It is undisputed that mobile is amongst the top game-changers for marketers in the 21st century. Mobile has transformed consumer interaction with brands, and required that marketers adapt or die – developing new competences, marketing plans and media strategies to win the hearts, minds and wallets of the new “connected” consumer, writes Lynne Gordon.
But as consumers engage with mobile, it’s increasingly not just media and mobile strategy that need to change – it’s the very essence of brand-building that is contested and deeply changed by the new mobile world. The demand on marketers strikes to the heart of brand-building, challenging everything we know about how brands are built to win.
The impact of mobile
In Sub-Saharan Africa today, over 250 million consumers are connected to mobile. Nine out of 10 adults in South Africa own a mobile phone. With their new device in hand, consumers gain access to new information – quickly, seamlessly, without interruption. Relationships are transformed as distances become less relevant to the ability to connect. Consumers gain access to new experiences, and “sharing” takes on new meaning. Mobile changes the media landscape – of course. But it also creates new expectations well beyond the realm of mobile strategy, bringing into question what consumers expect from brands at every touchpoint.
Let’s consider the athlete who tracks his run on connected devices that link his shoes and heart-rate to his location and energy consumption. Think of the music fanatic who follows his Idol on Facebook and votes via SMS to support his favourite star. At the extreme, imagine the farmer in rural Kenya who gains access to market prices and farming practice via a SMS subscription service for the first time, transforming his livelihood. The impact is seismic – mobile changes our lifestyles, our relationships, the way we see the world. And with it, the way we engage with and consume brands.
A multi-dimensional shift for brands
To win in a world that’s mobile, we need a new way of brand-building. It’s what we’ve called Mobi-Ready Branding – a multi-dimensional viewpoint on what makes brands successful in a new digital world. While the impact is far-reaching, let’s start by exploring just four of the new ingredients for mobi-ready brands:
In a new connected world, the value exchange between brands and consumers has shifted. In a classical marketing paradigm, value exchange was defined by the simple relationship between “what I pay” and “what I get” – brands aimed to offer quality products with superior benefits to tip the value scale in their own favour. In a mobile world, value moves quickly beyond the product – consumers expect products to deliver, but also expect that the experience of buying, using or engaging with a brand adds further value. Brands that succeed are those that create meaningful experiences where product is just one dimension – enriched by entertaining engagement, enhanced utility, or valued community and advice. Look to Red Bull as the ultimate expression of a new value exchange – well beyond an energy drink, Red Bull has evolved to become a media channel that engages and entertains, a media empire that also sells a beverage.
Brands winning in this new world have an active essence at their core, and demonstrate this in everything they do. Consider the evolution of Nike – from a sports shoe to an empowering experience for the athlete in each of us. Nike no longer sells shoes – they’ve evolved to be a brand that connects sports and life, a brand at the core of a rich world of running, with credibility across a huge range of categories and experiences. Active brands like Nike (and others such as Dove) are inspiring and purposeful, placing as much emphasis on experiences and behaviours as on communications.
Mobi-ready brands recognise that the divide between the real and virtual world is diminishing, and that retail and brand-building are becoming seamless components of the brand experience. Only 12% of connected consumers in SA have shopped online in 2014 (MasterCard Worldwide Online Shopping Survey). But many more have explored brands online before shopping in bricks and mortar stores. How many times have you checked online reviews before buying? Compared prices online before going to the check out? Or considered a friend’s Facebook recommendation when making your own brand choice? The real world of retail and the virtual world of social recommendation, exploration and comparison are seamless parts of one brand experience for brands that are winning in a connected world.
Winning brands apply a mobile mindset – real-time, rich and relevant – to all aspects of the brand experience. They listen well and respond quickly – on Facebook and at the instore customer service counter. They react quickly and smartly to real-time events – on Twitter and in the Sunday news. They strive for seamless consumer identity so that consumers are treated as “real people” cross their various touchpoints with the brand. Consumers in a mobile world expect their voice to be heard, and to engage anytime and anywhere – it requires a new level of agility and flexibility to keep up.
With mobile changing the landscape in which our consumers work and live in real ways, brand-building requires more than a smart mobile strategy. The change is permanent and fundamental. Smart marketers are asking themselves the question: Is my brand ready for a mobile world? Or am I being left behind?
Lynne Gordon (@lynne_gordon) is the managing director at strategic marketing consultancy Added Value. She’ll be exploring this subject further, with cases and examples, at the Marketing in a Digital Era conference on 11 March 2015.
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