3 strategies to unlock the mobile opportunity


Towards the end of 2014, I wrote a blog post on 2015 predictions and put mobile at the center of it (blog post is here). Today, just three months later, I’m surprised by how quickly mobile is reshaping content and by how many new experiments since the beginning of 2015 have already pushed the boundaries of ‘made-for-mobile’ content.

For example, YouTube launched just recently 360 degrees videos (news article here), which leverage phones’ gyroscopes to provide users with an immersive 360 degrees video experience, without any need for VR devices. To get an idea, watch this RedBull F1 video (it’s so mobile-first that watching the video on desktop is really annoying!). Obviously, Facebook didn’t wait long to announce that they will also embed spherical videos right in the news feed (news article here), even though they didn’t specify timing.

In February, Facebook has also started to actively push ‘cinemagraphs’, basically GIF images in which only a part is animated (see examples in the news article here). Cinemagraphs have actually been around for a few years, but they have never been used at scale due to the complex and manual production process required. Facebook seems to have cracked the code to build cinemagraphs at scale: “You’re going to start seeing a ton of these on Facebook”, said a spokesman from the company. Obviously, they work really well on mobile, especially when embedded in a news feed experience.

In short, the mobile revolution is here, and it’s changing content in a big way. We’ll certainly see more innovation in this space, and marketers (and especially their creative agencies) need to think differently and adapt quickly. It all starts with understanding what mobile is from a consumer perspective, and therefore the role that it can play in your marketing campaigns.

1. Mobile is UBIQUITOUS

Mobile devices are used throughout the day, and everywhere. Your idea must be portable and follow the user wherever s/he goes, at any point in time, always providing a relevant and engaging experience. For example, Lux Japan recently launched a campaign called “Sakura dream”. The center-piece of a campaign is a site which uses Google street view and overlays cherry blossoms to the user’s current location, effectively providing an augmented reality experience (try it out at http://sakuradream.lux.co.jp/, it’s only in Japanese though). It’s a beautiful example of how a brand can be relevant without being intrusive, by providing a mobile native, entertaining (almost magic!) experience.


2. Mobile is URGENT

1 in 3 searches on smartphones are local searches. This is just an example of how users interact with mobile for a range of immediate needs, whether practical needs (go from A to B, find a convenience store, etc), productivity (such as checking emails or calendar appointments), information or entertainment needs (watch video, browse a news feed, etc). We unlock our phone on average 150 times a day and always demand immediate response, zero latency, and a vast range of capabilities. Being relevant and providing utility to users is even more important for advertisers on mobile, as users are more likely to skip ads (their thumb is just a few millimeters away from the skip button) or browse/swipe away from it. However, advertiser can also capitalize on the higher propensity to interact on mobile, by providing more opportunities to engage and explore more content. So two effective strategies at the opposite end of the spectrum are:

  1. Entertain users to make your ad ‘unskippable’ (i.e. block the users’ urgency to interact). A recent great example comes from Geico (insurance company in US), who produced a series of video ads in which the actors freeze after the first few seconds, while the ad keeps going (my favorite video is here)
  2. Leverage interactivity by providing plenty of opportunities to engage and browse through content (i.e. let users swipe, tap, and move across content types). A recent example is how Burberry used a new ad format on YouTube called ‘info-cards’ to let users watch a womenswear show and at the same time browse additional content (backstage, interviews, catalogs, etc). This video showcases the campaign and formats used.

3. Mobile is ANTHROPOMORPHIC (i.e. human-like)

Smartphones have eyes (one in the front and one in the back, in the form of cameras), ears, voice, and they don’t have legs of their own but ours are generally sufficient. They are truly the global maxima in terms of degrees of creative freedom. From an advertiser’s perspective, there are plenty of opportunities to leverage these capabilities to provide a more relevant user experience. The following are three strategies that work well (the ‘3c’ of made-for-mobile content):

  1. CONTROL. Mobile devices can become remote controls to activate or interact with other devices. This is a particularly effective strategy when orchestrating across different media (example: Nike Phenomenal Shot campaign during last year’s World Cup – video here) or when using mobile as a tool of convergence between the online and offline worlds (example: Adidas Neo Window Shopping campaign – video here)
  2. CONTEXT. Leverage smartphones’ position to gain relevance, for example as in the Lux Sakura Dream campaign mentioned before
  3. CUSTOMIZATION. Leverage interactivity to provide a highly tailored, personalized experience. The 360 degrees RedBull F1 video is a great example of personalization. Another example (even though a bit dated) comes from the Re:Brief project with Coca-Cola, in which people were able to send a coke (together with a personal message) to people around the world through particular vending machines (here is the campaign explained)

Ubiquitous. Urgent. Anthropomorphic. When writing the next brief, think about what role you want mobile to play in your campaign, and think mobile from the very early stage of idea generation.


2 thoughts on “3 strategies to unlock the mobile opportunity

  1. great article giving a 360 view on how customers (and companies are fully aware)behaviour is changing respecting what years ago (before 4g…) was called the “always on paradygm”.
    i would like to invite you Gilberto in thinking to a new article on the way not only we got mobile centric people but on the way they go far above “usage”… they do create (and share) contents to be used


  2. Thanks for the comment Massimiliano. Indeed, you anticipated some ideas for my next blog post(s) on how to create made-for-web (and made-for-mobile) content, also through audience participation! Watch this space! 😉


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