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...