It seems that each year is touted as the year of mobile and yet every year prior has somehow fallen short. This year will be no exception. I’m not talking about mobile as a percentage of overall marketing spend or as a device whose U.S. saturation numbers are higher than televisions and desktop computers, I’m talking about the real meaning of the word mobile. This may sound strange coming from someone with the title of AdTech Mobile Ambassador, but the truth is the word is too small and too narrow in concept to capture its true meaning.
Mobile is a strategy, not a device
A year ago, when marketers talked about mobile campaigns, they referred to the development of a technology e.g., application, SMS etc. to be used as part of an integrated campaign. Understandably, the majority of marketers continue to think of mobile as a channel due to the very nature of their jobs, having to define budgets and success metrics for everything they do. However, problems arise when the very nature of the channel changes on a daily (if not hourly) basis, making campaigns and success metrics a moving target.
In 2010 marketers began looking at mobile differently. They started viewing it as multiple mobile touch points all working in unison to create a customer experience, which in essence is a strategy not a solution. One of the sessions on the Brand Track at Ad:Tech New York next month called “Which Screen is it Anyway? Navigating a Multi-Screen Reality (TVs, Computers, Phones, Tablets...Oh My!)” is designed to tackle this very issue, helping marketers realize the importance of having multiple hooks in multiple mediums in order to be successful.
Different terminology is now being used to describe the category
Both comScore and Nielsen have instituted the term “connected devices” in their mobile reporting data and products. The term encompasses everything from tablet computers to advertising enabled GPS devices, further proof that mobile is is more akin to an information network than a device. There has even been some debate this year as to how the word “tablets” should be defined, with Forrester stating that they should be classified as a form of personal computer. In fact, Forrester predicts that more consumers will use tablets than use netbooks, constituting 23 percent of all PC sales by 2015.
The functionality of “Mobile” is assumed, no longer serving as a differentiator
There are seven companies releasing new tablets next year, none of which have the word “mobile” in the name. That is because mobile is no longer a differentiator, it is assumed. Stand alone devices, even laptop computers are assumed to be mobile and what we refer to as home computers are quickly becoming tablet-based, with sales in the U.S. projected to grow from a modest 3.5 million units in 2010 to 20.4 million units in 2015, a 42 percent compound annual growth rate.
Regardless of your definition or your understanding, almost everyone agrees that the mobile space is exciting. Despite its complexity and terminology, it forces marketers out of their comfort zones of creating didactic marketing messages and instead challenges them to create relevance. And it is relevance, above all that makes the word “mobile” truly unique.