When It Comes To Mobile, We're All Teenagers


Questionable behavior, fleeting infatuations with the new and the flashy, and conflicted opinions about what’s right and wrong are clear signs of adolescence. They’re also hallmarks of people’s relationship to mobile. 

According to McCann Truth Central, an “intelligence unit” of advertising network McCann Worldgroup, we’re all only adolescents when it comes to mobile technology, starting with our overall relationship with mobile -- which, for the average person, is about 12 years. 

The online study found that most people are still figuring out what they want the mobile space to be and who they intend to be inside it. The bottom line: people are very conflicted. Sixty-one percent of respondents said what they do on their mobile device has no effect on the people around them, but 52% said it was more tempting to be rude to people who were using their phone in public. Seventy-two percent said mobile devices were a requirement to connecting to someone or something, although a similar percentage worried that our emotional connections to each other are weaker today than they were in the past. 



“We're still figuring out how our mobile behaviors define ourselves and affect others,” David Tucker, deputy director of McCann Truth Central, tells Marketing Daily. “It's also evident when we realize just how conflicted people are when it comes to mobile.”

Yet mobile is a way for consumers to project status. Three-quarters of users said they looked to their devices as a way to fit in, rather than stand out. (The study also found the average consumer switched devices or carriers every 22 months.) At the same time, 55% said they judge people by the devices they own, and 40% judge on the basis of carrier.

“It's testament to the power of branding for mobile carriers,” Tucker says. “Seventy-five percent of people felt that mobile carriers have different personalities, so it stands to reason that they associate that personality with the people that utilize a given carrier.”

Meanwhile, mobile users are engaging in questionable behavior with their devices. More than 10% of respondents have sent or forwarded sexually explicit texts, 29% admitted to downloading content illegally and 20% said they use profanity in their texts. 

“This is all part of the teenage experience,” Tucker says. “I suspect it's also a case of the consequences of these actions not being fully understood by some consumers plus the security provided by doing things through a screen.”

As consumers are figuring out how to grow out of their mobile adolescence, they are looking for more engagement. According to the study, 63% of people wish the advertising they saw on their phones was more entertaining. 

“It's not just about entertainment, although that's clearly a part of the picture,” Tucker says. “Brands are in the same position as consumers: we're still figuring out the boundaries. We'd hope that brands can figure it along with or ahead of consumers, particularly when they are conducting the right research and talking to the right audiences.”

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