We’re Thinking Too Big

We’ve been taught to think big, to create anthem ideas that work across all media. But in our pursuit to find those anthem ideas, we are increasingly recycling insights and creating an advertising environment of sameness. It’s like a season of movie sequels. We’re big, loud, and superficial…even when we think we’re being deep. The truth is that ideas are falling apart at the execution stage because brands and agencies are trying to force-fit big ideas into small places with small budgets.

Marketers are struggling to identify ways to connect with people via mobile. Devices rapidly evolve. Channels are highly fragmented. Attention is quickly lost. Return on investment (ROI) is hard to come by. We all know it’s important, but the answer to “how?” still eludes us.

Why? Because mobile is often considered an afterthought – the communication idea is nailed, TV copy is developed, tested, and launched, as all the other marketing plans are finalized. And then someone says, “Oh yeah, we’ve got to do something mobile! Let’s make a mobile-friendly site and maybe an app, too…how much is left in the budget?”

This afterthought approach misses the design intent of mobile and fails to deliver the resources required to make mobile a truly valuable experience for users. To be truly valuable, the experience must deliver a natural and effective method for brand building and business growth.

We can’t think of mobile as a device. It is a system for daily life. And that system is becoming the copilot of people’s life experiences. In some ways it is our evolving middle brain – connecting, supporting, and amplifying our left and right brains. Mobile adapts to our behaviors and our behaviors adapt to our mobile or middle brain capabilities.

Mobile can uniquely deliver life experiences in many ways that fuel our interests and passions with little thought:

  • Providing escapism
  • Enabling documentation
  • Connecting with others
  • Transacting 
  • Addressing immediacy
  • Serving with utility 
  • Personalizing activity and feedback

Think about your brand’s mobile marketing and make choices about the life experiences you can uniquely deliver. The more personal and aspirational we make our mobile marketing solutions, the more passionate people will be about making that mobile experience a persistent part of their life. And that is where mobile really flows in people’s lives: when it brings together all that makes mobile unique, igniting the passions of people, not igniting the business of brands.

Mobile can and should play three different roles in the marketing plan.

  1. Promotion. We already see that there are many mobile solutions out there focused on mobile advertising and enabling mobile transactions. This is an area for brands to partner. Here you can work to create awareness and consideration. You can also close the sale at moments of relevance in environments that feel natural to your desired audience. It is very similar to existing communications and connections planning. This is the way to get your message out.
  2. Passion. This is not focused on getting a message out, but instead it’s about bringing people into the areas that are interesting to them and to your business. This is an area where brands can partner or originate mobile solutions. The key is to ensure it is true to human interest first and foremost. It should start with a funnel at the top, bringing people in and drawing them closer to the brand with every interaction. The brand is not the first priority, but it is a natural fit (vs. an awkward force).
  3. Product. Mobile provides a tremendous opportunity to enhance product experiences for some brands. And it may also allow brands to create and monetize entirely new products and services. Once again, this is about drawing people closer to the brand. It follows the discipline of product development, finding the unique intersection between what is technologically possible and the unmet consumer need.

As we look at developing these mobile marketing solutions, there is always a place to start.

  • Promoting mobile efforts will start with business goals every time. This is largely a paid channel priority.
  • For passion-oriented mobile solutions, it will focus first and foremost on people’s problems and desires. The brand or brands involvement will need to be defined once there is absolute clarity around the human interest and value. This can be owned, earned, and maybe even paid depending upon the deal structure.
  • And for product it will likely start with the brand’s equity and how it can evolve or grow. This is your owned property.

Mobility is not changing marketing. It’s changing humanity. And it’s our changed humanity that will ultimately change marketing in the next five years far more than we are currently experiencing.

Businesses – particularly digital businesses – are thinking small. Brands that have been marketing for years are still thinking big. Too big.

Instead, I dare you to think small. Thinking small means thinking about how your audience uses (or might like to use) their mobile devices – where, when, and how. And think about what value you can give them in any one of those moments of influence. This is the only way they will engage. And it is the only way you will survive the next five years.

Related reading