Engagement: Can My Phone Do That?

I do not like roller coasters, crowds or excessive hype. The first two are why you will never catch me dead at an amusement park. Crowds and hype are also why I will always avoid the latest blockbuster that everyone - whether they have good taste in movies or not - says you have to go see. I need things to live up to my expectations and not feel like I have to like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies if I think that they suck.

So maybe it was the crowds, incredible hype or the amusement park atmosphere that made me reluctant to go gaga for the Apple iPhone that was launched earlier this summer. People camped out for days at AT&T and Apple stores to be the first in line for the phones. What's with that? Stephen Colbert of the "Colbert Report" begged (albeit 'with dignity') for weeks on national television to get an iPhone - which he seems to have gotten and has been enjoying petting ever since. With the months and months of news coverage, how could it possibly live up to the hype? I mean really - without a button keyboard? It's taken me years to perfect my BlackBerry Qwerty typing skills.

Well ... I saw it, played with it, used a Google map, watched a video, and I really want one. I really, really want one - maybe even as much as Stephen Colbert. Leave it to Apple to say it's going to launch a category-changing product and really do it. It's not about having music or video on your mobile phone, or about mapping and directions, or about getting weather reports or having a camera in your phone. Who doesn't have that already? It is about the way that it works, the way it all works together, and how easy it is - and yes, it really is that easy - to use.

As an interactive marketer, I see greater potential - well beyond the iPhone itself. The heavy national television campaign promoting the iPhone by focusing exclusively on the useful tools and functions that exist on the phone deck were supported by some of the best product demos of the phone itself, and the functions and applications will surely make many people want an iPhone to call their own.

Perhaps the most exciting result of the iPhone marketing blitz is the "phone envy" effect. After seeing the bells and whistles that Apple offers, people are wondering "Can my phone do that?" For the average user, the answer is "yes." It may not be able to do all the things the iPhone can do - and it definitely will not be as slick and hip as the iPhone. But mobile-phone users will still be able to search Google, find maps, take and share pictures, connect with people in more ways than just voice or SMS, get news and data feeds, and a lot more.

The phone-envy effect that has developed as a result of Apple's amazing marketing efforts will have a dramatic affect on consumer adoption of mobile applications. I have long contended that the future of mobile marketing is with applications and not advertising. Marketers and brands have to make themselves relevant in terms of applications and service that they provide to consumers. Mobility is not about devices; it's about people and their everyday expectations that involve information, interaction and entertainment, and brands have to fit into these three dimensions in a relevant and convenient way.

This is why we have spent a lot of time and energy creating mobile applications, including applications that support photo sharing and community to bring people together. Instead of hoping that people engage a mobile ad, we have to give them things that they can engage with when they need or want information, interaction, and entertainment.

So while you won't see me at the next Pirates movie - you may see me, like Stephen Colbert, with a new iPhone sometime soon.

Michael Koziol is executive vice president, North America, Nurun/Ant Farm Interactive. (

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