Brands Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Be Ambitious
Mobile devices can do so much more than deliver information. How about transforming the weekly grocery shop into the virtual reality gateway for the mass market?
What role do brands play in making sure consumers get the most of their mobile phones?
One of the consequences of the ubiquity of mobile phones (apart from the re-engineering of the humble traffic light) has been a desire on the part of consumers to get more out of them, a more tangible return on investment in their devices – both in terms of time and money.
Manufacturers have played their part to scratch that itch, increasing handset capabilities in an endless quest to shorten the upgrade cycle, while the platforms such as Facebook and Twitter that operate on them constantly add functionalities to increase engagement.
From the point of view of brand marketers, however, that’s becoming something of a problem. Everyone in this industry knows how important mobile is, but many of the CMOs I come across are still thinking mainly in terms of the hardware and how to get existing aspects of their business on to it. We’re asked: “How do I get my website to display better on this?” or “How do I best take the tickets I sell on desktop and put them on that iPhone?”
Those questions are essential, but they’re not addressing a more ambitious view of mobile. We should be asking how it can be utilised by brands to deliver not just great content, but something genuinely useful to consumers. It is a failure to grasp what I call inherent mobility … yes, the technologies are there, but it’s down to brands—not the hardware manufacturers—to leverage that and capitalise on it.
Take, for instance, property conveyancing. Why couldn’t a combination of geo-location, iBeacon, and augmented reality technology get prospective buyers to a location, give them site access, and then guide them round the property? They get to browse in their own time, allowing your most valuable marketing assets—the human sales team—to eliminate time wasted on travel and concentrate on the added-value follow-up: closing the sale itself.
Generally, established brands are too far behind the curve in exploiting what mobile technologies can now offer—hence the rise of the disrupters. The Ubers of this world aren’t wedded to existing delivery models and have instead created their entire businesses around embracing mobility—the convenience it offers trumps the power of perceived brand expertise every time.
But, of course, brand expertise still counts, so for marketers it should be a case of looking for ways to take the fight back to the disrupters on their own (fast-moving) mobile turf. One might be to leverage mobile technologies to explore new ways of exploiting your market position.
BMW, for example, got that. The rise of mobility-enabled car sharing, embodied by the likes of Zipcar (ironically now under threat itself from Uber), prompted BMW to look at how it could embrace mobility and leverage the power of its brand at the same time. The result was DriveNow, a location-based, app-driven car share service that is already expanding in terms of both digital scope and regions. This has not only created a new mobility-inspired business model, it has also strengthened the company’s core proposition by opening up the BMW experience to a new segment of the market—genuine biz dev and marketing value out of one new proposition.
Yet it’s important to remember that location-based services are not the only aspect of mobility that marketers should be considering. The level of technology in mobile devices has reached the point where experiences—not merely information—can be delivered. For example, there have already been some impressive examples of successes (such as this one from Vespa) among the admittedly more numerous failures in the field of artificial reality.
Mobile is likely to be key to the future of virtual reality, too, thanks to the possibilities offered by Google Cardboard. Toes have already been dipped in the water on this front (Virgin travel perhaps?), but I’m waiting to see a huge brand really embrace the possibilities here. Take Unilever, for example. A regular box of Persil tablets is about the same size as a Google Cardboard headset. Couldn’t the requisite lenses be bundled (or otherwise made available), allowing the weekly grocery shop to become the virtual reality gateway for the mass market.
That’s the kind of utility I’m talking about in terms of mobility. It’s about marketers finding ways of leveraging the inherent capabilities of smartphones beyond delivering branded information. That you can do with print, posters, or a website. But actually offering something that your customers find genuinely useful? That’s where mobile, and mobility, will lead the way.