I’ve made some mileage from mobile. Nowadays I’m a ‘mobile expert’, I’m presented to clients as the ‘mobile guy’, and, to my astonishment, grown up people in real businesses often want to hear what I’ve got say. After years of being in the wilderness, it feels good to be basking in the heat of the current mobile feeding frenzy.
But before I allow myself to get too comfortable, I am reminded of why, in 2007, I was a founder of a ‘different’ mobile agency. That agency was started as a reaction to what we perceived was a mobile marketing industry dominated by people selling technology, not ideas. And we set out to inject some marketing creativity and strategy into that world, to talk and think in the language of brands and agencies, not binary code.
To a large extent, we did what we set out to do, but we never could shake the technology focus we’d sought to abandon. We were branded mobile, we thought mobile, we talked mobile, and we sold mobile. We were a specialist agency and we ourselves had, in turn, been trapped by the technology we had sought to liberate.
When the agency was merged into an integrated marketing group, the tension between channel specialists and marketing generalists was clear. It didn’t really work out. There was no common language; there was a lack of understanding on both sides, a lack of humility on ours and intransigence on theirs. There was a bright future for all to see, but we wanted to call it mobile, and they wanted it to bend to their established channels and modus operandi.
We live and learn. So when I’ve been talking to a number of agencies recently about how they can ‘go mobile’, what I’ve made clear to them is that mobile can no longer be a stand-alone. It’s a message they like to hear – nobody with a longer-term strategic vision wants to see mobile outside of their current operating structure or thinking. The analogy we often come to is that nobody nowadays says they do ‘Digital PR’ or ‘Digital Marketing’ – if you are serious about PR or Marketing, you have to be operating in the digital channel – it’s a given and a client expectation – and rightly so.
Mobile isn’t quite there yet. It’s on the cusp of the mainstream in many communications and marketing disciplines, as business, brands and agencies play catch-up to significant changes in consumer technology adoption and usage. But anyone looking to appoint a head of mobile or a mobile agency should be conscious that the position will probably have a limited shelf-life, and that whatever is presented to clients or to the board, behind the scenes mobile has to be worked into the fabric of the business. Yes, a mobile expert can help, but ultimately what a business needs is people that don’t just think in ‘one channel mode’ because that is not the way the world works any more.
In our connected multi-channel lives, the importance of any one channel flexes according to the user’s need and context, and the general profile of a multi-channel service will depend on the nature of the organisation. User experience has to be the focus, and everything else must pull in around it. There is no other way to go. Let technology lead, and experience loses out.
Yes, mobile is important, and in some cases pivotal to multi-channel. And yes, there’s a place for mobile agencies and experts, but to be really useful they need to talk the language of multi-channel experience. That means being prepared to let ‘their’ channel take a back seat sometimes, and show some humility and respect to established paradigms and businesses.
Mobile as a stand-alone channel is rarely very useful. Mobile as part of a multi-channel approach is going to be extremely powerful. Realising that potential requires an experience led approach driven by strategic and creative thinkers who can operate cross channel.
Mobile is dead, long live multi-channel!
Time to update my LinkedIn profile……