Mobile may be the next big thing but are we missing the elephant in the room?
Last week, Unilever’s chief marketing & communications officer, Keith Weed, identifying the potential of mobile for marketers at the Mobile World Congress. Mobile is certainly an important additional tool in the marketing tool box but it presents brands with a number of challenges. Full of promises and as seductive as the pitch sounds, most people are ignoring the elephants in the room and basing far too much on assumptions.
Elephant 1 – Do people actually want to connect with brands? Especially domestic ones like Unilever’s portfolio – a mayonnaise, deodorant, soap, shampoo, spreads, sauces, margarine, yoghurt, ice cream, tea, petroleum jelly, toilet cleaner and hair gel? Nothing there that really excite you.
15 seconds of fame
Andy Warhol said, “everyone should have 15 minutes of fame”, for brands the best most can hope for is 15 seconds. Unilever is no longer just in competition with P&G but thousand of brands and millions of items of content on the web. We only have so much time we can connect with brands. The challenge that every marketer should be asking is how can I win (or earn) 15 seconds of engagement in the lives of time poor consumers?
The average person deals with 250 brands a week (go through your cupboards, wardrobe, draws, shelves and and start counting them), your larger portfolio is nearer 500. If you decided to have a marketing relationship with just 1% you’d still have to find time to fit that in between Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, the drama society, your football club, dancing cats on YouTube, Ebay, news, text messages, loads of apps…. and the rest. We are already time poor so the biggest challenge to brands is winning time, it’s just assumed that using data and pushing out stuff works.
Whatever channel you are looking at, simply redefine your brief’s goal to, ”how can we win time?”
Elephant 2 – Content is king.
Can you be the best, the very best? It’s like writing a hit TV series, movie, game or single, for every one that makes it, thousands fail. Can brands really create content so good people want it? Especially when others are doing it so well without the bureaucracy, paranoia of the legal and PR departments and politics big brands face internally.
When TV first launched, big brands, like Unilever, championed content (everything goes in cycles). The outcome was them pouring millions into TV programmes, which gave birth to the ‘soap opera’. Finally brands admitted they weren’t the best at doing it and left it to the TV companies and bought ads in the breaks instead, which actually was cheaper and worked better. Now we also have sponsorship bumpers and product placement to add to the TV list.
Dave Trott, at the Vision conference, pointed out that on TV you only have to compete against 5 brands in a break, online and on mobiles you are competing against millions. TV and outdoor (Big Media) still kicks butt like no other media to get reach and build brand awareness, and for decades it has worked as a marketing tool.
Brands are no longer competing against other brands but competing against our time and thousands, even millions, of options.
Even if you can afford to hire the best people to create amazing content (and that’s expensive) some kid with a $600 laptop and a film of his dancing hamster singer to Justin Bieber will be far more popular. Or a student juggling while he solves a Rubik Cube in less than 2 minutes (http://uk.games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/student-simultaneously-juggles-solves-rubik-cube-004651627.html )
Elephant 3 – Using big data means you can target people effectively. Yep you can, but do they want to be? And given concerns in the EU, and potential new privacy laws (TPS for data) will you be able to soon anyway?
I agree that as consumers I should have the right to decide to connect with who I want not be a victim of some marketing department. TPS, MPS and Tivo have proven that consumers prefer not to bombarded with sales messages.
Keith points out that data means you know someone is in a park, it’s hot and the nearest CTN is 5 mins away, so you send them a voucher for 10p off Magnum.
You end up talking to maybe 20 people in a park, is that effective use of your budget? Sure you can programme that but you’re going to get charged a lot by agencies to set up all the options, create the vouchers, the interface…suddenly those 25 people are costing you £10 a head, and if only one buys an ice cream you’ve lost £240.60p (if profit on a Magnum is 40p). Take a lesson from the telephone sales industry, you can call anyone in the UK just by pressing 11 digits, but in reality it costs a bomb.
The trouble with data is, are you really the only brand that has access to it? Ping, poor consumer trying to read his book (on her Kindle) in the park and gets 14 messages on their phone from 14 different brands all trying to sell, each with a voucher. Outcome? Consumer presses the STOP option or turns off phone. Other outcome, you are now a brand that irritates her and invades her private space.
Elephant 4 – Digital is all about promotions and content. Wrong! If you aren’t marketing your brand, then given all the data you have, consumers just won’t respond if they don’t know, trust or relate to you. Brand is still core to all marketing, because consumer always have a choice, so you need to invest in that first, making digital a follow through. Plus, get your brand right and you’ll create a powerful emotional bond (read Love Brands).
Elephant 5 – Mobile is changing much of our behavior. Actually it’s enhancing it, technology allows us to do what we want to do and to excess. The fundamental rule of successful technology is, “If it fits a human need it wins, if it doesn’t, it fails.” I(Check out What if the Romans had Invented the Internet on Canvas 8 – http://www.canvas8.com/public/2011/03/01/if-the-romans-built-the-internet.html )
Mobile allows us to chat, gossip, read, investigate, catch up, shop, seek entertainment (4G will improve that) and the rest. Most of all, it fills the boring gaps in our lives, like waiting for a bus. The number one thing people actually do with it is read.
It wasn’t the telephone that created a mobile society but the First World War and the growth of public transport (read Coming up for Air by George Orwell). It delivered the ability for people to do what they needed to do – explore, travel, gain new experiences, and get away from the relatives!
We can all agree that the mobile is replacing the PC (though don’t forget that tablets are also significant), and that we now live in a 24/7 on society. But the question is, do brands have the budgets to be 24/7? And do we want them popping up on our phones 24/7?
Elephant 6 – 360 isn’t important anymore. Wow, that’s really throwing the baby out with bathwater. How many brands declared that old media was dead, jumped on the digital bandwagon and are now back on TV? Loads. Big Media isn’t in decline, it’s still as relevant a part of mix as all the other channels we can use, and given it’s ability to connect through to digital, is even more powerful than before. Each channel has its role and it’s value, the mix is still critical. There is no channel fits all.
The next big thing?
As tempting as it is to jump on whatever bandwagon is the fad of the moment (remember the trend for podcasts?), if you want to be a successful marketer you need to focus on the mix and getting the balance between different marketing disciplines and channels right.
Mobile allows us potentially another way to connect but it’s a bigger challenge to use, especially as no one wants to ask the question, “does the consumer even want me invading their personal space?” Or the bigger question, “will EU regulations in the near future let me connect?”
Often the agencies role is to question and challenge, to have their feet on the ground and evaluate what works against what promises to work. Mobile is still at the stage of a biplane in its evolution, with enormous potential. The question will be, is there space for brands to be in that space?
Or maybe a bigger question, do we need to create a whole new type of advertising that rewrites the rules? Already apps are redefining how we sell (see The Grocer this week). After all, everything we are doing on digital is essentially the same as we did before, it just looks a little different.
Marketing – article on Weed’s comments