Hey Baby, What’s Your Band?

It seems the Next Big Thing is wireless. Or is it broadband? From our cellular phones to text-only Agent 007-like devices, the hippest geeks are roaming the Earth completely connected to the Internet. Likewise, home users – spoiled by their Ethernet connections at work – have said “enough is enough” to the straining 56k modem.

Of course, this makes it difficult, if not impossible, to determine a marketing strategy: Are we going broadband or are we going narrowband? It’s the classic case of “you can’t be all things to all people.”

The strategies and the messages are different depending on which audience is your target. Designing web content is a totally different business from one to the other. Try to deliver broadband-style content to a wireless user, and you can kiss that user goodbye. And avoiding the deadly “pissing off the audience” is critical in this short-attention, no-second-chances world.

So let’s take a few moments to review the considerations when determining your Internet communications strategies. What follows is our own version of ethnographics. That is, it’s not based on any real scientific or anthropological research. It’s just how it is, man.

The Broadband Crowd: Masochists With a Cause

If you see who is investing in broadband – Sony, NBC, and so on – you’ll get the distinct impression that this medium is all about entertainment. How else will the movie studios and the TV network execs push their bloated multimedia?

The broadband audience isn’t necessarily of the couch potato tribe. Unlike their remote-control-clicking cousins, broadband users have to negotiate their way through confusing contractual agreements with their local telephone or cable companies. They have to suffer criminally negligent customer service and spotty connections in order to achieve their goal.

The always on model of broadband does create a culture of using the Internet for everything from playing along with ABC’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to clogging the neighborhood’s cable systems with MP3s. In other words, these guys have all the time in the world.

If you’re marketing anything even remotely of entertainment value – travel, food, music, books – then this is the crowd you want. Also, if you’re in education and have some nifty animations, this audience may be interested. A word of warning, though: The education stuff has to be entertaining. Otherwise, you’ll lose them.

After all the suffering that broadband users had to endure, they want to have some fun with it, dammit!

The Wireless Gang: Fork Over the Data and Nobody Gets Hurt

Wireless users are, by default, on the go. They’re high-strung, and they’re focused on the bottom line. No fluff. Just get to the point, please. They check their stock quotes, get directions to the closest restaurant, and look up the weather forecast in the city where they’re flying.

For this group, the Internet is a tool that helps them manage their lives. The wireless devices aren’t just gadgets and toys; they’re utilities. It’s not supposed to be fun; it’s supposed to be useful.

Unlike their slovenly broadband counterparts who dreamily surf the web at all hours of the day and night, these guys want their information in short chunks with no extraneous hyperbole.

Marketers who have something important to say and can say it in 10 words or fewer have an audience here. But be warned: Hesitate or stumble or waste even a minute of their time and you risk the wrath of these caffeinated overachievers.

Many of you are probably working on your fiscal-year marketing budgets. You’ve battled with your web site managers and other execs about where your Internet strategies are taking the company.

Before you go another day of arm wrestling over Internet communications strategies, consider this: It’s not what the company wants to say, or how it wants to say it. It’s what your target audience wants to know, and how and when they want to know it.

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