Commentary

Facebook's New Emerging Market Mobile Strategy Is A Win For Brands

The GSMA forecasts that global smartphone penetration in emerging markets is set to increase over the next several years —Sub-Saharan Africa is poised to rise to 32 percent by 2017, compared to 19 percent in 2012, and to 20 percent in Latin America, up from four percent — meaning that such key regions are vital for ongoing success among major brands with mobile reach. In order to remain globally relevant, widely recognized companies such as Apple, Samsung, Facebook and Twitter as well as major consumer brands must evolve in order to appeal to mobile users in developing nations, especially if they are to capture and retain consumer attention.

Facebook — which has historically pioneered connectivity strategies (for example, their Internet.org initiative in 2013) — has recently made further strides in targeting mobile consumers in developing nations through a new, experimental ad strategy.

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What Facebook is Getting Right

Facebook’s new advertising strategy bypasses current technological infrastructure issues in emerging markets — reaching, for example, regions throughout Africa that lack consistent 4G connections. To circumvent this, Facebook has reimagined the delivery systems of its ads — instead of relying on traditional displays, the new ads take the form of missed calls. When consumers see an ad on their device, they click on it to send a missed call notice directly to the advertiser. Then the advertiser can call the user back, and audibly deliver information relating to the promotion at hand.

Facebook’s newfound method overcomes problems around data speeds and upload times, circumventing poor connectivity entirely. As a result, brands are able to communicate their message clearly — a factor that no doubt better ensures marketing success. After all, according to The Next Mobile Frontier Report, consumers in emerging markets are open to receiving promotional messages via mobile — 60 percent of Brazilians and 93 percent of Nigerians are happy to receive direct mobile advertisements—which perhaps differs starkly from consumer attitudes in Western countries such as the U.S. and U.K. Therefore, it is to brands’ benefit to advertise directly to consumers.

The Importance of Localization

As a caution, however, marketers must not only recognize the technological infrastructure in place in each country (e.g., the reality of Internet connectivity). Brands must also appeal to cultural sensibilities on a case-by-case basis. By acknowledging Internet connectivity issues, Facebook is overcoming a real barrier to entry in emerging markets: namely, accessibility. Also according to “The 2014 Next Mobile Frontier Report,” accessibility remains a major concern for consumers in Brazil, India, China, Nigeria and Vietnam. While 18 percent of mobile users across these countries cannot view content from app stores on their current devices, one in five (20%) cannot find mobile content set in their local language — a major oversight. It is simply impossible for brands to effectively reach consumers if their promotions are neither visible nor comprehensible.   

Facebook’s strategy is a positive step forward in brands’ needs to evolve to local realities. In order to reach consumers, marketers must adapt further by attending to matters of accessibility and translation as well. And brands must also pay strict attention to content type. To that end, emerging market consumers desire the following types of content: social networking (82%), music (81%), news (78%), gaming (65%), lifestyle (54%), books (53%), business or financial services (46%), educational services (41%) and health services (33%). Due to desire for such content, brands must tailor their messages accordingly and align their strategies appropriately. For example, to reach consumers who enjoy gaming, brands could seek to reach users via trivia-game-based messages, which could then serve as impactful promotions.

Because consumers in developing nations desire social-network related content most, Facebook, one of the largest social networks across the globe, is even more powerfully able to reach consumers via mobile — through its newfound ad structure. In actively restructuring their promotional approach in developing nations, Facebook is naturally leveraging their influence. All companies — from mobile manufacturers to lifestyle brands — must optimize their consumer-targeting efforts in accordance with content aspirations, as well as technological and accessibility realities. Facebook has leveraged a new model for creating stronger brand awareness in developing nations, signaling a major win for all brands. Brands aiming to capture consumer attention in emerging markets must take note. 

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