Mobile Musings

I had the pleasure recently of attending the MMA's first CEO & CMO Summit. In addition to being at the stunning Casa de Campo resort in the Dominican Republic, the event was three great days full of interesting discussions about the evolution of mobile marketing. The attendee mix was balanced among technology providers, big agencies, mobile start-up agencies, publishers, and brands, which created some exciting debates.

At the presentation from The Weather Channel, I was fascinated to hear the inside view of learning to segment user base by access point. CEO Mike Kelly explained that users accessing weather content via online, smartphone, tablet, and/or in-app have very different needs and behavior patterns. Tablet users tend to use content less frequently and be more consistent in access, while smartphone users accessed content more frequently, but stayed less time. This made me start to wonder if mobile was a channel -- or just an access point? I put this question to a roundtable I was on and it certainly elicited very opinionated responses.



In the end, I never got an answer. Still, regardless of how you view it, the implications are that media is not about buying online or offline anymore, but selecting content and publishers that a brand wants to affiliate with -- and then ensuring that the brand message is delivered and tailored to the device and users in the context of their current need state. The industry has been abuzz about integrated media for years, but this adds a layer of complexity that requires greater continuity.

I think the same holds true of search. If consumers are searching for content and information related to a brand, it shouldn't matter if they are online, on a smartphone, using a tablet, and/or in-app. The brand must be visible when consumers are actively searching, or it's not relevant. I think the search industry understands this, as most campaigns have mobile search, but few truly optimize the experience beyond the search results based on device. This represents a massive shift as it not only requires the brand to segment and tailor the content based on device and need state, but also to optimize each independently and yet be able to track across device or access point.

It was surprising that search was never a focus point at the mobile summit. Sure it was mentioned in passing here or there, maybe even at the swim-up pool bar, but it was never central to any key topic on the agenda. This did not dawn on me until after the event, though.

Two things I read on the plane home made me start to ponder the growing importance of mobile search. One was an article in the July 14 The Economist, "Going Local," which discussed research from the OECD and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) showing that global Internet activity is increasingly wireless and driven by local needs. The second was the recently published "ZMOT," Google's eBook on winning the zero moment of truth. Within it, there were two notable statistics that jumped out at me: 20% of searches across all Google properties are local, and 40% of mobile searches are local.

As ubiquitous high-speed broadband permeates the globe, it will further drive the adoption of wireless devices from smartphones to tablets. Mobile access to content, in-app or otherwise, will grow right along with that and create even more fragmentation. This will accelerate consumer adoption of mobile search, which will in turn demand mobile-optimized search campaigns. I don't just mean syncing AdWords to mobile, but holistically optimizing and enhancing the entire brand experience from SERP to content across iPhones and iPads. And clearly much of this needs to be locally focused.

Maybe mobile search will get its own panel at the next MMA event.

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