This is the second in a series where I look at 2015 mobile marketing predictions that I made in 2005, in my first book, BRANDING UNBOUND.
For this post, the focus is mobile advertising.
As longtime readers of my blog – BRANDING UNBOUND and my newer book, THE ON-DEMAND BRAND – will tell you, I’m not bullish on mobile advertising. At least not in its current model, which mostly takes the conventions from another medium (ad banners on the old-school Internet) and plops them into our used-to-be-shrinking-now-ever-expanding mobile phone screens.
Let me explain.
In 2005, it was clear to me that mobile advertising would have to be a game changer. But not just because it’s mobile, or the fact that you can target based on things like location.
As I wrote in the book, the web banner-based ad model for mobile was something that had to be tried, and continues onto this day – if not for anything else than it’s a familiar framework, and it’s easy for agency folks to explain to clients.
Indeed, most marketers still don’t have a clue about mobile marketing. Just think of how the industry (and financial markets) herald Facebook’s success in mobile advertising.
I find it intriguing. I have yet to see a Facebook banner ad that a.) I’ve clicked on, and b.) is anything different than the way I’d experience that same ad on the old school Internet.
Just because an ad is experienced on a mobile device, doesn’t mean it’s a mobile ad.
And despite sky-high response rates for some campaigns, I believe the model for advertising will change dramatically. I just thought we would have gotten further in that regard by 2015.
So let’s look at the predictions – where I got it right, and where I myself was clueless.
ACTIVATION VS. (MERE) AMPLIFICATION
As a marketer, I have always found mobile advertising Bores-ville. As a consumer, I think it’s a snooze fest.
Those sky-high click-through and video view-through rates? Just like with the desktop web before it, response rates are high now because of lack of clutter and novelty of delivery mode. As consumers become inured, response rates will (continue) to fall, just as with every advertising medium before it.
According to some estimates, one half of mobile ad banner click throughs are accidents. I suspect that's conservative.
But the solution isn’t to come up with more ad units or even better campaign creative.
Just use mobile advertising for what it is. If you find success – as many claim to have achieved – awesome.
But, as I contended barely a year after Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook, and roughly five years before Facebook launched its mobile advertising offering, the real power of mobile isn’t in ad banners.
In BRANDING UNBOUND and also in a piece I wrote for ADWEEK on the topic, I argued its true power likes in activating commercial messages in OTHER media - super charging the effectiveness of print, radio, outdoor, cinema, television, direct mail advertising, right at the point of impression.
INTEGRATION IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
In the book, I look at Dove’s hugely successful Campaign for Real Beauty, then only months old. As the marketing world knows, this then-counterintuitive campaign for Dove beauty products encourages women to eschew unhealthy beauty industry conventions about what is beautiful and embrace themselves for who they are.
Two years before the iPhone was launched, Dove’s fully integrated campaign included, among so many other things, a Time Square digital billboard that flashed images of the kind of real women Dove showcases in its advertising. Headlines read, “Fat? Or Fabulous?” and “Wrinkled or Wonderful?” and so on – encouraging passersby to text in their vote, with tallies displayed in real time.
In Rome, consumers could respond to Dunkin’ Donuts’ print, outdoor and broadcast advertising via mobile and receive a mobile coupon worth a free cup of coffee with the purchase of one of the doughnut giant’s 52 pastry variations – from the Apple Crumb Cake to its worldwide favorite, the Boston Kreme Donut. A full 82% of people who responded to the campaign via mobile came into a store to redeem. In its first three weeks, the campaign had boosted overall sales 20% - with about half of those sales directly attributed to mobile.
In Japan, greeting card giant Hallmark scored big with a mobile greeting card campaign from Ogilvy called Hallmark Hiya. In a market unaccustomed to sending cards for birthdays and anniversaries, Hiya enabled consumers to participate in a “virtual drama” involving seven fictitious friends. Each participant would then periodically receive a text or voice message from one of the characters, asking for a response. To do so, participants would choose from one of three possible messages, each expressing an intimate feeling or expression. Depending on the selection, the story line would take a different direction. Within its first 20 days, over 40,000 consumers signed up to participate. And Hallmark ended up exceeding its sales goals for the entire quarter.
The world over, Coca-Cola was already using mobile to activate sweepstakes campaigns, including bottle cap promotions that enabled consumers to text in codes to accumulate points toward music downloads – a formula that has now been leveraged by countless brands.
One of my favorite Coca-Cola mobile initiatives of that era – which used a model I’ve yet to see replicated – involved mobile activation dynamic in reverse. Instead of getting consumers to interact with the brand via their mobile phone, Coke sent the mobile phone to the customer, in the form of a soda can. As part of its “Unexpected Summer” promotion, high tech soda cans in specially marked Coca-Cola multipacks contained the electronic guts of a combination mobile phone and GPS tracker.
By weight and feel, it was just like any other can of Coke. But it looked quite different. The outside of the can featured an activation button, a microphone and a miniature speaker. When the consumer who was lucky enough to find the can pressed the button, the phone called a special hotline where winners could find out what they’d won – prizes included vacation packages and a new Chevy Equinox SUV. And the GPS system remained activated until one of five "national search times” could locate each winner.
This was all over 10 years ago. And with all of this creativity, I think I expected that by 2015, marketers would, to borrow the conventions of Gartner’s Hype Cycle, already have gone well past the “Peak of Inflated Expectation,” hit the bottom of the “Trough of Disillusionment,” and at least found themselves scaling the “Slope of Enlightenment.” With any luck, I’d hoped, they’d even reached the “Plateau of Productivity.”
If I was wrong about the creative use of mobile to supercharge integrated campaigns, my expectations for the Gartner Hype Cycle seem to be reasonable.
Personally, when I ask marketers about it now, they seem to fall somewhere toward the ascent toward the Peak of Initial Expectations (the aforementioned Facebook mobile advertising hype), or on the descent toward disillusionment.
But this year's Gartner Hype Cycle places mobile advertising as emerging out of the trough and on its way on the Slope of Enlightenment. I hope they’re right.
To be truly compelling, mobile advertising must be used to activate and engage in branded experiences and offers. It must use the attributes unique to the medium – location (both physical and at the point of inspiration, as my friend and mobile startup entrepreneur Dorrian Porter once put it) and the social connections mobile enables to create the kind of experiences that truly put the "mobile" in "mobile advertising." Throw in mobile augmented reality, and then you're really getting somewhere.
Mobile marketing, augmented and otherwise, is a topic I talk a lot about that in both BRANDING UNBOUND and THE ON-DEMAND BRAND, as well as here at GEN WOW.
But how far brands will really take all this in 2015?
Time – the next 12 months to be exact – will tell.
What do you think?
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