Mobile Marketing: Here, There, Everywhere!
My mobile phone alarm jolted me awake. Almost mechanically, I reached out and hit snooze. Another five minutes of my precious sleep, I thought, but just as I was about to drift away into that one dream about driving that red sports car into the sunset, the dreaded notification light on my phone caught my eye.
Three notifications on Facebook, one on Twitter and two text messages flashed out at me. “I didn’t remember putting up a status update the previous night, so what was this all about?” I wondered.
As I fumbled with my phone, clearly unable to snooze anymore, I realized that most of my notifications had very little to do with updates from friends and acquaintances. Most messages were from brands, engaging with me, telling me why a specific shoe I had scouted online was ‘great’ for my calf muscles, how buying my next laptop at an electronics store halfway across the city could win me a free mousepad and where I should be getting myself the best deal on a hair transplant (I don’t think I’ll take up on that last offer though).
But how did we get here?
Globally, the first commercially sold mobile phones, circa 1995, represented a distinct change in the way we connected. Clunky designs withstanding, the devices served one primary purpose: To allow users to connect with each other, irrespective of their location. Brands had little scope for marketing, leave alone engagement on these devices.
And a few years down this road, the next step in connectivity, the Internet, boomed upon us. It was only around the end of the last millennium that you could finally use a computer to speak to friends and even strangers, often residing far away.
In a commercial sense, this meant advertisers had a new platform to engage users. This was long before the advent of social media. A time when brands were happy maintaining a static website, sharing little detail about who they were and what they did.
Here in India, a mere mention of a website printed across the brand’s collaterals meant the company had ‘arrived’. Companies proudly spoke about being “on the net,” irrespective of how little they may have actually used the medium for their day-to-day operations.
With the evolution of technology and the advent of social media in subsequent years, the mobile phone slowly grew into becoming much more than just a calling device. Better connectivity and ‘smarter’ phones meant that we suddenly had more access to information, all of which was available at the click of a button.
The combination of the mobile phone and the Internet has since grown into one of the most effective tools that brands could use to reach out to billions of subscribers. In fact, mobile technology plays a role in activism, broadcasting information, spreading awareness and connecting consumers. And advertisers know that.
Today, your favorite brands are not just limiting themselves to a mere presence on the net. They have social media profiles, where each ‘handle’ has a personality of its own. Engagement contests, AMAs (Ask Me Anythings), Q&As (Question and Answers), and events are all planned to make sure you, the consumer, enjoy a personalized engagement with the brand.
Advertisers encourage you to share stories of your experience, get more of your ‘friends’ to like and repost these stories, and invariably create a mini-community of like-minded fans that appreciate what started as one satisfactory experience. This formula is replicated dozens of times every day, all in the anticipation that those members of the audience who haven’t yet used their product/service, get inspired to do so too.
Similarly, smartphones today have created an environment for mobile applications. Apps, as they are popularly known, go beyond the traditional channels to engage you at an even deeper level.
For instance, when you installed your favourite app on your phone, you accepted a range of terms and conditions that invariably allowed the companies that run them to access your phonebook, messages and even your social media profiles. The app knows your birthday and your anniversary. It knows when you bought your pair of blue shoes and when your utility bills are due.
This has altered the marketing scenario in India. Estimates suggest that India has more than 200 million mobile Internet users, a sizeable number of who use smartphones. Advertisers are developing new, interactive ways to engage with this very connected audience and with such rapid advancements, it should perhaps come as no surprise that I get the mobile notifications that I do.
Perhaps instead of questioning it, I should accept this as a sign of things to come, and hopefully return to that dreamy red sports car…
There goes my alarm again!