Commentary

Fall Mobile Resolutions

"You need a vacation, Dad."

"No you need a vacation. You just want me to give you one and have me and my credit card tag along in case we're needed."

"See, he's cranky." She appeals to my partner. "You two need a vacation."

"This is what I am saying," my better half chimes in. She has been waiting all summer for this discussion about the absence of a vacation. "See how snippy he is."

"Knock it off or I will write about both of you in the next column."

"Fine," my daughter replies. "And don't forget to tell them what a crank you are because you spent all summer down in that cave of yours writing about media and programming conferences where other people talk even more about media. Haven't you people figured this out yet?"

Consider it done. They have been told. Since I now have been sworn to a new resolution that summers must include a vacation, let's spread the joy around. If I have to make resolutions to change, then so does everyone else, dammit. The one thing I have learned after all of these months here in "the cave" surrounded by cell phones is that more work needs to be done. How about some resolutions in the mobile marketing industry to make our 2010 better than 2009? To wit:

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Provide real mobile search results. I have been whining about this all year, but I still find it maddening that the major engines aren't floating mobile-friendly sites to the top of the search results. Hell, for much of the year Google "mobile" searches were presenting me with the same results page as their Web searches. The search experience will be better on mobile when the search experience is, well, mobile.

Stop kicking me out of apps and into browsers. The entire mobile app experience is undermined when a developer can't keep the ad experience contained within the original application. Ads are less intrusive when the user can see clearly she can back out of them. The NYTimes apps are still one of the best examples. The new ad units in that app from Medialets are full-screen takeovers, but they take place in the confines of the news brand.

Banish the landing pages that tell me to "sign up at the Web site." No joke. I keep running into half-heartedly mobile ad experiences that won't let me register with a brand or complete an action in the mobile space itself.

Improve the app store experiences. The early thrill of the mobile application model is waning and some of the same problems of discovery and limited choice that plagued the decks for years are now apparent in the stores. Palm Pre really needs apps. It is just sad in there. Android, you need a decent online catalog. The on-deck store is cluttered with bikini wallpapers and meaningless sound boards and the online store is not flexible or complete. BlackBerry has all of its App World applications nicely indexed on the Web site. Let's make this a model.

And while I am at it -- iTunes needs to grow up. In the music library I actually like the Genius recommendations for similar tunes, and it has been responsible for my buying tons of single tracks. But we need a stronger recommendation engine in the App Store to surface truly relevant programs.

Banish the Michael Jackson text alerts. Nothing involving the late singer is "breaking news" anymore. Sending subscribers an SMS alert about the latest rumor about a coroner's report abuses the privilege.

Nintendo, please come to my phone? This may be my last annual plea for Nintendo to bring some of its brilliant portable game design sense to phones. This week the company released its Professor Layton and Diabolical Box, another brilliant mobile media experience. While the iPhone and the applications model have led to a gratifying flowering of fun mobile gaming (finally), it is good to remember that one company mastered the portable game years ago...but they seem uninterested in mobile. One more time, Nintendo. The window of opportunity to make a splash here is closing -- but whenever you are ready to bring Warioware, Zelda or the Mario RPGs here, feel free. And bring that back catalog of Final Fantasy games with you.

2D Codes. Somebody make this work? I know I will take it in the knees (again) from all of you 2D code vendors out there who think your own fugly code will remake mobile marketing. I have no idea how many codes are now in the field, let alone how to distinguish one from another. The bottom line is that so long as users have to download a discrete program to make someone else's marketing program work, then this platform is for mobile geeks only. The promise is great; the hurdles are obvious. Speaking of which... .

A seamless mobile couponing experience. It is hard to imagine a marketing platform with so much promise that needs so much work on all of its levels. The front-end experience of getting coupons is haphazard. None of the aggregators has established enough direct partnerships with retailers to attract much consumer interest, and there are too many companies just scraping Web coupons that are barely visible on a phone. At the point-of-sale too many stores clerks are clueless when faced with a mobile coupon. But when this fractured system finally comes together, there is no doubt in my mind that a gusher of innovation and marketing dollars will be in there somewhere. It just makes too much good sense.

A moratorium on "is this the year of mobile?" Spare us this shallow attempt to take the temperature of a mobile marketing segment that continues to evolve slower than hoped. Don't ask questions for which the answer would be meaningless. Mobile marketing is going to be a prolonged evolution of platforms, experimentation and marketers feeling their way toward a proper strategy for their brands.

Even if there were a "year of mobile," we'll only know after it happens.

7 comments about "Fall Mobile Resolutions ".
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  1. Robb Lewis from Visa, August 27, 2009 at 1:36 p.m.

    Steve I've had that exact same experience that you had with your daughter and vacations, thanks for sharing.

    I agree on the mobile needs work theme. I think too often we accept 'how it has to work' rather than figure out how to make it work for us. The biggest oppty IMO is the electronic coupons at the store. I'm looking forward to seeing that.

    Best!
    @robblewis

  2. James Briggs from Briabe Media, August 27, 2009 at 1:44 p.m.

    II think someone needs to cut back on the caffeine. Yes some of your points are valid.
    • Advertisers refuse to listen about the value of detailed program specific mobile landing pages. They believe since you have an iPhone you should be able to sort through the entire 2000 pages of their website to get what you are looking for. And unfortunately their mobile partner is not sophisticated enough to explain why this sucks for consumers.

    • Google talks a big game about mobile but they still don't get it. Just try to read the news from their mobile page, they give you about ten stories that are often repeats from the day before. I to wish they could be good at something versus trying to be good at everything.

    But many other of your points are just ramblings:
    • 2D Bar Codes are nice to look at but who needs them. Text in a keyword to a short code and do all of the same things, right now. There is zero additional value. Further, to make them truly work you need to convince all of the device manufacturers to get on the same page and then have them fight it out with all of the supposed owners of the 2D patents. Forget about it.

    • Finally, the year of mobile -- yes even as a mobile marketer I get tired of hearing this one. The reality is mobile will continue to gain steam because the genie is out of the bottle; the train has left the station; and all of the other clichés. Consumers are mobile and they are not looking back. Unfortunately most major ad agency can't see forward.

    Have a good vacation.

  3. Andre Szykier from maps capital management, August 27, 2009 at 2 p.m.

    With regards to 2D barcodes.
    There are three competing standards:
    QR : http://invx.com/
    EZCode :http://scanbuy.com/web/
    Microsoft Tag : http://www.microsoft.com/tag/

    QR was developed in Japan and has the widest adoption

    EZCode is the most mobile aware, used in conjunction with location aware services, allows capture by camera of tags placed on physical objects, sites, magazines, coupons, etc.

    MSFT Tag is aimed at linking offline media (placed tags on various media) to online information, integrated with Bing Decision engine. Expands the concept by embedding color data as a third information dimension.
    Still in early introduction.

    Biggest mobile media use of 2D codes are web coupons that can be scanned at point of sale. Too early yet for wide adoption at POS scanners. 2 companies (Offerclick, and Spotfire) are pushing Scanbuy solution.

  4. Jim Dugan from PipPops LLC, August 27, 2009 at 3:34 p.m.

    Afternoon Steverino:

    In Reference to a KEY comment in your article:

    "A seamless mobile couponing experience. It is hard to imagine a marketing platform with so much promise that needs so much work on all of its levels.

    The front-end experience of getting coupons is haphazard.

    None of the aggregators has established enough direct partnerships with retailers to attract much consumer interest, and there are too many companies just scraping Web coupons that are barely visible on a phone.

    At the point-of-sale too many stores clerks are clueless when faced with a mobile coupon.

    But when this fractured system finally comes together, there is no doubt in my mind that a gusher of innovation and marketing dollars will be in there somewhere.

    It just makes too much good sense."

    Here's my point:

    Forget about the clueless clerks, we can make it easy on them.

    This is the key to monetizing the mobile web for advertising which is something that seems to be eluding everyone.

    Until somebody comes along with the capability to create a social paradigm change as to how we use our mobile devices, which includes, first of all, trial by those "BRAVE" retailers to stick their toes in the water and partner with an aggregator, nobody is going to check out what's going on everyday for those new e-coupons.

    If everybody tries to go it alone by creating their own mobile sites or relying on the search engines such as google, yahoo, msn, bing to find them are truly on a sinking boat and should see the coming wave.

    There are systems out there, such as ours, for people on the go, located at www.GripOffs.mobi, that offer two things that are key:

    Advertisers have the ability to create, edit, and monitor their mobile advertising campaigns from local to global exposure for very little expense, INSTANTLY.

    That means, everybody that comes to the site to see all of the deals will see this advertiser's coupon campaigns -INSTANTLY.

    Change on the site is INSTANT - whether only LOCAL or GLOBAL

    However, it's, once again, the chicken and egg thing, Steve.

    Nobody is going to continue to go to our site to use it until the advertisers understand how mobile e-coupons/offers/branding can help them in their business marketing strategies and get on board.

    That's a big chicken and a huge egg.

    Everybody can see from studies that Users want to have access to discounts like this on the go, BUT without the constant bombardment of text messages or worse.

    Users, by simply being able to go to one mobile site while on the go, are able to do it when and where they want. No irritation and one click away from all of the deals in the local area.

    UNTIL many advertisers get on board and really commit to trying and pursuing a mobile marketing program (especially including barcoded coupons/offers for instant savings for the users) and realize the advantages of the tracking of the information that the registered users are willing to provide to KNOW about the offers, then the industry and users will continue to wait for the person/company that comes up with the solution for making it happen.

    Mobile is where it's at and where we're going, but I can tell you this, I could offer every company in the country to try out a patent-pending system like ours that allows them complete control for nothing and they'd still be hesitant.

    Businesses whining about not having enough customers need to get a grip and realize there are great opportunities for them to move their businesses foward in the long term at an accelerated rate.

    Businesses, think of it this way: Today, I begin a new life ~

    AND, LISTEN TO STEVE AND HIS DAUGHTER (AND STEVE'S PARTNER) - THEY WANT SOMETHING BETTER!

  5. Esther Surden from E. Surden Associates, August 27, 2009 at 3:52 p.m.

    I used to be a mobile insider but am more of a mobile outsider these days. However, I agree with your rant about the application stores. If the ap vendor can't tell me what the ap does in a sentence or less, I'm not looking at it, and I'm not buying it. So my advice to ap vendors:hire some good writers. And don't make me guess! I enjoyed your column, Steve.

  6. Warren Billington from 5th finger, August 27, 2009 at 4:38 p.m.


    Steve, have a great vacation

    Some insightful remarks on the space - your focus as always is on user experience. Simple really.

  7. Scott Thomsen from launchmedia, Inc., August 31, 2009 at 12:09 p.m.

    Steve...

    Great challenge for all of us. The reality is that no one person or company can solve these resolutions by themselves. But as long as we all keep the customer in focus, we can meet the challenge. At LaunchMedia, are working on 2 of them.

    We will solve 2D codes... and yes, SMS will be a part of that solution. Do respect to the folks commenting above, there is tremendous value to both consumers and when they're used... as long as they're used as part of an integrated customer focused solution.

    Coupons are another topic... we believe that your observations are correct. However, the real challenge is legacy retail systems... These will change. We're focusing now on the consumer experience. How they shop and what they need. The systems challenges will be fixed, eventually.

    Obviously, more to come. It's only just begun.

    Scott Thomsen
    sthomsen@launchmediainc.com
    http://www.twitter.com/scottthomsen

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