Friday, 24 June 2011

It's not about technology, it's about the idea

For those who don't know me, I'm the Technical Director of a Mobile Marketing agency, Movement.  I also used to be a C++ developer; was a Senior Project Manager at Nokia; have managed Data Warehouses and CRM systems for the Jigsaw Consortium, Rank Group and the NHS Dental Practice Board; and have run the support operations for the Nokia mobile advertising network (now Navteq Media Solutions).

The purpose of that self-aggrandisement was purely to add little bit of credence to the title of my post.  I'm a techy bloke.  I have always been on the techy end of the marketing stick and it's what I enjoy doing - especially as the last few years in Mobile have seen a swathe of technological advances.  Catalysed by (but not restricted to) the increase in smartphone penetration and the proliferation of apps, we've seen advances such as the following:
  • Better cameras and HD video capture
  • 3G networks providing faster browsing and (mostly) reliable data connectivity
  • Voice recognition
  • The embedding of accelerometers and compasses in mobile devices
  • Touchscreen and multi-touch support
  • Image recognition
  • Auto-translation (of both voice and images)
  • Augmented Reality (AR)
  • Location Based Services (LBS), be they GPS, WiFi or cell based
  • Near Field Communications (NFC)
  • Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology
  • The advent of Cloud computing
And of course the next few years are going to see a shed-load more.  I've seen comments, rumour, speculation or prediction suggesting all the following could be in the market in the (relatively) near future:
  • Flexible screens
  • Nano-technology, allowing devices to morph in shape and dimension
  • Sensors that respond to eye movement, and possibly even thought
  • Self-cleaning hardware
  • Evolutions in power cells and energy technology that decrease the size of, or even do away with the need for, batteries
Of course, how are we to know?  Who would have predicted the evolution of technology and memes that has occurred over the last couple of years even, and I'll write a post about my thoughts on many predictions of the mobile market next.

But I digress, the point is that there is some pretty cool shit out there right now.

And that background provides the context of this post. Because however cool or exciting or innovative the technology is, it is how you use it that is important.  In an industry such as Mobile, that is very much technology-led, there are any number of interesting concepts and tweet-worthy innovations.  Which is great.  But for these to deliver a real benefit, they need to be applied in an appropriate way.

I'm considering this mainly from a Marketing perspective (it's what we do after all), but that is a little bit irrelevant - from any business or commercial perspective, the starting point needs to be the objective.  Once you understand this, and any key measures on this, you can look at how best to deliver that and more importantly, how to know if it is successful.  

Let's look at the tiresome mobile app vs. mobile web debate. I get bored of the same arguments being trotted out time and time again, with various industry stats being used to support the argument on either side. Surely there is no real answer - for example in a case where broad reach is relevant (e.g. providing additional information off ATL) a mobisite is likely to be the best option. Whereas, if the objective is to provide a rich experience, utilising device features such as the camera and GPS, for brand advocates then an app is bound to be the appropriate route to take.

Again, you need to understand what you want to achieve before looking at how to do it, and even when looking at how to meet a given objective, you should think in technology agnostic terms first.

Far too often I see examples of a technology-led solution. The mobile tail, very frequently, wags the mobile dog.

The advances in mobile technology and device capabilities have provided marketeers with a tool kit that they would never have imagined 10 years ago. But that does not mean that they need to use them (unless the objective is a headline in the NMA of course). The beauty of mobile, and why I will never tire of working in the sector, is that is can serve so many purposes. It can be used to inform, to engage, to interact, to respond, to promote and importantly to support and augment other channels. And used in the right way, with an objective and idea led approach, it can be the most effective medium at our disposal.

I just wish that I saw more stand-out examples of its use...

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