Think BR: Why mobile is the next big super power

Justin Gibbons, creative director, Arena Media
Justin Gibbons, creative director, Arena Media

How can brands and advertisers use mobile to make the most of now, asks Justin Gibbons, creative director, Arena Media.

This is your now. And your specific now is different to everyone else’s now, because it’s a moment in time that carries with it a very specific context that is truly unique to you. The most important virtue of mobile and the reason it’s changed the communication landscape is its ability to connect with this now. And more precisely, because it creates a fluid means of marketing to the changing situations and contexts we move through every day.

Mobile is an extension of our person - almost half of the UK population can’t imagine living without their phone and the average person stares at it 150 times per day (6.5 minutes of every waking hour). It’s behind the human shift to a new always on, always connected paradigm.

Great innovation in mobile means offering brands the ability to add value in spaces that previously didn’t exist as communication opportunities. Google have always had three tenets to the mobile strategy that were centred around the now:

  • The Repetitive Now: Things we frequently check because we expect them to change like our Twitter feed. 
  • The Bored Now: The sole reason that Angry Birds is valued at $1.2bn.
  • The Urgent Now: For when we find ourselves in situations that only Google Maps can get us out of.

So how do brands and advertisers make the most of now? There’s a wealth of mobile opportunity, but here are five of the areas we think are the most exciting.

Multi-screening and data layering

Mobile devices could be considered a threat to audience attention, however recent Thinkbox research shows that it in fact encourages more engaged, enhanced TV viewing, including during ad breaks, and interestingly with shared viewing too.

Thirty one percent of people in the UK have chatted about TV on a second screen. Brands should integrate and encourage social functionality across all consumer touch points - apps, in-store, mobile, online and smarttv - and use CRM to get people to review, rate and share to build depth in the social layer.

Data layering - the layering of structured data (for example addresses) with social data to provide social influence/context around services, places and products - is fast gaining momentum. A great example is AmEx and their Link, Like, Love application. Rather than prioritising results and content purely based on location, we are moving towards location and social graph, eg, "four of your friends have been to this restaurant and two of them gave it a five star rating".

Adding an extra dimension to press and outdoor

On the page advertising is adapting to incorporate the growing smartphone population’s expectation for interactivity. Currently QR codes and watermarking are leading the way, both editorially and commercially, but advertisers are only scraping the surface of the potential.

Yes, it is important to offer readers content, but why has no advertiser fully utilised the power of image based copy in print tied up with m-commerce to offer scan to purchase, or scan to subscribe incentives for readers?

Meanwhile, the utilisation of data created by everyone’s mobile footprint is being better used to optimise and target out of home (OOH) campaigns. In the future network data, GPS data, handset IP addresses could all be used to better plan campaigns, or to invisibly schedule better targeted ads on digital screens. Consumers will be able to connect with brands in more immediate and meaningful ways.

On a basic, response-led level we have seen that OOH media can drive mobile web traffic and spontaneous mobile search. As such, your website should be optimised for viewing on mobile devices, and thought should be given as to how OOH creative should influence your own SEO and search strategies.

The many forms of mobile payment

Many small impulse purchases, eg, gaming and content, will continue to leverage trusted third party systems such as iTunes, who will provide the payment gateway. Services like ticketing have emerged as a hybrid - where booking and payment systems provide a more productive experience on the desktop or tablet, leaving your mobile device as the paperless, pick-up point and access tool - like flight boarding passes.

The next phase is the wider adoption of pre-paid credit where funds are debited into loyalty accounts and controlled through native applications on the device, for example Starbucks.

Conducting the transfer through more familiar secure environments, including electronic banking systems, will negate the transfer of financial details over the mobile networks for every transaction. The consumer will effectively mitigate the risk and can decide what level of funds to deposit. This will elevate confidence in consumers, as well as provide a lucrative revenue model for brands.

The benefits of a token currency (voucher or credit) go further than mere convenience and peace of mind. The relationship that occurs in this process can be enhanced, including revenue, with a loyalty programme - mobile operators’ pay-as-you-go model has been a successful advocate of this approach - and secondly, user behaviour and audience segmentation provides invaluable data to inform future marketing and advertising.

Emerging NFC technology

There are an estimated two million NFC phones in the UK, more than 500 million globally, and Google claim they are activating one million Android NFC devices each week globally. Regardless of whether Apple incorporates NFC into iPhone 5 (which is hotly anticipated) it’s clear that this technology has arrived.

Our own NFC research has found that even early adopters don’t initially understand what NFC is, but once it’s demonstrated to them, they like it. An NFC poster will allow people to automatically submit personal details or buy something. It can allow immediate ‘liking’ of brands on Facebook or social payments such as a pay-with-a-tweet promotion. NFC can also quickly unlock rich content such as downloading movie trailers, a preview track from a new album, or the first level of a new game. 

The changing face of smartphones and tablets

Smartphones are getting bigger. This is being pushed slightly by Samsung beyond the traditional average of 3.5-3.7" to 4.7-4.8" in the latest devices such as the Galaxy Nexus and the Samsung Galaxy SIII. It’s not clear yet what is the right size for a mobile phone so we are likely to see this changing again soon. On the plus side, larger screens mean more room for content and features; brands should keep this in mind when building applications to target smartphone users.

Meanwhile, tablets are getting smaller. The new tablets are great for book reading, are easy to hold in one hand and can provide a cheaper, more versatile alternative to the larger size. Tablets such as the Nook, Kindle Fire and the recently released Galaxy Nexus 7 are the main Android based tablets in this area and there haven’t been many signs of Apple being interested in this form factor so far. Media consumption on these devices will probably veer more toward books and music and some web browsing.

When building applications and mobile websites, the focus should be on Android and iOS but keep Windows a close third target for development as we are likely to see more devices hitting the market and the familiarity of desktop/laptop users with the Windows operating system will make them likely to find their mobile offering a more familiar environment.

Mobile is exciting because mobile is the consumer’s life. It is the single most personal media channel that has ever existed and it is totally unique. It is their servant, their shoulder to cry on, their closest friend. It wakes them up in the morning, carries them through their day, and puts them to bed at night. It captures their painful lows and their soaring highs. And, by embracing the true power of mobile, brands can be an essential part of that journey.

Justin Gibbons, creative director, Arena Media

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