Right Time, Right Place, Right Consumer Or Bust

A few years back, when a consumer brand marketer received orders to create an awareness feast, they would go to the supermarket with $170 million, buy $168.5 million worth of hamburger, and some buns and charcoal briquettes. And one bottle of lighter fluid. And pray it would catch fire. 

Now, you go in with that amount, a shopping list longer than a shuttlecraft pre-flight check, a roll of data longer than Proust, and a staff at home that is now bigger than the Papal retinue. Then drive home to cook it into something that, together, makes for a really fabulous 120-course meal that serves 15 million. 

With two-thirds of Americans carrying around smartphones and 20% of them using their phones for everything, mobile is moving way up the list.

Last week, I spoke about this with several people, three of them working on consumer brands, and one at a data firm. One topic of discussion during this conference call: how do you translate to portable screens the kind of brand equity and awareness communications you used to do on TV? That, as mentioned, wasn't a conversation you would have had a few years ago. But now, with larger screens on smartphones delivering extremely high-quality graphics through thick pipes, people are getting this kind of information all the time. 

Joe Kyriakoza, general manager of the auto practice at Oracle’s Datalogix, pointed out that people are on their smartphones either wasting time and having distracting fun, or trying to save time, meaning they don't have a lot of time to save. I experienced this over the weekend. I was stuck in the wilds of Baltimore, middle of nowhere waiting for a bus. I was tapping away on my phone, desperate to find a hotel and a cab, as it was getting dark. And Baltimore is Baltimore. Up pops a video ad. I have to tap at the little “x” to close it, which instead shut the browser because I was nervous and hit the wrong button. Here's a message I would have welcomed: “Uber would like to help you out. Call us now and we'll give you a discount, since you've clearly been screwed by Triple Happiness.” 

Yes, marketers have the capability on their end to deliver any content to the sophisticated machine on the other, but waste is waste and delivering the right message to the right person at the right time limits it. Kyriakoza concedes that fragmentation means, by definition, marketers have to take the splintered approach, but it also means that, with the right data, you get to lower your wasted dollars by not targeting people who aren't likely to buy your product, or be in the mood to engage. Mobile should mean never having to say you're sorry. 

On the positive side, fragmented media means you don't have to get a bigger bullhorn than your competitor. “It turns the ‘awareness’ component of advertising from a competition around who’s got the louder voice or larger budget to who can create a better experience for a consumer to engage with the brand,” he said. 

That aside, what kinds of message and content can work across any platform? Honda Stage is a good example of an approach that works pretty much anywhere. Why? Music and music video content, along with social media are among the most popular smartphone features, especially among consumers 18 to 30. 

This year Pew Research found, after doing a series of surveys, that three-quarters of younger smartphone owners use their phone to watched videos at least once over the week-long study period, compared with 31% of those 50 and older. And 64% of younger adults used their phones at one time or another to listen to music or podcasts, versus 21% of older users who did so. Ninety-one percent of smartphone owners ages 18-29 said they used social networking on their phone at least once over the course of the study period, compared with 55% of those 50 and older.

There is a lot of data from all of this, and Kyriakoza notes that data, when understood, means efficiency. “Awareness becomes more like targeted or concentrated awareness. It allows [a brand] to only spend against the part of the population that can afford to use it.”

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