Meet the Enabler: Rethinking mobile devicesBy Digital Strategy — May 26, 2011 - 4:55 pm
Today, at least in the U.S., “mobile penetration” is no longer questioned. Most research suggests that mobile phone access is upwards of 4 out of 5 people in the country. In the 60’s, communication theorist Marshall McLuhan was the first to introduce the idea of media and technology as extensions of our body. The watch, for example, was studied as a prosthetic device, allowing our bodies to measure time. However, this notion seems to hold true these days: a study by Starcom MediaVest Group (2010) suggested that 91% of mobile phone owners keep the phone within three feet of themselves 24 hours a day, 365 days a week. And a new study conducted by IPG Media Lab and ad platform YuMeThe reveals that that 60% of the TV watchers toyed with their cell phones while in front of the tube. The cell phone is part of us now, extending our capacity to communicate, connect with others and access information, and so forth. More and more, we are becoming addicted to these add-ons, to a point where “non-smoking” signs are now turning into “no-cell phone” signs.
For a while, we’ve been suggesting to stop calling these platforms ‘phones’. A phone, by definition, is a device that allows sound to be transported from point A to point B. Why not call them a camera with built-in phone capabilities or an alarm clock with integrated voice and data functionality? What about calling them a virtual concierge? Mobile devices are not phones; they’re personal shoppers, gaming platforms, tour guides. Let’s call them a remote control that organizes your day, your life. Let’s call them a wearable memory stick: do you remember any phone number? What about birthdays? Let’s call them a meeting point, a group reunion, a portable community.
These gadgets are increasingly becoming a means to define people’s personalities—in other words: self-branding instruments. The “I am a Mac, I am a PC” war has now turned into an “I am an iPhone, and I am a Blackberry…and I am a Droid….”. We have moved from “1 missed call” to “downloading”.” These days, typing is the new talking, —and tapping is the new typing. Mobile devices are no longer the third screens, but increasingly becoming the first. In TED curator Chris Anderson’s own words, “…it’s the world that consumers are increasingly choosing…because these dedicated platforms often just work better to fit in their lives (the screen comes to them, they don’t have to go to the screen)” (Wired).
So how do we use phones now?
- Commerce. Whether it’s downloading bar code scanners, using price comparison services or reading consumer reviews, people use their phone as a means to purchase.
- Bridging the physical and digital worlds. NFC, QR codes and Augmented Reality apps now prompt consumers to hold up their phones to interact with what’s around them, whether it’s in-store or in the outside world.
- Mobile payments are here now. Imagine if you never had to visit the ATM for cash, dig through your wallet for your MetroCard, or fumble with a keychain crowded with loyalty cards: that’s a world where a simple wave of a phone could function as everything you carry around in your wallet.
- Location, location, occasion! Mobile location-based services combines the exact location and time of day with a device that is unique to a specific user, providing advertisers the most refined and targeted means to date.
- It’s all about utility. Research suggests that though people download apps, many are soon deleted or never used again. Lightly engaging games, high-utility apps (e.g. The Weather Channel) and navigation apps will continue to live on mobile devices while branded apps that don’t provide a reason to return will fall off.
- Search. Consumers are using mobile search in two scenarios: at home when the phone is easier to use than a PC, and out in the real world when a user is looking to spend her money. Given that these searches are inherently local, they likely indicate intent to purchase, providing marketers the opportunity to use hyper-local mobile advertising to help convert that search.
Our approach: let’s rethink mobile technologies as ENABLERS.