Mobile Focus: The Moving Picture

Making mobile video work for your brand

Focus: The Moving Picture

While consumer interest in mobile video continues to skyrocket, the new on-the-go medium is also creating unprecedented challenges for marketers looking to connect with customers. The new role that mobile video can play in marketing campaigns is inviting but can be overwhelming, unless marketers know how to create, implement and utilize the content and mobile medium correctly. The good news is that those who master the art of online video will have a truly compelling way to engage customers.

Mobile video viewing grew a significant 52 percent in the first quarter of 2009 from the previous year, up to 13.4 million Americans. With these viewing numbers, reports estimate that mobile video will be worth $11 billion by 2011 - and will become one of the fastest growing mobile entertainment sectors.

Much like the App Store phenomenon, which sent marketers running to create the next best mobile app, mobile video is presenting marketers with a tremendous opportunity to get more content on their customers' handsets before the market becomes overcrowded. Yet companies are actually running into a number of technology- and content-delivery roadblocks along the way. Bandwidth issues, the intricacies of streaming versus on-demand video, and the increasing diversity of handsets (think iPhone, Palm Pre, BlackBerry, etc.) among a brand's audience create significant challenges for marketers to strike while the iron is hot. Moreover, brands need to approach this new medium differently than they would traditional marketing channels.

Ensuring Optimum Video Performance
Nothing is worse than investing the time and money to create interesting videos, only to have them not display properly. We've all experienced video buffering delays and jittery video playback. Users quickly lose patience and bail on your video.

To make sure your videos play properly across platforms, they need to be properly encoded. There are different protocols for delivering videos over mobile devices than there are for delivering them on a Web site. Moreover, each mobile device has its own idiosyncrasies. For example, Flash videos won't display on iPhones, Palm Pres or BlackBerrys; however, a content-delivery network (CDN) with multiprotocol streaming servers can automatically stream a single H.264/AAC media source to these mobile devices, as well as to IPTV set-top boxes and to desktop screens with just one video asset - and without any special processing.

The file size is also extremely important when delivering video to mobile devices. Device makers like Apple have restrictions on video file sizes and how they're encoded. If you encode the video at too high a bit rate, users will experience buffering, and won't get a smooth experience. Worse, Apple will reject the video application altogether if the videos don't meet their specifications.

If you're creating online videos, look for technologies that will encode them in one simple step so that they're optimized for any type of mobile device, regardless of screen size. Be sure the technology is also capable of encoding at lower bit rates so that the viewing experience is good, regardless of the user's available device bandwidth.

Shift in Mobile Marketing Mindset
Unlike mobile marketing campaigns that chase and spam consumers with unsolicited messages and offers, mobile video can and should be integrated into brand campaigns and communications that mobile users have opted-in to receive. With the proliferation of mobile spam, consumers are more cautious and unwilling to accept unsolicited SMS and MMS messages. Unless they have opted-in to receive such text messages from trusted brands, the chance that these messages will go unanswered - or reported as spam - outweigh the potential of having them drive interest and sales. Mobile video, on the other hand, is providing the means for brands to bypass SMS and MMS marketing companies that spam and alienate mobile subscribers. If integrated properly, mobile video allows consumers to view demos, explore features, and attain an enhanced understanding and perspective on how a brand's product or service would work.

Online news subscribers, for example, might opt-in to receive mobile videos of top news stories of the day, while home shoppers might give their real estate agent permission to send videos of new listings that meet their search criteria. It's a way to engage users with content they want, when they want it. Mobile video can also serve to educate and inform users, beyond just product pitches. For example, a hardware store could share videos with new customers about the different ways they can use the new band saw they just bought. In this way, they're improving the customer's experience, increasing the odds that the customer will return.

Brand Consistency
As with any element of a marketing program, it's important that mobile video campaigns integrate with the overall marketing strategy. Maintaining consistency across all channels, including video, is important for strengthening and reinforcing your brand. Be sure your company logo and other identifying elements are carried through in corporate and marketing-based online videos. But also remember that even user-generated videos - either those created by individual departments and employees, or loyal customers - have great brand potential and can be folded into the marketing (including mobile) campaign if done properly. The same rules apply, though; when you are sending video through your mobile channels, make sure it aligns with your brand - in style, content and format.

New Revenue Opportunities
Mobile video also takes mobile promotions one step further. These promotions are proven ways to generate sales, but what if marketers could also provide consumers with mobile video of the items on sale? Think about how slick - and irresistible - a demo of a digital camera would seem next to a coupon offering 10 percent off. Watching products and services in action increases buying power and interest among consumers. And giving buyers a clear call to action helps to convert those interested parties to actual buyers.

Mobile video is a great way to pique the interest of prospects, and convert them into buyers. To
keep users' attention, be sure your videos are packaged and encoded properly to deliver optimum performance. Sharing valuable information with customers, giving them the choice to opt-in, and providing convenient "buy now" options integrated in the video are all powerful ways to drive and retain customer loyalty.

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