Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 23, 2011 7:35 PM

The Mobile Imperative

There's a sad truth about mobile, but I don't want to hear it.

Smartphones are becoming more and more popular and the same can be said about the meteoric rise of the tablet (with the iPad as the clear leader), but even with all of the impressive numbers, we're still looking at a penetration rate amongst the general population of anywhere between 25% - 35% (depending on which research group you want to believe) for smartphones. Beyond the low penetration, it's also important to note that within that small percentage, it's even smaller when it comes to people that are paying for apps, downloading apps and actually using apps (we've all seen the depressing stats surrounding this in a myriad of different places). Making things even more complex are the telco companies who are still charging confusing fee structures for mobile data. As you'll note, text messaging is not the same as mobile Web and different devices use different amounts of data (and we're not even talking about the complete confusion or price gouging that happens when you roam beyond your country of origin). Beyond that (as if that's not enough!), it's hard to get adoption of smartphones to become ubiquitous if consumers are locked into three-year contracts, etc...

It's too small for most Marketers.

It's not only too small, but it seems like faster adoption may not be happening if all of those spokes can't get the tire to spin faster and much smoother. It's hard to convince a large brand to think about mobile when they just don't see the uptake and motion from the consumer. It's an ever bigger challenge to stop brands from thinking about mobile as a strictly transactional type of advertising ("ping the consumer with an offer when they're near our stores!") and get them to see mobile as a consumer platform instead of an advertising channel (or to think about mobile from a utilitarian marketing perspective). The cost, effort and general stress of transitioning their current digital ecosystem over to mobile is also a daunting task. While HTML5 could well cure a lot of the woes, it's still an expensive endeavor to get everything they're doing "mobile friendly."

Don't let purgatory get you down.

I often lament this moment in time as being one where us Marketers are trapped in media purgatory. It's not heaven... it's not hell... it's somewhere in the middle. The challenge is what we all do at this unique moment in time. The skeptics see the data above as half-empty... I see it as half-full and rising. The reason why I don't want to hear the woes of low smartphone adoption or the challenges of data charges and long-term phone contracts is that I believe - beyond the shadow of a doubt - that mobile is everything and that mobile is our future (and that future is not as far off as the data may lead us to believe). Fixed screens will simply be places that we toss our cloud-based content, marketing and advertising to for convenience. I believe that smartphones (and devices like the iPad and others that have yet to be created) will be the source of our ever-growing connectivity, and that everything else will just be a big dumb terminal or a piece of glass for viewing (for more on that: The One Screen World).

How long will mobile ubiquity take?

Some are stuck on trying to figure out if this is "the year of mobile"... I am not. It's not relevant to me (it probably already happened... who knows?). I'm more curious to see how mobile connectivity benchmarks and trends with the ubiquity of other utilities  like electricity, phones, home heating and beyond. What I am convinced of is this: mobile ubiquity is coming fast (very fast). If you think that most brands still struggle with the Web, e-commerce and Social Media, I'm proud to state that I think mobile - and how it will connect us - will make everything else look like a joke... a blip in time. This doesn't diminish or change what's happening for marketers in-market now. Brand advertising is (and will be) important going forward. The same for loyalty, analytics, data, and every other media channel we're currently engaged with (my saying, "everything is 'with' not 'instead of'" still rings true), but the majority of media will (without question) be consumed and created on some type of mobile device.

The question is: do you get going now, wait for it to take more hold or try and catch up after it's too late?

By Mitch Joel