Every morning I take the train and pass through South Yarra station, where there is a collection of billboard images from Apple’s ‘Behind the Mac’ campaign. Grimes is featured second from the left, her eyes glowing like a cyborg. I always wonder whether that was the intention, whether this advertisement wasn’t just a reminder of a well established brand, but rather a commentary that we are, increasingly, entering the machine.
With a growing number of smartphones in circulation (in Australia, 87 percent own a smartphone while 76 percent own laptops) and an internet search rate to rival laptops, mobile marketing is becoming increasingly important for business to reach consumers precisely where and when they are about to make a purchase. For the uninitiated, mobile marketing is ‘any marketing activity conducted through a ubiquitous network to which consumers are constantly connected using a personal mobile device’ (Kaplan, 2012).
While mobile marketing is clearly an expanding channel (it’s predicted that by 2020 mobile advertising will exceed 30 percent of global advertising), I question how beneficial it is for the consumer. The understanding that we are, through the use of our smartphones, constantly sending and receiving personal messages regarding our location and real-time preferences (to a relatively unknown audience) is truly cause for concern. Everything we consume, view and engage with is monitored and then regurgitated back at us in the form of targeted advertising. As a marketer, it’s genius, but as a consumer, I am continually disturbed at the thought of being watched.
In a weird sort of way, it’s quite funny to think that Steve Jobs, through the release of the iPhone in 2007, essentially opened the doors for the entire mobile marketing channel. Before the iPhone, there were a couple of smartphone contenders, but nothing which would have allowed personal and seamless connection to a ubiquitous network. Perhaps it was also the steadfast Apple consumer loyalty that initially drove such a wide number of smartphones into circulation.
Of course, in the 10 years since the iPhone’s introduction, consumers have increasingly begun to see their smartphone as an extension of themselves, meaning they are no longer question marks, but real-time reachable targets. Truly, in conducting a small train survey on my way to university, 14 out of 15 people around me were glowing in the light emitted from their phone screen, entirely engulfed in a virtual world. As strange as it sounds, it’s more likely marketers would be able to reach them with a pop-up on the screen than if they were standing on the street waving like a hooligan.
To continue on from that thought, how do businesses actually use mobile marketing to reach consumers while delivering value? According to Brian Solis, brands interested in mobile marketing should seek to increase engagement in micro-moments (coined by Google), which are moments when consumers rely on their smartphone to inform decisions in their personal or professional lives. As an example, I went to a bookstore in Hobart last week, but because I only had a limited luggage allowance with Jetstar, I used my phone to price and location-check a couple of books I was interested in purchasing, while still standing in the store. I was then able to determine that I didn’t need to purchase them (and thereby purchase a greater luggage allowance), as they were freely available elsewhere. It was very convenient, however this convenience is only possible if brands are implementing their mobile marketing strategies correctly.
Demographic information about consumers is no longer enough in order to reach people in these very personal moments. Brands need to understand the exact terms consumers use when they are searching for a solution. Additionally, mobile marketing is best appreciated (and less seen as an invasion of privacy) when it provides useful or helpful information. As always, consumers want to be delivered value, not blatantly sold products.
In adding to Solis’ advice, Kaplan (2012) goes further, having developed a framework (the 4 I’s) for mobile social media behaviour as a brand. The aim is to Individualise (tailor communication based on the individual user’s preferences or interests), Involve (engage in two-way communication rather than direct selling), Integrate (create seamless activities which enhance a user’s life, such as a weather app in temperamental Melbourne, rather than being a nuisance) and Initiate (encourage user’s to generate their own content and collaborate with the brand’s platform, as seen with review sites such as TripAdvisor or Zomato).
What’s interesting though, is that, for all of our concerns as consumers, that our privacy is being invaded, that phones are just becoming advertising devices, that social media is increasing personal isolation, anxiety and insecurity despite being touted as connecting the world, we are so reliant on smartphones that it may be becoming an addiction. Like our wallet and keys, we cannot leave the house without them. When my phone went flat in Switzerland, I ended up getting stranded in a nowhere town called Brugg at midnight due to a cancelled train, forced to wait until morning. If I had had a working phone, I could have called my partner, found a hotel or researched the best way home, but without one, I was essentially invisible, as if I had a disability. Food for thought, as they say.
So, that’s it from me this week. Do you have any interesting stories about your own smartphone dependency? Let me know your thoughts in the comments on the sidebar.