-end smartphones, but they are providing a good one.  The BBC by its very nature will always be behind the curve in that regard, but if you are detecting the device from the outset you can deliver something special for those that support it (using HTML5 for example).

And so once you get into the mindset that it's about the consumers, and what they're using to consume content - be it a smartphone, PC, laptop, tablet or featurephone - then you do need to start ensuring that you are providing both innovation and inclusivity...

So far I've only really addressed pull media, and only a small fraction of it at that.  But what about direct communications?  How many brands send out regular comms via email, or SMS, or both?  I get quite a few, be they newsletters, offers competitions or whatever.  And how often have I clicked on a link from within an email on my phone and gone to a microsite that is optimised for my mobile device?  Embarrassingly few.

My colleagues at Movement will tell you that I have longed banged-on about dCRM (d for digital) as the necessary evolution or eCRM and mCRM.  For some reason, email comms and mobile comms still operate as parallel and exclusive channels, with the comms often consistent but the inherent expectation that consumers only use a computer for email.  Again, we know that this is quite simply not the case - over a quarter of 18+ mobile owners use their phone to access email and this increases beyond 60% for smartphone users (who are of course on the rise)*.  So if you are delivering emails that cannot be read on a mobile device you are missing out.  And if you have that covered but any click-thru goes to a website you are, again, unlikely to hit the mark.  Why not identify the device used to click through and deliver the right content, appropriately rendered.  To be honest, I get more confused the more that I think about it - surely it's just common sense...?

But if most of those consumers who read emails on their mobile device are using smartphones, why do we need to worry about it - they can access websites can't they?  Well, yes, they can.  But is this optimised?  And is it appropriate.  We know that navigating "standard" internet sites with a smartphone, particularly one with a touchscreen, is possible and in many cases satisfactory.  But again, is it the best you can do?  I fear that in the coming years the medical profession will need to coin a new term to sit alongside nomophobia and vibranxiety that addresses the strain caused to a thumb and forefinger caused by too much pinching-to-zoom.

At its heart it is all about simplifying things for the consumer.  Again, and I can't say this enough, they don't want to worry about what they're using to access content.  They just want to access to it, using whatever device they want, as simply and effectively as possible.  There's nothing wrong with that is there?

And that level of inclusivity, well, that's pretty innovative in its own right isn't it...?

* comScore MobiLens Aug 2010

Monday 11 October 2010

How can activity be integrated without using mobile?

Last week, I saw a press releases in one of the marketing email updates that I get announcing the launch of an "integrated" campaign for a particular brand (to be honest, I can't recall the activity in question but, to be honest, it could have been any given brand in any given week).  As I often do, I thought "That sounds interesting.  'Integrated' they say.  I wonder what mobile element they have.".  Well, being a curious chap, I had a look and much to my surprise the activity had an online element in conjunction with some press/print above-the-line activity.  And nothing else.  Cue rant....

Above-the-line and online all too often isn't integrated, it's just online activity in parallel to ATL!  How can you call activity "integrated" if it doesn't integrate...?!?

There was no logical, or seamless customer journey between ATL and online, so unless you're sat at your desk in front of your computer reading a magazine, see an ad and log on to the site, the path from initial exposure to response and conclusion (e.g. purchase) is going to be disjoint.  For someone to participate in the online element (barring online discovery of course) the activity is relying on someone seeing the ATL and remembering to go online later.

And so how many people are not responding simply because of this?  

How many may think "That looks good", but by the time they get home or into work and in front of a computer have forgotten the URL, become engaged in something else (be that work or another advert), or just lost their initial interest?  In such a case, the ATL works purely as an awareness piece and the "integration" simply does not exist.

(* To be pefectly honest, there is no point to this image other than I was looking for a picture of David Brent with his hands interlocked like George Dubbya does above.  Blow me, I couldn't find one but did chance across this beauty which I couldn't not include) 

So why not allow consumers to interact there and then, when they see the ATL and their interest is aroused?  Why not let them "click" on the print ad and provide them a means of responding or interacting immediately?  Why not include a simple SMS (or if it's appropriate MMS) call-to-action or even a QR code that drives them to an optimised mobisite and so delivers the best experience for their device?  This mobisite need not be anything spectacular - it can just act as a conduit to the online activity, bridging the gap between ATL and online, for example by capturing an email address in order to send the consumer an email that then drives online or just giving them an an insight into the online activity and so cementing it in the consumers mind and better ensuring that they will visit online.

And why not in the process, augment your understanding with information such as which media drives better response?  And when?  And where?  Why not profile your traffic by device type and use this to inform future activity (device type is a useful indicator for socio-demographic profiling)?

Unfortunately, too many marketers fall into the trap of thinking that mobile can, or should, only be used when consumers are in a "heads down" (**) state - using or looking at their device (a symptom of the wider issue of mobile being an afterthought in marketing planning as I previously discussed here).  This forces mobile into being a silo'd part of the activity, with all discovery and interaction happening in isolation in the channel or bolted on the end of an online journey.

But mobile need not be the heart of the activity.  It is often at its most effective when it plays a catalytic role, operating when the consumer is in the "heads-up" (**) state, not looking at their device (but as we know with their device with them) and links the offline with the rich and engaging online.  Then you really are providing an "integrated" user journey that connects print/offline via mobile to web/online.

And only then can you honestly say that you have an "integrated" campaign.

(**) Copyright Movement Digital Limited...!

Wednesday 6 October 2010

[CONCEPT] Remember Tomorrow's World? They could have this one right!

I remember as a kid, sitting down with the rest of the family in front of the TV and watching the likes of Judith Hann, Howard Stableford and Maggie Philbin give us a glimpse into the future on BBC's Tomorrow's World.  I am pretty sure that I'm not the only one.  As a young boy, I was often fascinated by some of the far-fetched and, in some cases, downright loony concepts and prototypes that they showed.  However, even then, I was able to take much of what they said with a pinch of salt - I mean, just how many of the things that they showed us have actually made it into the mainstream?

And believe it or not, as I have aged, I have actually got more cynical and pay even less heed to predictions about our future world.

Well, I am pretty sure that one of the ideas that I saw on Tomorrow's World, and certainly have done since then, is the concept of a single device that allows you to control everything in your home - from the lights and heating, to the TV and video (let's say DVD player to keep it contemporary).

<< Cut to shot of immaculately coiffured man, wearing a shirt open to the belly-button displaying a dinner plate sized medallion, sat on a cream leather sofa next to an equally impressively coiffured woman in a Laura Ashley print dress - each holding a Champagne flute filled to the brim with Babycham.  The gentleman is holding a black box, on which he twiddles one knob turning up the volume of Hot Chocolate on his stereo.  He turns confidently to his lady who smiles back, appreciatively.  Encouraged, he gives another button a twist and the lights dim.  Again he looks to his lady and sees that she has relaxed back into the sofa and has closed her eyes, listening to the smooth voice of Errol Brown.  He makes his move, presses the button to recline the chair and leans towards her - right onto a slap in the face... >>

I just didn't see it.  In a world where the remote control is King (i.e. the living room), one remote to control them all seemed too far fetched even for JRR Tolkien let alone little old me.  But then something happened.  And as often seems to be the case in the world of digital, it was those chaps over at Cupertino, California who changed the rules of the game once again.  I have already blogged about the impact of the iPad and how Apple have managed to both create and (partially) fill a whole new paradigm in terms of how people consume content.

Tablet computers, whilst having existed prior to the release of the iPad, were an irrelevance.  Now they are hot property.  With Blackberry releasing their PlayBook and a likely plethora of manufacturers releasing Android-based versions it is a fairly safe bet that this Christmas and the first half of 2011 will see the penetration of tablets in the consumer market grow at a significant pace.  Whilst there is no little debate about whether a Tablet is a mobile device or not, a recent survey indicated that only 16% of iPad owners took their device out with them "most of the time" or "always".  As I discussed in my post, it is a consumption and entertainment device.  The implication of this is that it'll more than likely be sat at home on the coffee table, bedside table or on the arm of the sofa.  In fact, precisely where your remote controls will be...!

And so it was that I was sat on a wall, outside a client's office with an insanely tall Dutchman, that I hit on my killer idea - why can't we control all the gadgets in our home using a tablet?

We know that pretty much every controller out there uses infra-red (IR).  And we also know that you can pick up a universal remote and program it to your make and model of TV (for example).  So, there's no reason that you couldn't develop a piece of hardware (I'll call it an "IR Hub") that operates as a universal remote for a number of productions - your TV, digital box, DVD player, iPod dock, lights, ceiling fan or digital photo frame.  Hell, anything that takes an IR input from it's control!

And then once you have the IR Hub, you can develop an application (supported on iOS, Android etc.) that connects to the IR Hub using WiFi (it's a fairly safe bet that if you've got a Tablet, you're going to have WiFi at home) and interfaces with the gadget through it.  You can even have multiple IR Hubs in different rooms such as your kitchen and bedroom.  The app would allow you to select the relevant IR Hub and then the gadget and then show you an appropriate set of controls - be that to turn the volume up, dim the lights or recline the chair.

And "immaculately coiffured man" would no doubt avoid a slap in the face.

But why would you need an IR Hub?  Surely WiFi or Bluetooth enabled TVs would render this product obsolete.  Maybe, but how often do people change their TVs?  How quickly will they penetrate the market?  What are the chances of TV manufacturers agreeing an open standard for such an app?  And what about all the other products that use an IR remote?

It may be my idea but I think that it's a pretty killer one - the only issue being the cost that it would take to firstly prototype it and then take it to market.  So if you know anyone who has 50-grand or so knocking around, send them my way - and remember, you heard it here first!

NB: After having my brainwave, although I had never heard of such a product, I did some digging around and did find a couple of similar concepts - Control UI and Total Control - although, to be honest, I'm not sure that either of them are the complete package...

Friday 24 September 2010

DIY apps. The Emperor's new clothes.

I'll preface this blog post by saying that I haven't really got the time to write it.  Although I haven't posted an update for a while (meaning that it is well overdue) I still have a pretty large pile of things to do instead.  However, a Twitter exchange with my ex-colleague, good mate and fellow mobile enthusiast Murat resulted in me climbing so high on my soap-box that I needed to let it all out - he does have that kind of effect on me I am afraid.  So we can probably consider this as a cathartic post...


Along with the fantastic Grapple, I was sharing a stand with the lovely Hayley (another ex-colleague) from Nokia at Ad:Tech on Wednesday.  She was talking about a new product that Nokia have released, the Ovi App Wizard, which enables you to create your very own mobile application, test it in an emulator, submit it for review and (with luck) subsequently publish it to the Ovi Store - making it available across supported devices.  I gave this a go yesterday evening and am pleased to say that it was a pretty smooth and pain-free process, resulting in me creating and submitting my app in little over 5 minutes.

I confess that I was pretty impressed by this. If there is one thing that Nokia (usually) do well it is process - I have had more than a few afternoon conference calls talking about "ways of working".

This follows relatively swiftly on the heels of similar platform/product releases by the likes of Kilrush and Golden Gekko (with Tino) and possibly preceding one from Google .  Whilst there are variations between these offerings, in relation to their target audience, platforms and feature sets, the common denominator is the ability to create your own app without needing to do a jot of coding.

So what's the issue?

Well, I am all one for the democratising power of Mobile - everyone has one, most people understand them and their use (and usefulness) will only increase over the next few years.  And I am certainly also someone who at times despairs about the way that Mobile, as a whole, can obfuscate and over-complicate in order to set itself apart and be seen as "special" - and in doing so, only succeed in putting brands and agencies off the effort.

But I do believe that there is a real danger of letting anyone create an app and put it out there.  For starters, the default position of "I must have an app" is something that, as an industry, we have a obligation to redress.  More often than not with questions like "Really? Why? What exactly do you want to achieve?".  

There is most definitely a time and a place for an app, but this needs to have been reached through a process of assessing and analysing the brand, the objective, the budget and most importantly, the target audience.  If those factors point to an app being the right choice then go for it.  But until you have been through that, don't discount SMS, MMS, a mobile internet site, or any of the other capabilities that exist with Mobile.  

Just producing an app for an app's sake, really is a case of the Emperor's New Clothes and my own app is a case-in-point...

The Emperor

I created an app that simply pulls the Atom feed of this blog.  
So, it just shows this blog.  
An app.  
To just show this blog.  
Nothing else.  
No other features.  
Just this blog.  
In an app.

So why on God's Green Earth does it need to be an app?

Just to be clear, I really like apps and I use them all the time.  They enable you to provide features that you just cannot yet do in any other way.  Take my post about a day in London courtesy of Google as an example - it just wouldn't have been possible without apps (NB: mobile browser support of HTML5 will in the future address this).  There are any number of apps that I could talk about endlessly.  One of my favourites being the Museum of London "You are here" iPhone app - I urge you all to have a butchers!  But the point is, the features that make an app so good (e.g. GPS, accelerometer, camera, compass, local storage, external or 3rd party integration etc.) are not all able to be utilised/deployed with a DIY app builder.  To create a rich, engaging and  innovative app you need to spend time and money developing one. 

But the problem with apps is that what you make up for in functionality, you lose in reach.  Not all devices (easily) support apps as we know them and, taking Ovi as an example, although in theory you get reach across a large number of Nokia devices how many Nokia users will actually utilise this?  So an app can immediately restrict your target audience.  This is fine if an app is part of a muti-faceted strategy and so you are achieving this reach with other activity; or if you recognise this limitation and it still delivers for your target audience.

But it is not fine if you are simply responding to the demand of "I need an app!".

An app that is as one-dimensional as a restricted RSS reader will not engage, it will not bring a brand closer to it's audience.  Indeed, it is more likely to disengage and disappoint your consumers.  So I would say yes, do create and app.  But only if it is the right thing to do.  Otherwise, harness the power of the ubiquity of mobile and look in other areas for you engagement and innovation.