The first mobile phone went on the market 30 years ago, marking a revolution in communications. When it debuted in 1984, the DynaTAC 8000X weighed nearly two pounds, offered 30 minutes of talk time and cost nearly $4,000.
To say the least, mobile devices have since come a long way. What were once gadgets mainly for the rich are now practically basic necessities, with Americans checking their mobiles as many as 150 times a day.1 People are now spending more time on their smartphones and tablets than they are watching TV (197 minutes daily vs. 147 minutes).2 All these trends are leading marketers to follow their audiences to where they’re increasingly spending their time. A new white paper by the research firm Altimeter Group argues that mobile marketing is the biggest opportunity for brands seeking to reach people efficiently on a massive scale.
We recently spoke with Rebecca Lieb, industry analyst at Altimeter Group, who authored the Facebook-commissioned white paper Why Mobile is Essential for Brand Marketers, about what the opportunities and challenges in mobile are for marketers. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow:
What trends suggest now is the time for marketers to invest in mobile?
Looking back, I think we can almost see history repeating itself with mobile. About 15 years ago when consumers were beginning to adopt the Internet in very large numbers, marketers were slow to move budget over to this new channel. They were reluctant to embrace it because it was untested. It required special skills, new talent and ways of thinking, as well as integration with existing marketing initiatives.
Now that the Web is completely mainstream, we again have a channel that requires new skills and technologies, new workflows and people with new types of expertise. There’s some resistance from marketers to move to what’s become the norm, despite the fact that that’s where their audiences are. Smartphone usage is pervasive, not only in the US but around the globe. It’s simply foolhardy to ignore the move to mobile any longer.
What kind of return are brands seeing on mobile campaigns?
Most brands are very reluctant to give us actual dollar figures. But the report does cite many brands that are having all kinds of success in mobile, including demonstrated ROI from shifting budgets to mobile channels.
One terrific example is Mondelez’ Trident brand. The chewing gum maker was really beginning to look a bit dated. When the brand shifted marketing dollars away from traditional channels to digital and mobile, it enabled it to be hyper-targeted and hyper-local. And it performed really, really well. In the second half of last year, the brand saw a 2-share point growth, which is pretty fantastic for a 6-month period.
Mobile is of course a great branding mechanism as well. In fact, 80% of marketers who are currently using mobile say that they believe their efforts currently or soon will generate ROI.
How is mobile an effective branding tool?
One way that consumers use mobile apps is to discover new things. Most consumers are spending 15 hours per week researching on mobile devices. Mobile devices help consumers quickly find information or get an answer to a question. And being part of that branded message can have terrific resonance if you’re helping consumers when they’re asking for help. Mobile enables you to be there when consumers want you and need you.
When brands are relevant and return information that’s entertaining or useful to consumers, the consumer is more likely to share their information with the brand, creating a virtuous circle. The brand can then be more relevant to the consumer because they know a little bit more about them.
I would argue that mobile is terrifically more significant than television or any kind of print media or even digital media. This is the screen that people have in their hands when they’re shopping, when they’re eating and when they’re considering a purchase. It’s really the first line of information and persuasion.
During what part of the consumer journey is mobile marketing most effective?
The entire purchase funnel is affected by mobile marketing: from awareness and consideration all the way down to purchase. And of course, purchases can be made on mobile devices. Consumers are also comparison-shopping on mobile devices. So it’s becoming a very effective part of any kind of CPG strategy and any brick-and-mortar retail strategy.
What challenges do brands face in being successful on mobile?
Many brands don’t have the right teams in place from both a technology and marketing perspective. They might have a mobile team, but it’s in a silo, removed from the rest of marketing and agency functions. A mobile strategy can be hatched in complete isolation from an overall brand or advertising strategy. This doesn’t create alignment among stakeholders around goals or visions for a campaign.
Metrics are difficult because there is not an apples-to-apples comparison with mobile metrics and Web metrics — and certainly not with traditional channel metrics. [Ed. note: Facebook recently released cross device measurement for Facebook ads.]
There are also a lot of different mobile advertising and marketing products, so there’s an almost a paralyzing array of options. Marketers want to do mobile, but they can be overwhelmed.
So what’s the right way to do mobile marketing?
The first thing is to not think of mobile as something separate from the rest of marketing. It has to be integrated into the broader marketing practice, with brand goals aligned and teams aligned to common goals for it to work.
Overall, organizations should avoid creating mobile work groups that are separate from any existing functionality. Instead, I would recommend doing what a company like GE does, which is creating a mobile center of excellence. It has representation and evangelism from all types of markets and functions. GE encourages stakeholders to bring mobile products to the center of excellence. If the products are deemed worthy, they will be deployed very quickly so internal stakeholders can see the results of mobile initiatives.
We are also seeing companies having great success with mapping consumer journeys and simply making mobile a part of those strategies. They observe how consumers interact with the brands and then bring in mobile as it’s appropriate and relevant. Mobile is a channel in and of itself but it’s utterly congruent with the channels that brands are already working with.