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Yielding the power of intimacy through mobile phones

Akihito Abe
Yielding the power of intimacy through mobile phones Akihito Abe

The Japanese live, eat and breathe their mobile phones. This morning, as I was on the subway heading to the office, of the seven people seated in front of me, five were busy looking at or playing with their mobile phones. I am not sure how it is in other countries, but in Japan, this is a pretty common sight on trains. As you probably know, Japan could be called the "king of mobile phones". People use them as alarm clocks to wake them up in the morning, check email on station platforms while waiting for the train to arrive, play games or watch TV programmes while commuting... the list goes on. Even important business transactions are made via mobile phones, with schedules stored in them. Finally, their mobile phones are put to rest at night to recharge for the next day. This is why when my friends tell me they have lost their mobile phones, the expressions on their faces make it seem as though it is the end of the world. It's understandable. There is probably no other tool out there that is so connected with our daily lives.

The power of mobile phones lies in "intimacy"
With features such as 1seg broadcasting (a mobile terrestrial digital audio / video and data broadcasting service in Japan) and QR code (or two-dimensional bar code) reading functions, mobile phones equipped with new technologies are launched one after another. Marketing campaigns that make use of these new technologies are also launched. However, from my point of view, the real strength of mobile phones lies not in these new technologies but, rather, in another aspect that we can take advantage of right now. This device that we carry around with us all the time is, in a way, like a part of us, and by using it, we should be able to create a sense of intimacy with our communication. This is what I believe is the true power of mobile phones. PCs have become a lot smaller and more people own them, but in comparison to PCs, which appeared in the market rather suddenly, the telephone has been around for a much longer time. As a result, the mobile phone, which is an evolved product of the telephone, yields a much greater sense of familiarity. On the basis of this idea, the mobile phone can create connections with users in ways the computer cannot.

Here is an example to illustrate the power of intimacy. It looks at an online campaign which turned into an 'intimate' affair similar to emailing with a friend.

The Audi Japan viral campaign website takes on the challenge of bridging the emotional distance between the brand and the user by using email, the next simple form of communication after verbal communication. The campaign expresses Audi's brand promise to drive further innovation and creativity through the key message of "Keep on questioning," which is being communicated through various media such as outdoor ads, in addition to the website. As for the online promotion, it had on its website a visual of a sculpture resembling Rodin's "The Thinker", holding a mobile phone. Users are asked to type in a question on the screen, where after this person on the screen gives his philosophical response by sending an email back to the user's mobile phone. As soon as the user's question is sent, an email message is delivered to the mobile phone on the screen. The sculpture then starts moving, just like a normal human being, to open his mobile phone and read the message. He then starts typing an answer quickly on his mobile phone and makes various expressions depending on the content of the question that is being asked. For instance, if the question contains the name of competitor car companies, he will glare at you! He also performs various other actions on the screen, such as making sad faces when you don't send him questions and constantly checking his phone for messages. These sorts of actions add a personal touch to the communication between the user and the website.

This viral campaign attempts to understand the value of having consumers take the initiative (by asking a question) to interact with the brand. By placing the mobile phone between the user and the brand in order to create an intriguing conversation just like that between two human beings, it fostered a sense of intimacy. In just a few days, the website generated a great amount of buzz and was listed as the No. 1 word on Technorati's ranking.

Creating ideas that go beyond the visual screen of mobile phones
It is often conceived that a web campaign which uses mobile phones in addition to a website, adds another layer of complexity for the user. However, as was illustrated with the example described above, by integrating a mobile component into the campaign, it can provoke a greater sense of intimacy and actually lower the emotional hurdle that consumers have towards the brand. The latest mobile phones are equipped with high-quality screens that match those of PCs. But often times, it isn't enough to simply adapt the content on a website and transplant it visually into a mobile phone screen. I would like to suggest that you try taking advantage of the power that mobile phones have to create personal connections. I'm sure that it will result in something special that will capture the hearts of consumers.

Akihito Abe is creative director, interactive, Ogilvy Japan. Read full bio.


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