If you were an aging toothpaste brand, what would you do to rejuvenate yourself, stimulate smiles, and get on the customers’ good side? Of course there are billboards, or online ads, but Zhongua, a 60-year-old Chinese toothpaste brand, turned to the mobile phone – and more specifically, the selfie. The images for the “one hundred million smiles” campaign were easy to share, and each uploaded photo helped fund corrective surgery for children with oral deformities. The campaign produced a return on investment of 790%, making it a huge success.
Mobile Internet is here to stay
Zhongua’s selfie campaign fits within the broader trend of mobile marketing that has captured the ad industry, a trend that has affected both the content and the delivery of the ads. Everything is going mobile – even job applications!
It has been predicted by the International Telecommunications Unit, the specialized telecommunications agency of the United Nations, that by 2017 half of the world – more than three billion people – will be connected to Internet, with the majority logging on from mobile devices. In the United States, mobile Internet usage already overtook traffic from desktop browsers over the course of 2014. It is not surprising then that Google recently issued a mass-scale warning to sites that it found not to be mobile-friendly.
Since the introduction of the smartphone by Apple (just five years ago), the market for mobile traffic has developed an annual revenue of $25 billion, with no signs of slowing down. Between 2013 and 2019, mobile data is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 45%.
The exponential growth of mobile data. Source: Ericsson Mobility Report (2014).
With such an astonishing growth, it is hardly surprising that more and more organizations are reaching out to their audiences on mobile devices, and they do so on established mobile platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and so on. While it took a long time for these platforms to figure out how to make mobile advertising work, it seem that the tide has turned. Facebook recently reported record profits, caused mainly by the astonishing growth of its mobile ads (that look better on big smartphones such as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus).
Mobile ads offer many new, interesting possibilities for advertising. Any advanced smartphone has geo-targeting, and as people are glued to their mobile phones at all times, it can make for a pretty interesting new avenue for storytelling. It becomes more and more possible to tailor ads on the basis of location, which radically increases significance in customers’ lives.
Take Pantene and the Weather Channel as an example. The two teamed up to provide women with a local “haircast,” giving out specific hairstyle tips based on their local weather – a great example of location-based advertising!
In the future, you can bet that more companies will tailor their ads not only to who you are, but also where you are.
Mobile marketing creates great opportunities for data collection. Customer data has always been crucial for marketers, but the prevalence of mobile Internet usage provides organizations with opportunities for data collection that were previously unheard of. The beauty of it is that most users are more than willing to contribute their personal data. This unique insight into the personal needs, wants, and desires of people turns mobile devices into crucial tools for companies to understand their customers. And the better the understanding, the more targeted the advertising can be.
Take for example the app TripIt, which allows you to organize your travel plans in one place. You email the confirmation for your plane tickets and the reservation for your hotel, restaurant, and car to TripIt and they organize it into a complete itinerary, accessible on your phone at any time. It provides a service by making traveling easier and that is why you willingly provide them with your data.
It is the acquisition of your data that allows TripIt to send you targeted ads. The app monitors your travel plans and notices that you have an upcoming trip but no hotel booking or no restaurant reservation. TripIt will then contact you with very specific offers, based on your past preferences. The better they know their customers, the better these offers will be – making sure that booking a trip is as smooth and easy as possible.
Authenticity and attention
But even more important than knowing who – and where – your audience is, is that mobile marketing, if carried out carefully, allows organizations to establish a real connection with their users. This was done very effectively by the Snapchat campaign of the New Zealand Transport Agency to discourage driving under the influence of drugs.
The key to this campaign was that the experience felt authentic to the users. By not shying away from the uncensored – and often very entertaining – reality of drugs, the New Zealand government ensured that its content was highly credible to the audience it tried to reach. Only by gaining their trust could it establish that real connection and transmit its message.
The use of Snapchat was interesting for another reason: it signaled the increasing use of ephemeral messaging – making messages disappear once they’ve been read. While it seems counterintuitive – we would want ads to be available all the time, right? – making messages disappear ensures that you capture the maximum attention of your audience: if you miss it, it’s gone forever. In a time when content is abundant and attention is scarce, the tactic makes sense.
What customers want…
What matters most in mobile marketing (or any form of marketing for that matter!) is to give the customer what he or she wants. As 140-character tweets and vine videos are becoming the standard, attention spans are getting increasingly short. So don’t flood the small screen with unnecessary information. On the mobile phone, strict relevance is required, as it is so easy to put it away again.
It’s not about what the customer can do for the brand; it’s about what the brand can do for the customer. By having the exact service ready at the time when a user is most in need, an organization can create a real and lasting bond with a customer.
Services have to be tailored to customers’ needs – and companies have to actually provide services – rather than pushing products or promoting their brand, although sometimes there is an overlap between the two. People do not mind targeting based on behavior and intent: what they do mind is being washed up in ads for products they would never even consider.
…without spooking them
With ever more data available on the customers’ wants and needs, companies must be very careful not to overstep their boundaries. An often-discussed case was when Target found out that a girl was pregnant before her parents even did, solely on the basis of her shopping behavior. This clearly blurred the lines between effective advertising and invasion of privacy.
By treading lightly, companies will be able to access the data goldmine that is mobile marketing. But common sense and modesty are valuable qualities, and when in short supply, organizations risk invading the privacy of their customers or inundating them with ads. When that happens, the result will almost certainly be counterproductive, with customers tuning out specific services or even turning off their devices.
Or – maybe more realistically – someone will develop an app for it. Actually, it’s already there: Ad Hunter. Hunt the ad, send it to jail, and win points.
Are you excited about the new possibilities for storytelling and advertising or would you rather hunt ads? Get in touch and share your thoughts on mobile marketing!