I recently wrote an article on "7 roadblocks to mobile marketing success." The problems presented are real, pressing, and have serious repercussions for mobile marketing. They manifest themselves in various ways: high frequency and poorly targeted impressions that border on spam, unrecognized brands that do nothing to build consumer confidence in the channel, and concerns around privacy, whether driven by experience or the media. The bottom line is that the mobile advertising environment is fundamentally broken -- with chronically low eCPMs -- and needs to be repaired, or everyone involved will suffer.
It's a grim picture, but we don't have to passively sit back and accept it. It's a truism in business that the greatest challenges also present the greatest opportunities -- if one knows how to take advantage of the situation. None of these challenges are trivial, but if marketers consider four key concepts as they develop their plans and strategies, they will be able to improve performance and increase success in the mobile channel.
Mobile is perhaps the most global channel we've ever seen. Even more than the internet itself, since the barriers to entry are so low and the level of participation is so high. To succeed in mobile, marketers need to organize their thinking with the global nature of the channel in mind.
This is easy to understand but difficult to implement. During a recent MMA webinar, only 37 percent of the 128 companies in attendance reported organizing around the mobile opportunity globally. That's a low number, particularly when you consider the companies in question are already predisposed to mobile. The fact is that organizational change is difficult. It needs to be driven from the top but adopted at all levels of an organization.
For those able to adopt a global mindset, the rewards -- in terms of efficiency in creative development, media planning, and measurement -- are profound. Even smaller teams, whose work can span multiple countries or regions, can accomplish more than those planning and executing on a country-by-country basis.
Demand consumer-friendly recognition technology
Three of the biggest challenges facing mobile marketing -- globalization, large volumes of fragmented inventory, and privacy -- are all impacted by the lack of an effective approach to audience recognition. There needs to be a universal model that provides marketers with the ability to reach their target audiences with confidence, while respecting privacy, and without compromising the mobile experience.
To be truly effective, recognition technology needs to encompass a number of ideas:
- The device is the key: People live through their devices, so the focus should be recognizing the device, not the individual, and it needs to be done without tricks and without compromising performance.
- Privacy-by-design: Respecting consumer privacy needs to be a primary consideration rather than an afterthought.
- Probability, not certainty: The recent brouhaha around the release of UDID information from Apple devices demonstrates the risk of connecting an individual, with certainty, to a particular device. A better approach is to recognize a device with a high degree of certainty; it's extremely effective but doesn't present the same risk.
Recognize and celebrate mobile's differences
Some might imagine that the shortest path to mobile marketing success requires no more than applying the lessons learned on the desktop to these new devices. Aside from the fact that technology gets in the way, this thinking ignores some of the unique characteristics of mobile that make it such an exciting platform for marketers.
- Social and entertaining: Advertising on these devices should be too. Limiting their use to delivering 320x48 banners totally misses the boat.
- Dynamic and personal: Mobile fits into our daily lives the way radio or the newspaper once did, but on demand and 24/7.
- Application-based: Apps are incredible, but only if they add value. Brands need to think about whether the app will provide a compelling enough experience to matter to customers. It's important to remember that mobile doesn't begin or end with the app.
- For engaging, downloading, and sharing: Clicks and impressions are important, but they're only the tip of the capability iceberg with mobile. Social, sharing, and gaming create incredible opportunities.
- Mobile: Obviously. You can take these things with you, and thanks to HTML5, experiences can be created that live on multiple platforms.
- Relaxed: Unlike the desktop computer that makes us lean forward, mobile devices encourage us to lean back, relax, and enjoy our time with them.
Brands have a tough time understanding and adapting to the things that make mobile different and special. These aren't complicated ideas, but they are new, and that has made their effective adoption understandably slow. Big brands in particular -- the ones consumers trust and interact with the most -- need to be on the vanguard. They have the recognition, resources, and credibility to do exciting things that can capture the market's imagination.
Build and measure creative with a mobile mentality
Assuming you accept the differences between the desktop and mobile experiences outlined above (and you should!), it only makes sense that the implementation and measurement processes should be different as well. There's more to effective mobile marketing than simply reaching your intended audience. New and more creative campaigns that take advantage of the platform's capabilities are also critical.
Mobile invites us to do so many things we can't do on a computer: shake, speak, point, play, pinch, stretch, and more. All of those verbs can become elements in the relationship between a brand and a customer. Mobile is also the screen we use when we're doing something else, such as watching TV, going to a movie, or having a meal. This means it can be used to complement other campaigns and can function at various points in the funnel.
This flexibility means we need a new way to evaluate performance for this channel. Inventory takes on a different meaning on these devices. Obviously, display and in-app opportunities are recognized, but what about sponsored stories on Facebook? Promoted tweets? SMS campaigns? All of this is available to be tapped, targeted, and tracked. All of it can be measured and evaluated for its ability to reach audiences in meaningful ways.
It's the incredible potential of mobile that has so many marketers excited. Yes, there are roadblocks that cause concern, but there are ways to overcome these obstacles. Overcoming them will offer everyone -- users, advertisers, and brands -- a richer and more rewarding experience. It's time to move forward (and fast!), until those roadblocks disappear in the industry's collective rearview mirror.
James Lamberti is vice president and general manager of AdTruth.
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