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Searching for the mobile holy grail | Fin Review

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW Marketing & Media column – July

Apple must have had quite some celebration on its application store’s second birthday on July 10. From just 500 applications when it started to more than 225,000 applications across 40,000-plus publishers, 5 billion downloads and more than $US1 billion of revenue in just two years, you can’t deny the increasing consumer appetite for mobile content and services. Neither can the analysts.
Based on the current rate of change and adoption, mobile web will be bigger than the desktop web by 2015, according to Morgan Stanley. By 2011 more than 85 per cent of handsets shipped globally will include some form of browser, says Gartner. And with iPhone’s Australian smartphone market share quadrupling in Australia in the year to March 2010 to 40.3 per cent, compared to its 24.4 per cent market share in the US), those forecasts are hardly surprising.
Even less surprising then, are the recent and notable moves being made in this space by brand giants such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.  But it does beg the question: with both technological and consumer developments finally reaching tipping point, what is your brand doing to keep up with – and stay ahead of – the pack?
Let’s take a look at what’s making headlines and consider the potential opportunity for brands.  Last week at the MobileBeat 2010 conference in San Francisco, Facebook’s head of mobile products – and former Google Android product manager – Erick Tseng talked of mobile as its “growth lever” and announced plans to take Facebook Open Graph (a protocol that enables your branded content to appear in Facebook user profiles, news feeds and search results) to mobile.
This is good news for Facebook, brands and consumers.
Consumers will be able to share and recommend both their real-world and mobile product/service experiences with their friends, with just one simple click of a button.  Likewise, they will be able to discover new, relevant and recommended products/service through their most trusted network – all in a way that is familiar, quick and easy to use.
Brands will have the opportunity to realise the traditional benefits of Facebook’s “like” button (which reflects awareness and consideration of online products and services, influenced by personal recommendation) in their bricks-and-mortar stores.
For example, Maria grabs a bite at New Co and is blown away by the quality of service and wants to tell her Facebook friends about it. She simply selects the restaurant (which has already been pinpointed through the phone’s GPS), and clicks on “like”, either in relation to the venue itself or a specific product the venue was selling. Her recommendation now appears in her news feed and on the map for her network to see. The following month, one of her Facebook friends is in the area looking for a restaurant. They look at their mobile map to see of all the restaurants around them: one has Maria’s recommendation (which is also supported by 200 other “likes”) and the decision is made.
Remember, 1000 “likes” is the equivalent of a personal (peer-to-peer) recommendation to 130,000 of your target consumers (assuming your product appeals to your target audience, of course) with very little incremental effort or cost. Add to this the ability to reach your target consumer as and when they’re in (or planning to be in) the vicinity of your physical environment and the cost/benefit analysis becomes clear.  Facebook will benefit from further “ingraining” of its services into the daily lives of consumers, reducing the potential impact of a direct competitive offering (rumoured to be arriving soon in the form of “Google Me”).
The use of mapping for mobile social networks highlighted in the example above is something we are going to see a lot more of over the next 12 months. And it makes sense, given this has the potential to bring greater relevance to both consumers and marketers than desktop or traditional media could ever achieve.  Enter Apple . . .
On July 14, Apple announced the acquisition of Canadian 3D global mapping start-up Poly9, which joins its growing portfolio of mobile-related acquisitions: mobile chip designer Intrinsity and mobile app developer Siri in April; mobile advertising provider Quattro Wireless in January; and mapping service Placebase in July 2009.
And in the blue corner, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper it is “in talks with Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!”. Foursquare is arguably leading the location-based social network service, signing its 2 millionth member on July 10 just three months after acquiring its first million users. Foursquare is currently valued at $US95 million, versus Apple’s $US223 billion, but with the potential backing of the major search engines, can Apple and its army of geo-social acquisitions win this war? Or can the two coexist? I don’t know the answer to that question, but one thing I am sure of (and having spent nine years in the mobile industry I’m relieved to say) is that the tipping point of mobile web adoption is upon us. And it’s now that savvy brands are making steps towards connecting with their consumers in a more relevant and rewarding way than ever before.
Jennie Bewes is director of social media and new business at digital marketing company Amnesia Razorfish.

Published in The Australian Financial Review, 22 Jul 2010

Jennie Bewes
Jennie Bewes
Former Australian Financial Review columnist, speaker and founder/MD of REDSQ innovation & consulting, Jennie Bewes has been a driving force of innovation within global brands for the past 20 years blending strategic marketing, design and development with cultural change for optimal results from the inside out.

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