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Why mobile is not for branding

Why mobile is not for branding Todd Ulise

Every story needs an antagonist. This article might not make me more friends in the brand world, but that is not my intention. This is not an article about mobile worldwide ad spending growth (incidentally, 62 percent in 2012), but rather it's an article about the wrong way that many brands are leveraging mobile. 

In short, mobile is not a branding tool. Rather, it is the great game changer for direct response marketing.

All the factors that make up the mobile ecosystem combine to form a ready-made solution for direct response marketing. What other advertising platform has a direct personalized component to it, as well as trackable methods (mobile web and m-commerce) for direct response?

Consider this hypothetical example: A direct response marketer puts out a banner ad or an email offer for which the marketer is paid on a cost-per-acquisition or cost-per-lead basis by the advertiser. The consumer clicks on the banner or email at work, and the form asks for a phone number. Which phone number would the person use? Home number? Cell number? Office number? Is the person's computer cookied at work? If it is, that person might not want to fill this out.

These issues never arise with mobile campaigns because the devices are so personalized. In fact, mobile is the only end-to-end solution for direct response marketing, from its form-fill-out element for lead generation to the phone component that enables call centers to reach and upsell consumers directly.

At present, 85 percent of mobile inventory remains unsold, according to TechCrunch. Likewise, mobile inventory is increasing at lighting speeds due to worldwide device adoption, and we're seeing an increase in buying options (e.g., via DSPs) in the mobile space.

With a glut of inventory, low ad rates follow. These factors support the argument that mobile is for direct response advertising. Likewise, the following points speak the challenges facing brand marketers on mobile:

  • Slow video load speeds

  • Fake clicks and pocket dials on mobile that distort actual performance

  • Slower connection speeds for large branded engagements

Mobile behavioral targeting

Mobile is also changing behavioral targeting in a way that lends itself specifically to direct response. Mobile behavioral targeting will not be behavioral targeting as we traditionally think of it on the web, where targeting is cookie based. Rather, it is based on psychographics that are uniquely mobile, such as device and location. This will only enhance direct response marketing, as marketers will know where a user is and what they have interacted with. Furthermore, via mobile, marketers have 24-hour access to consumers and can even call them directly, when appropriate. This is a direct response marketer's dream come true.

Mobile purchases are on the rise, demonstrating that people are just as apt -- and in some cases, more apt -- to take action and buy goods and services on their mobile devices as they are via their computers. This trend has surprised many. According to Ann Frisbie of inMobi, "I'm struck at just how rapidly consumers are becoming comfortable making direct purchases on mobile devices. Think back to the late '90s -- it took forever to get the majority of consumers comfortable buying on the internet. In six months, we saw more than a 40 percent change."

In light of these trends, I predict we'll see the following developments when it comes to direct response marketing via mobile:

  • Call centers will rise again and get more sophisticated in the upsell.

  • New measurement benchmarks will be established for mobile.

  • Revolutionary behavioral targeting methodologies that make web behavioral targeting look very "2000s" will emerge.

  • We'll continue to see more shopping on mobile devices.

  • Protecting the integrity of mobile data will become paramount, and we'll see a rise in mobile security products.

I have been on both the agency and performance marketing side, and mobile is the only advertising platform I've ever seen that is within three feet of a user 24 hours a day. Sorry, brand marketers: Mobile is a game changer for direct response marketing, not branding.

Todd Ulise is vice president of GoLive! Mobile.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Touch screen mobile phone with businessmen" image via Shutterstock.

I build great teams that achieve success. In his 16+ year internet career Ulise has started three companies and sold one and built up revenue's at two other companies from $1,000,000-$65,000,000 within two years through hiring, management and...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Todd Ulise

2012, September 06

Sankar and Kent,

Thank you for the counterpoints to the article (taking the protagonist to my antagonist view). Think we can all agree about the evolving nature of mobile and glad to help stimulate discussion about mobile and my only hope is that it continues for the decades to come.

Commenter: Sankar Patel

2012, September 06

Why anyone would only see half the value of any media vehicle is beyond me . If you want mobile advertising to succeed, why would you tell anyone that its only good for DR. That how banner advertising got into a hole 10 years ago, and it took a lot of research and work to convince marketers that online advertising can do more that just DR.

Today, I have several brand research studies for mobile advertising that prove that it can be an effective branding tool if advertisers don't get lazy and actually develop good well thought out creative campaigns that take into account how people use their mobile devices in relation to the product or service being promoted.

I really don't get why you would be telling advertisers that they should only use mobile to push discounts or upsell when a person is already standing outside of a store or about to hit the purchase button on their device instead of using it to help drive awareness or consideration anywhere.

There is a glut of mobile ad inventory, most of it garbage and it will be filled with garbage ads, articles like this will only force us to re-welcome the Dancing Baby ads.

Commenter: Kent Moy

2012, September 06

While I do agree that Mobile can be a great Direct Response vehicle, it can also be a great Branding play as well, when the creative is done correctly. Dynamic Logic research along with other research entities have proven normative data that shows Mobile being a great platform on upper funnel metrics. Mobile carriers along with technology will help improve ad delivery, creating a better brand experience with the end consumer.

Commenter: Todd Ulise

2012, September 06

Thank you for the comment Meagan and glad the article resonated!

Commenter: Meagan Dahl

2012, September 06

Great article! You've made some bold assessment, but I think you're right on target. The insight I agree with most is that brands will change their measurements to gage device and location. They will see customers and influencers in a 3D, rather than 2D world of interaction and take full advantage of 24-hour access. The growth of direct marketing and mobile engagement really is the new form of alternate reality, now all I need is my TRON suit.