How Mobile Madness Is Redefining Marketing and Community Engagement

“Mobile is a behavior not a tactic and should be aligned with goals and users interactions,” pronounced GE’s Andy Markowitz on Day 1 of the Mobile Marketing Association’s Conference in New York this past week, and I couldn’t agree more.

For me this was the defining moment and core theme of this year’s Mobile Marketing Association’s Conference and a critical point for any brand serious about building and nurturing community. As speaker after speaker pronounced the emergence of the “mobile era” by detailing the latest stats and case studies – success in nearly every case was tied directly to the brand’s ability to align its program and goals to user behaviors and interactions.

So what impact does the rise and usage of mobile have on a brand’s social and community building efforts and what should every brand be doing now to remain relevant in the mobile era?

1. Understand consumers’ behaviors, media, and mobile usage. Changing media behavior and usage will dramatically impact your marketing and community efforts. One of the more powerful sessions came from Nielsen’s CEO, Digital Jonathan Carson who shared what we do know about consumers’ mobile behavior and the dramatic change in that behavior over the past year. Jonathan detailed the continued rise in smartphone penetration (50.4 percent – up from 38 percent last year), rise in time spent on mobile apps, and the huge swings in media/device usage throughout the day. He compared smartphones’ always-on/always-with-you usage to spikes in TV and iPad usage at night.

Additional research detailed how mobile is commonly used for price comparison, payments, refined product information searches, self-scanning, and social – where close to 40 percent of social media users now access social media content from their mobile phones. All further evidence that it’s now time to get serious about how mobile and apps fit into and extend your marketing and community efforts. Invest in understanding the community’s interests and needs, analyze behaviors, and develop and optimize the right experiences and apps that add additional value and increase community engagement and sharing.

2. Align consumer behaviors with business goals and community building efforts. Solving a consumer need is critical, but as marketers our job is to also make sure we’re solving a business need and supporting the organization’s goals and objectives. To assure budget and support from upper management, align your understanding of the consumer’s behaviors and needs and use that knowledge to build communities and advocacy that can help the organization reach its goals. For Coca-Cola, an investment in more accurate bar codes/QR codes that could be used by mobile devices to access detailed product information for its 50 unique brands in the U.S. and 10,000 global trade item numbers in-store helped consumers make more informed buying decisions, which built trust, loyalty, and advocacy/word-of-mouth among its community of fans.

3. Test and learn – fund tactical programs. Many brands are interested in building/driving game-changing marketing and capabilities – at my company we call them the “New School Marketers.” While they experiment with new programs, they also often have a strategic approach to these programs by not only looking at how consumers are using media and their behaviors, but where and how to best reach them. Approaches include building tactical programs across mobile advertising, TXT/SMS, apps and integrated mobile/web/social programs, and allocating budgets to different key initiatives including focus on consumer marketing programs, dedicated to apps and test-and-learn programs.

At GE, initial tests with mobile search and advertising designed to reach consumers where they are spending more of their time resulted in some powerful results, as mobile search now accounts for 10 percent of total search traffic to GE and mobile ads continue to perform better than traditional display. As a result of this test and the subsequent learnings, mobile is now a cornerstone of what GE does.

4. Infuse operational change to support priorities. With consumer behavior dramatically changing, brands must evolve. To do so seek support from an executive sponsor and develop a road map for your key initiatives. Focus intensely on adapting those initiatives to how the consumer is and will continue to behave in the mobile era. Consider building a mobile center of excellence to educate, share, inspire, and provide the tools and resources necessary to adapt and help your brand/organization build a mobile community and expand your social communities. Best Buy quickly realized its perfectionist culture prevented the general release and promotion of important shopping apps across its various touch points including stores, website, social networks, and more, which dramatically limited adoption. Today, Best Buy is changing the corporate culture to further speed the release and adoption of these apps across all touch points and communities to further fuel sales.

5. Build an experience, take an integrated approach, and track results. As stated earlier, mobile is behavior that must increasingly be taken into account as brands look to build marketing success. Touch points and content must be optimized for the mobile consumer and brands must increasingly develop content around what people are doing and when they are doing it in order to succeed. The most successful brands are building optimized mobile experiences and taking an owned, earned, paid, and shared approach to program development. They not only leverage key company assets including media and communities to drive success but are aligning those efforts to media usage and app development. And finally – remember to integrate social communities and sharing capabilities into all app efforts. One great example of this was presented at the MMA conference last week by Coca-Cola. The campaign was Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl spot that encouraged viewers to tune in to watch its polar bears reacting to the Super Bowl in real time. The campaign previewed prior to the Super Bowl by leveraging a Coca-Cola spot on “American Idol” (high viewership) and encouraged views to check out the microsite or other online places they could check in with the bears including social communities (Facebook, Twitter), rich media ads running on ESPN, and other sites and mobile apps. The results were astonishing with over 9 million people watching for an average of 28 minutes and generating more than 5,000 comments per minute across social networks, further demonstrating how leveraging consumer behavior and media usage with social and community can transform marketing success.

While many brands have been caught off guard by the rapid adoption of smartphones and mobile marketing, now is the time to get started. While there is no easy button the tips above will help get you started. Consider partnering with an agency that’s going to help you un-complicate mobile and don’t be afraid to start with doing a basic campaign – it’s the best way to learn and grow. Finally, remember success is based on leveraging your existing assets including your social communities and combining your knowledge of the consumer’s behavior to create a great and unique experience. The Coca-Cola effort is a great example of how each of these important considerations can come together to build something truly unique and engaging. Welcome to the next era in marketing.

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