Emerging TechnologyMobileThe New Reality of Mobile

The New Reality of Mobile

A look at some lessons from mobile marketing's past so we aren't doomed to repeat them.

We’re all trying to “figure it out” – i.e., create a competitive advantage and valuable customer experience via the mobile channel. Naturally, we turn to 19th century philosopher George Santayana, best known for the quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

While we have seen the pitfalls of applying too literally the principles of one medium to another – brochure-ware websites, direct marketing-based e-mail programs – there are lessons to port over.

Direct marketing teaches us that it’s all about the offer. I recently saw results for an e-mail challenger that failed miserably against the control. While there were several factors, it was clear that the control was created by direct marketers who understood the importance of the offer: it was prominent and repeated, while in the challenger it was buried in copy.

As I never tired of saying in my Email Diva days, the consumer is interested in only one thing: WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). Before you spend too much time thinking tactics, consider what you have to offer the customer, above and beyond a great product at a great price: coupons, discounts, sweepstakes, freebies, gifts with purchase, games, reviews and, my personal favorite, charitable tie-ins. Want me to forward-to-a-friend and share-with-your-network? Make it good.

E-mail teaches us that we need to respect the channel. While e-mail remains an effective medium, how much better would it be if we had heeded the warnings of pundits and kept it strictly permission-based, provided unique customer value, and managed cadence carefully?

You may not be in favor of regulation, but without strict rules, we are likely to pollute the mobile channel as we did the e-mail channel. As the Mobile Marketing Association states in its “Global Code of Conduct,” “It is only through industry support of strong privacy guidelines that the power of mobile marketing can reach its full potential.” Is industry support enough? It wasn’t for e-mail.

Facebook teaches us that success means fulfilling needs. The social network founders didn’t start out to bring in ad revenue; they recognized a desire to make personal connections via the relatively new reality of regular Internet access. Like DailyCandy, one of the great success stories of e-mail marketing, Facebook was about creating value, first and foremost.

I don’t believe anyone has said it better than Thom Kennon, vice president of strategy at Wunderman New York, in his Mobile Marketer article, “Why Marketing is Selling Mobile Short“:

While we have been arguing over whether an iAds campaign is worth a million bucks a pop, or whether Google’s bloated numbers from mobile display signal a world safe once again for old-fashioned advertisers, the rest of the world was doing with mobile what it was truly meant to do: transform people’s lives…

I do not see any one amongst us recognizing that real marketing, effective marketing, does not strive to change behavior or create new and strange behavior. Real marketing seeks to attach to existing or even latent behavior of our customers by humbly offering up and inserting perfectly placed instants of value, maybe even magic, into the human mix of natural and multiplying mobile behaviors.

While we learn the lessons of the past, we need to look to the new reality of mobile. It’s going to be a great ride.

Giddy up.

This column was originally published on January 4, 2011 on ClickZ.