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3 mobile marketing campaigns that broke the mold

3 mobile marketing campaigns that broke the mold Michael Davis

The profound Marshall McLuhan said it best, and I paraphrase: We take the old medium's content and use it to create the messages of the new medium, and the new medium becomes the message, but for a time, the new medium is ignored.

He knew enough back in 1966 to make ad giants' heads spin. Professor McLuhan is considered the godfather of media. Phones have always been tools for communication, but even McLuhan couldn't have imagined smartphones seamlessly connecting his media world to everyone and everything. His philosophy of the medium being the message (of print, cinema, radio, and TV) still holds true, as brands and people connect on mobile.

As the industry creates and delivers advertising, we are meeting the diverse interests of mobile consumers. We no longer produce one-size-fits-all campaigns, or rely on controversial images and "sale sale sale" to engage consumers. Instead, we create personal experiences to stand out from marketers still trapped in 2009.

There's an old cynical advertising industry quote that often tweaks me: "If no one sees your work, it's not great work." In the case for mobile, it seems obvious: "If no one experiences your work, it's not great work." 

So, how does that premise work today out in the wild? Here are three of my favorite examples that I share with clients. These brands leveraged mobile technology to varying degrees the past several years to build stronger and more personalized experiences. Indeed the medium was the message, the work was seen and felt, and the experience was great.

American Red Cross leverages SMS to quickly raise funds

The American Red Cross is well-versed in using online, print, and broadcast media to steadily raise funds for disaster relief. But in 2010, when a catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti, the organization desperately had to raise funds more quickly than ever before. This sense of immediacy resulted in the implementation of an SMS campaign unlike any other.

Through a multitude of public service announcements on major media networks, viewers were prompted to text HAITI to a shortcode. This triggered a $10 carrier charge. It was simple, quick, and allowed everyone with a mobile phone to donate in less than 30 seconds -- smartphone or not.

While the ability to text donations existed before, this campaign turned mobile giving via SMS into a phenomenon. How did it happen?

For starters, mobile phone adoption and usage was at a new all-time high. Ninety-one percent of the U.S. population were wireless subscribers, with their mobile phone within arm's reach for an average of 19 hours per day. Yes, you're likely in that statistic, with your phone near you at bedtime. The Red Cross knew that for the first time, citizens would find it far easier to help with a single text message than pick up the phone to call. It became a rally for the Red Cross brand, too.

The campaign went viral because donors on smartphones were encouraged to share their donation via social media. I know I did. Mobile givers became proud advocates by reaching their network and motivating friends and family. It was personal.

The result: The American Red Cross raised more than $32 million to help victims and survivors of the earthquake. Even more remarkable, 95 percent of the texters were first-time donors. And about that same time, we started calling people texters.

Starbucks creates meaningful engagement via augmented reality

The recent success of Pokemon Go has reignited augmented reality (AR), and AR has a champion as well inside Starbucks. In 2011, Starbucks capitalized on its mobile audience by implementing an AR campaign known as Starbucks Cup Magic. 

Through the app, mobile customers pointed their cameras at the red holiday season coffee cups and brought to life an interactive animated character. People also sent holiday gift cards and won prizes by interacting with the brand.

By this time in the mobile era, nearly half of Americans owned a smartphone, and the demographic group that adopted the fastest overlapped with Starbucks' key target audience. It made sense that Starbucks would tailor its digital strategy to reach its best (and tech-savvy) customers. 

Starbucks used the novelty of a new technology -- augmented reality -- to drive interaction with the brand in a physical space. It's a lesson to marketers worldwide that mobile experiences drive product awareness, sales, and in-store traffic.

The Cup Magic app reached 300,000 downloads in less than six weeks. It also earned Starbucks a huge amount of press, with over 250 million earned impressions. Starbucks coffee cups are really a handheld brand mascot, and people were eager to play along.

Beats Music disrupts Apple Music 

Beats Music, the online subscription-based music-streaming service, was founded in 2014. The company reinvented the music industry category by adapting technology to offer a highly personalized, one-to-one music experience.

Beats subscribers were able to set up personal profiles and music preferences, and an editorial team hand-selected music for them. The app had a feature to personalize music based on location, mood, or activity.

As the first music-streaming service to truly personalize the listening experience for its users in this way, Beats had both an algorithm and a human (emotion) to curate music. It's an example of how powerful customized content can be: smart, real-time, and always with a real person's unique interests at the center of the experience. 

The Beats strategy paved the way for today's smarter Apple Music, and beyond that, the way that we all interact with music content.

And so, what's next?

Just as marketers needed to evolve with the ways that we used our flip phones, and then smartphones, today we evolve beyond "mobile first." That's so 2013. We use all our devices -- at different times of day and for different actions. There's no longer one single path to purchase. Consumers engage with brands online, offline, and across devices. Brands need to create a seamless omnichannel experience. 

Innovation in mobile marketing has to be even more personal. Not creepy -- especially true for trending technologies, like augmented reality and virtual reality. These technologies are game-changers now. Don't say there's no time or money for it. That's just fear: Fear is the killer of innovation. Learn how to integrate a personalized, omnichannel experience for your brand and ramp your knowledge up quickly. It won't be long before I tell you that you're so 2016.

Michael Davis is a creative leader with more than 25 years of experience as an artist, strategist, technologist and agency business leader. As Head of Creative at Conversant, the leader in personalized digital media, he is responsible for directing...

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