Wednesday 21 July 2010

Mobile needs to have had it's day in the sun...

How do people use their mobiles these days?

Young consumers see mobiles as an extension of self.  It's the one thing that they keep with them more than anything else.  They use it to check Facebook first thing in the morning, personalise it with ringtones (although maybe not ringback tones) and even use it to record and share a video of their latest "happy-slapping" shenanigans.

I turned a bit Daily Mail there didn't I?  Sorry.  

Flippancy aside, the young get mobile.  They're familiar with them and they use them.

So what about the not-so-young?  Well, I'm 32 now and it's safe to say that my peers are a mixed bunch - some, like me, carry a smartphone and use it as it should be; accessing the mobile internet and using apps and exploiting features such and the camera, social-network integration and bundled services.  Others are less 'sophisticated' (I use that term guardedly) - they may have a smartphone, but they use it for voice and SMS, maybe sending/receiving the odd picture message.  Others carry two devices, work and home, using the work phone (e.g. a Blackberry) for email and browsing.  

And what about the old?  If the have a phone they tend to use it for calling and maybe a little bit of texting.  My dad has an old Nokia, which still has a battery life of 2 weeks and which he won't change because he keeps the SMS and MMS that I sent him when my kids were born.

So what is the point of this gross-oversimplification of the young (mobile-savvy), not-so-young (mixed-bag) and old (mobile-luddites)?

Well initially, it leads on the question: how do marketers perceive consumers use of mobile?  From there it also leads to my (bordering on scandalous) title for this post.  But that will be explained in good time...

Mobile is generally still perceived as niche.  Yes, it is moving more and more into the mainstream - but a glance at the budgets highlight the disparity between mobile and digital, press, TV etc. etc.  Mobile is all too often still a tick-box exercise, with a small proportion of the budged hived off to be allocated to a mobile mechanic.  Often, for this to be a remora of a mechanic, clinging on to the shark that is the primary activity; or worse still, a token app!  

To compound this, even those in the digital world still don't understand mobile - just yesterday morning I had a conversation with a chap in the email marketing game who also offers mobile (paraphrased below - Alan Bennett I am not):

Me: We recently ran an MMS campaign, driving to an online destination, that outperformed email (shameless one-upmanship and plug all in one)
Chap: Really?  We're sending an SMS push for *client*.  It will push consumers onto a website. 
Me: Really?  What if the consumers accesses the link from their phone and not their computer.
Chap: Oh, we'll deal with that.
Me: Really?  How.
Chap: Our man will make sure that it is optimised.

Now, I may be doing chap and his man a disservice, but the likes of Wapple, Volantis, MIG (Kilrush) and Netbiscuits have not spent decades of development man days and a shed-load of money on solutions that can be knocked up by his man in a week.  Sure, if you were sending an email, it would be a (fairly) reasonable assumption that the user would have a device capable of rendering a microsite acceptably (I'll put aside the fact that I believe "acceptable" is simply not acceptable, and a more holistic/ cohesive/ complimentary approach, let's call it dCRM, needs to be taken to the email and mobile CRM, for now as that's another blog post entirely).  

But they are not sending an email, they are sending an SMS.  

Without knowledge of what device they are sending to.

So if the user does click through it'll most likely be a poor experience.

And as such, undermine the brand's message.

But what do I know?

So, why do I wish that mobile had had it's day in the sun?

Well, by definition, this would mean that it had become mainstream.  It would mean that all the fuss and fan-fare had passed and mobile was considered an integral channel within a brand's marketing efforts.  It would mean that brands and agencies alike "got" mobile, understanding both how consumers use it and what you can do with it; recognising it as the most personal and effective of channels - not just in it's own right, but in conjunction with all other channels. 

It would mean that marketers delivered the right message, to the right person, over the right channel and in the right way.

Or at least that they should...

Monday 5 July 2010

Responsible advertising. Or just clever advertising?: Bud - designate a driver

I saw this add for the first time this weekend.

I must confess that until the final frames, I didn't twig that it was for a beer brand - to be honest, I was drawn in by all the pretty people dancing.

It does take a brave, and strong (!), brand to be comfortable to not only omit any direct reference to using the product (i.e. drinking beer - in fact the point of the ad is the complete opposite, it's that he isn't drinking any) but also to refrain from any mention of the product until the final few frames - I can't even make out any Buds on the bar or in the background.

Clever really.

It positions the brand as cool (trendy club, pretty people), confident (he's content being Des as he's having a good time anyway) and responsible (he doesn't even have "just the one then").  I'm sure that others can apply a few more layers of marketing spiel to my critique but I'll leave it there.

Friday 2 July 2010

The first major casualty of the smartphone arms race?

I'm referring of course to the news that Nokia is dropping Symbian in favour of MeeGo on future N-series devices.  And of course, this is  the "battle" (dramatic I know) for the position of the pre-eminent smartphone operating system.

To clarify the title slightly, whilst I see Windows Mobile and Palm's WebOS as having lost the battle too, I never really considered them in it, so they were more like collateral damage than casualties.  

So this is big news as far as I am concerned!

You could argue that Symbian s60 was the original smartphone OS, with the likes of the N95 being the trailblazers for the devices that we see today.  These early N (and to a certain extent E) series devices from Nokia brought, to the consumer, capabilities beyond that of a mobile phone - whilst being no fan of Nokia, I do think that we need to recognise what they have and, to a degree, continue to bring to the industry.

But in recent year, Symbian suffered.  It really did suffer.  The likes of the N97 were really poor devices, in comparison to their peers.  I was working at Nokia at the time as the N97 was launched and there was real buzz about it.  Unfortunately, even for "Nokians" the reality didn't meet these expectations.  

Sadly, Symbian is the Woolly Mammoth of operating systems - once proud, but unable adjust to the changes in the evolving climate; or to keep up with the newly evolved, agile and adaptable mammals.  

Nokia gave it's own Linux based OS (Maemo) a go in the, also disappointing, N900 and then joined forces with Intel (with their OS Moblin) to develop the open source OS MeeGo.  It is this that will power future N-series devices.

Is this a good decision?  I think so.  At least, compared with the alternatives it seemed like the only real decision.  With iOS4 and Android striding onwards, Nokia simply had to act or suffer the fate of being relegated to a feature-phone manufacturer.  They wouldn't like that in Espoo...!