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DOES THE RISE OF VOICE MEAN THE FALL OF THE SMARTPHONE?

Mobile marketers are used to facts and statistics. It’s been said that mobile marketing runs on stats and we’re inclined to agree – mobile marketing presentations, budgets, strategies and plans are always number-heavy, and it’s perhaps because our discipline is so wonderfully-measurable that statistics play such a huge role in what we do for our clients. So, when it comes to numbers, mobile marketers have seen and heard it all. Or have we? Once in a while, a truly interesting factoid pops up that really makes us sit up in amazement. Here’s one them: Gardner says that by 2020, 30 percent of all web searches will be done without the use of a screen. Excuse me? Yup, that really is one of these super interesting, rare facts seldom seen before. Of course, we are hinting at the growing phenomenon of voice search. According to HubSpot’s “Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2018” (www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics), the number of voice queries increased 3,400 percent between 2008 and 2017. We wrote about the growing trend towards voice in the last installment of this blog and stats like these hammer home just how big Internet searches without having to use the mobile screen are going to be in the near future. To further illustrate: In 2015, 19 percent of people used Siri at least daily. In 2016, 20 percent of search queries on Google’s mobile app and on Android devices were voice searches. Even more significantly, two-thirds of people who use digital voice assistants, such as Google Home, use their smartphones less often. So while mobile marketers have been touting the rise of the smartphone, perhaps we need to start being a little more circumspect. Could the rise of voice-based, mobile digital assistants mean mobile users will be spending less time interacting with their smartphone screens? That looks like a potential threat that needs to be turned into an opportunity. It’s clear that campaigns will continue to be made or broken on the back of mobile performance, but it’s also clear that mobile campaigns will not necessarily always translate to screen-based campaigns in the future. Mobile marketers, start thinking outside the box – and the screen – next year.

MAKE CHRISTMAS MOBILE ADS FOR LIKES, NOT LOURIES

A recent article in Mobile Marketing Magazine had me sitting up and taking notice. It’s not that I don’t usually sit up and take notice when reading the stories of the day in the trade press, but there’s often a lot of the same, isn’t there? So what I liked about this one was a suggestion I hadn’t heard before. Many of us know that many brands both in South Africa and globally spend a lot of money on flagship festive season TV ads. It’s like when the Americans blow their own ad budgets producing those stunning annual Super Bowl TV commercials that are so clearly designed to go viral as well. So the point of the Mobile Marketing Magazine article was related to the above. Looking at some of the amazing Festive Season TV ads that typically come out this time of year, there is clearly a gap for mobile marketers to likewise go for the gold standard when producing digital commercial content over the December holiday season. Why shouldn’t aficionados of the small(er) screen also look forward to some mind-blowing commercial Christmas content designed for their medium of choice? Clearly, some TV ads are designed for going viral across millions of mobile devices, but so many are not. We can see this simply by looking at how the ads are produced. Too many TV characters almost unseen on the small screen, too much dialogue, subtitles that are near invisible and commercials made for HD and similar when, quite frankly, that’s not how tens of millions of us on this continent are seeing these ads. Come on, TV guys. Design for Likes, not Louries or Lions. There is such a tremendous opportunity for mobile to bridge the gap between digital and television. Mobile marketers, far from being consigned to the industry fringes, can emerge as the kingmakers. We can be that vital link between the mediums. Don’t forget, too, that some ads deemed not suitable for broadcast for the flimsiest reasons, can go straight to mobile. Essentially, we’ve created our own medium. Possibly because the mobile device is such a personal platform, digital mobile campaigns also offer the opportunity for unique, in-depth experiences that can match and even exceed those offered by traditional channels. Let’s put this into practice this December!

GAMIFICATION COUNTS & PROGRESS MARKERS ARE KEY

Who has time any more? Simple question, but I bet I already lost half of you! Time has become as precious a resource as water in Cape Town over the summer months. Seriously. Recognising this, in a recent post I provided some handy mobile hints and tips one could implement in a day. Who has time to draft lengthy strategies when the competition is already implementing while you’re preparing? With all of this in mind, let’s not beat around the bush with a long list of 7, or even 5, top mobile tips for the coming year. Let’s rather look at one thing you can do right now for your brand to immediately reap the benefits of society’s mobile-first culture. Mobile devices are the new horizon for marketers, and they need to be taken seriously as a core marketing priority and not as some fringe platform as if we were all still living in the ’90s. The dominance of mobile marketing is complete and now it’s a question of not if brands are in mobile, but just how deeply they are embedded in mobile-first culture. Unfortunately, while knowing what to do is obvious, knowing how to do it has become much trickier as mobile technology evolves into a hugely-complicated, yet hugely-appealing, plethora of ways to reach the consumer. So, you need to gamify your approach to reach those individuals who are growing increasingly-accustomed to researching and navigating their customer decisions via their smart devices. Most people in the developed world, and across the developed parts of the so-called developing world, now spend at least six hours a day accessing the web on their mobiles. With that amount of time being spent looking at the small screen, brands need to start making access time fun time, and gamification is the key. Work on engaging consumers through something legitimately fun and stimulating. This will keep your brand in their minds! The key word here is ‘legitimately’ – consumers will soon wise up to gimmicky gamification. Mobile marketers keen on a gamification approach would be wise to integrate campaigns with social media platforms. This way, friends and family members can act as brand advocates as they bring new people into your mobile brand games. Lastly, when it comes to gamification, a system of rewards is important because people like to know when they’re making progress in the game or getting closer to some real-world discount. So while badges and points are important, remember that it’s discounts in the real-world that count and progress tabs in this regard are hugely important!

GREAT, BUT LIMITED, FUTURE FOR SMS

As regular readers of this blog would know, predictions are so common in mobile marketing, it’s almost as if our discipline runs on speculation of what may or may not happen in the future! That’s not a bad way to go – without our eyes fixed on the horizon we wouldn’t make any progress. Future fixation can’t be worse than living in the past or worse, living for the moment without any hint of some planning going on. This brings me to speculation about the health or otherwise of the mobile marketer’s erstwhile favourite cellular network bearer, SMS. The text message is probably responsible for the scary fast growth of GSM around the globe. Before consumers cottoned on to this low-cost network engineer testing tool, mobile was really just your home phone without copper wire. Seriously. That’s how people viewed cellphones: they were just souped-up car phones and the home phone remained telecom numero uno. It was SMS that really made us all think about the non-voice-based potential applications of mobile. But now after a massive flirtation with the short text message, those in the know have been predicting its demise for the better part of two to three years – at least – now. I tend to differ in this assertion. It’s clear the numbers do not favour SMS. But, what’s happening is that SMS is simply returning to its business-based role. SMS has a solid future as a reliable bearer of mostly once-off business-to-consumer communication. Who can deny that SMS is the OTP (one-time password) king? And there are dozens of good, solid SMS-based applications that are being well used out there. SMS will continue to be around for a very long time because of some simple truths. Consumers trust it, for one. These days, all manner of dodgy person or business seems to be attempting to add mobile consumers to their WhatsApp contacts. With SMS, an unwanted message is just that – an unwanted, once-off message to be easily deleted. With WhatsApp, for example, a similar attempted contact situation feels like an invasion of privacy. SMS is robust, it is credible and trusted by consumers. Text messages with valuable information sent to consumers by their banks, insurance firms, and others, are easily stored in inboxes for later action. SMS is a manual gearbox, its a revolver, your dad’s car, and real buttons instead of a glass screen. It’s good, solid, dependable. And set to be with us for a very long time.

Spread the word, voice is back!

As crazy as it might seem to so many mobile marketers who have keenly watched the rise of data over the past several years, voice is tipped to be the big trend of 2019. Voice…? Yes, it seems it’s “Back to the Future” for mobile next year but should this surprise us? Not really. Wasn’t the cost of data the thing that was holding back us playing mobile’s “B Side”? Data’s not cheap but it has gotten a lot cheaper and the consumer’s consumption of this cellular staple has, consequently, rocketed. As we move towards the last days of 2018, it’s similarly clear that the cost of communicating over mobile networks using our own voices has dropped dramatically. In fact, with over-the-top services like WhatsApp’s voice notes, for instance, that cost is for all intents and purposes, free. So with the dark days of R2.75 per minute GSM voice calls now firmly in the past, why wouldn’t voice be all set for its cellular rebirth? My own feeling is that voice-based communication was always the number one preferred way for humans to get their message across to each other. We’re social animals – we may love the convenience of email and SMS, but we do want that pinnacle of personal contact that is the human voice. Cost killed it for voice in the early days and all the subsequent text-based communication that followed was simply a way of getting around the high cost of cellular. SMS was the band-aid. So it’s nice that voice is back and it’s back in a big way. That’s going to open up a whole plethora of opportunities for clever mobile marketers who are able to capitalize on the consumer’s new-found love affair with voice. Let’s go beyond those automated voice calls selling funeral cover. Let’s make 2019 the year of voice-based innovation in mobile marketing!

ADVICE FOR A 24HR POCKET MOBILE PLAN

Imagine you had only 24 hours to put together a passable mobile marketing plan. What mobile tactics would you prioritise over a day because they are such non-negotiables? There is, in fact, a lot one could do in a normal working day that stretched into the evening because of less than optimal mobile planning. Pay attention to this core mobile marketing advice first and then, in 2019, take some time to really draft something awesome: The first thing one would need to do is to quickly skim through what company marketing platforms currently exist that can be rapidly tweaked towards mobile. So, take a read through your company website and cut the copy down so that there are never more than 100 words on each page and pages are ideally limited to about four. Seriously. You should and need to say it on mobile in under 400 words. If you can’t, you’ve lost the majority of Africans who are navigating the web on some exceptionally tiny screens. In the same wordy email to your designer, tell them to chop out all pictures except one cool and small one on the landing page. That should be enough for even the most creative of creatives to accomplish in one day! Try also impress upon your web people the importance of thinking local. Mobile devices with their ability to know locations have been a real boon for local businesses. More and more people are using their handheld devices to ask questions like “where is the closest atm” and “what time does Clicks close?”. Keep this in mind and make sure to include location-specific content. Plan for errors because typing on smaller screens can be challenging. Be sure to include commonly-misspelled words relating to your business in your campaigns and know which relevant keywords are prone to typos. Come up with a few mobile text tag ads to tag onto the end of Please Call Me (PCM) Messages. If you’ve only got a day for your pocket mobile marketing plan, you definitely need to have a Please Call Me campaign feature as part of your 24-hour mobile plan. Here you can reach tens of millions of mobile consumers in one fell swoop. The text needs to be exceptionally brief and contain a clear call to action. PCM campaigns are ridiculously affordable, measurable and super effective to boot. Finally, use your 24 hours to get in touch with a proper, specialist mobile marketing outfit so that, next time, you don’t have to waste the potential that is mobile marketing with a hastily put together plan-on-the-go! Mobile’s too awesome to rush and the benefits for your brand of engaging with a specialist are too numerous to mention. As part of your plan, you can name-drop your 2019 future mobile marketing partner, impressing all and sundry with your exhaustive sector research. By way of underscoring the importance of a mobile-first web presence, the absolute final word today belongs to Unilever: “Brands have to be prepared to meet customers where they are, they should prepare to have assets mobile-ready, including optimising websites for small screens with contents repurposed for any screen, pre-aligning creative and media teams to build relevant assets, and understanding viewability.” That’s very sensible advice you don’t need a day to digest!

THE END OF MONEY? READ ON…

Does anyone remember a South Africa that was so awash in supermarket shopping bags that the thin plastic bag was once dubbed ‘SA’s national flower’? Then, about 20 years ago, consumers in South Africa started paying for these bags and suddenly their willy-nilly usage plummeted. Today, many of us see value in these bags (that we’ve forked out 50-odd cents for) and would never dream of simply discarding them all over the place. This shows how powerful hitting us in the pocket can be when you want to direct behaviour towards a more environmentally-conscious end. It also shows how on-the-ball our country is in many areas. The National Credit Act is another beautiful piece of legislation that was introduced just at the right time, that is, shortly before the global credit crisis really hit. Much of the world is now seeing how damaging the cousin of the plastic bag is turning out to be. I’m speaking, of course, of the plastic straw and its partner in the environmental crime of the last century and of the current young century: the styrofoam cup. Mostly used for coffee, the styrofoam and other plastic derivatives of this takeaway favourite is now being recognised for the rotter it is turning out to be. Forget caffeine keeping us awake, the caffeine holder is now giving us all sleepless nights wondering what damage is being done to our world. We often mention real-world examples of mobile marketing in this blog and today I have such a cracker for you that’s related to the above. Not content with offering customers discounts for bringing their own cups, Costa Coffee in the UK has now teamed up with Barclaycard to launch a coffee cup that’s not only reusable, but which incorporates a mobile payment element. What? Yes, seriously! Your coffee cup now pays for itself, well, sort of… The ‘clever cup’, which comes with a mobile app to run the whole thing, is part of a wider campaign by Costa to encourage customers to avoid single-use coffee cups. Essentially, the cup has a contactless chip embedded in its silicon base which screws off off so you can wash it – presumably without washing your money away! Mobile users can track their spending, top up their balance and block or cancel the contactless payment element using the dedicated app or online. This has to be 2018’s best example of the deployment of practical yet awesome mobile technology out in the wild. What a way to (almost) end what’s been another great mobile year! Let’s end off by issuing a challenge to the African mobile marketing community to come up with something equally outstanding.

Four immediate easy mobile wins to implement right away!

As we race towards the end of what we hope has been another successful year for the mobile marketing industry, it is perhaps a good idea to take stock of a few mobile fundamentals. Mobile’s the order of the day, that’s for sure. How often do any of us view email messages on a desktop computer any more? If your client’s strategic marketing plan for 2019 does not take mobile devices into consideration, their brand will start trailing competitors significantly. The good news is there a plenty of highly-effective, yet cost-effective, mobile-related tactics that can be quickly employed to get clients on the right side of the mobile revolution. We’ve listed below some of the top mobile marketing best practices to consider before year-end. Get these implemented by 2019 and you can kick the mobile new year off with the best of them! Optimise your web presence for mobile display, first and foremost. It’s no good for that swanky and uber-creative designer to come up with some award-winning work that looks incredible on a huge desktop screen – your online presence needs to display more effectively, and less creatively, across a range of mobile screens. Brevity is crucial. With less cyber real estate on which to make your point, because screens are smaller, you need to come up with really punchy, hard-hitting web copy. Also bear in mind those millennials that are said to be reading less and less… Think local. Mobile devices with their ability to know locations have been a real boon for local businesses. More and more people are using their handheld devices to ask questions like “where is the closest atm” and “what time does Clicks close?”. Keep this in mind and make sure to include location-specific content. Finally, you need to plan for errors because typing on smaller screens can be challenging. Current and potential customers are likely to make plenty of errors when searching for your online mobile presence – take this into account, especially when register domain names. Be sure to include commonly-misspelled words relating to your business in your campaigns and know which relevant keywords are prone to typos.