Over the past few months, it seems as though I’ve had an auto-response of “yes” to just about every concert to pass through Chicago. This past weekend was no exception as I embraced my family’s Nebraska roots and attended Kenny Chesney’s “Pirates and Poets” concert extravaganza (seriously, it was eight hours long with just about as many artists) at Soldier Field.
It goes without saying that as I’ve gotten older, my concert going experiences have changed. In 13 years, I’ve gone from attending Grateful Dead shows to being truly excited by glimpses of a pregnant Nicole Kidman backstage during husband Keith Urban’s set. We all gladly joined in as he led us in a chorus of “Happy Birthday,” hence the JumboTron images of her. Unlike my younger days, this year there was no tailgating before the show or repeated mentions of which area to meet up at after the show (in case of separation), and the photos didn’t take a few weeks to develop and share among the group.
Instead, through a combination of killer people-watching in the sections surrounding section 223, a little eavesdropping on the conversations of others, and the antics of my own group of friends, the concert was one big focus group of glaring insights into how mobile technology changes the way we navigate our physical environment.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that text messaging and mobile data use played a big role in our experience. We texted back and forth with another group of friends a few sections over to ensure they sent the beer man our way, a nicely timed bet on my part made for hilarious photo uploads to Facebook via the BlackBerry application, and we checked the weather a time or two just to make sure the threatened rain was in fact going to miss us entirely.
On top of that, we participated a few times in the text-to-screen elements programmed into the concert. This is the part where my media research skills came in handy. As I watched and listened to those around us, I realized that the playing field wasn’t an evenly matched one.
While we were effortlessly typing out the program keyword on our phones, the group behind us was literally shunning a young girl who tried to get in on the game because, as they cried out, “Once you sign up, they won’t stop texting you!” Another of her friends added, “Your phone bill will be so huge!” Really, I wish that I had recorded the conversation to post in this column because I just can’t do it justice. It was almost as if there was a thin line of panic in the rush of voices behind us.
And in truth, I can’t actually blame them. You had to read between the lines or draw on past experience to really know what you were getting in to. Are you joining a fan club or entering to win VIP seats and backstage passes?
Instead of taking an opportunity to educate a maybe less-than-savvy mobile crowd, the concert organizers left text interaction promotion largely to the show hosts and the presence of the keyword and short code on the JumboTron. Audience members had to take the first step or opt in to receive the info on standard rates, program details, fan club membership, and so on. And it seems that it didn’t actually work the same way for every artist. Some artists left you hanging with no follow through, while others sent back messages with fan club information. One even went a step further, sending a follow-up message on Monday with a free wallpaper and a quick reminder about how to opt-out. None sent out messages letting you know when a winner would be selected for the backstage passes or thanking you for entering when you didn’t win.
At the Mobile Marketing Association’s recent forum in NYC, I heard an M:Metrics stat that indicated more than 10 percent of mobile subscribers had interacted with, received, and responded to an SMS (define) based ad in 2007.
We can increase these numbers simply by looking at the program from the perspective of the least savvy to savviest consumer. This means thinking creatively, tactically, and from a technology perspective. Mobile marketers can then design a program flow that educates in a clear, concise manner; deploys a logic tree of messaging ensuring proper follow through for each and every opt-in; and allows for tiered engagement levels for individuals more familiar with mobile data elements. My calendar has me at five more shows between now and the middle of August. While I continue to indulge my love of drummers, think about how your clients or brands can create mobile experiences that everyone can participate in.