As I stood awestruck before the Sagrada Família cathedral, I searched Barcelona history and marveled that the building will be finished in 2026 -- in time for the centenary of Gaudi's death.Stepping backward to record the soaring towers, I bumped into a representative from a mobile supplier. I saw surprise in his eyes as I remembered his name, via my professional network application. Discovering that more Gaudi delights were just 1.6 km away, we followed directions to Casa Batllo. I browsed pictures of Gaudi's other amazing landmarks and searched for a place to have lunch. While we were eating at a recommended tapas bar, I posted a photo of the hams on display and received a salami-purchase request from a friend back home in Singapore.
We found our bearings with a compass and walked the back-alleys testing QR codes in fly poster campaigns. Running late for my flight, I checked-in during the taxi ride to the airport.
Without my mobile "phone," this three hours snatched at the end of my trip to the 2012 GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona would not have been as exciting or rewarding. I made decisions about my entertainment, walking route and food. This is typical of the mobile-facilitated life that many of us lead.
Android alone has 850,000 activations a day. This device is so important to people's lives that recent industry research presented at MWC showed that 70% would sacrifice alcohol, 63% chocolate and 33% sex rather than give up their smartphone for a week.
As the next billion people get online, they will do so predominantly on a mobile device. Even Facebook, with its own marketing conference taking place in North America at the same time, attended the event through Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor. Kicking off the mobile-application stream, Mr. Taylor reaffirmed Facebook's commitment to mobile web. The company is proving that commitment by investing in standards with industry partners and in the ability to make payments via mobile web. It should. More than half of Facebook's 845 million users do so through mobile devices.
Mobile remains an enigma for many brand marketers, and brand presence on the MWC floor was light. Mobile is an area where test and learn budgets are finding a home. With more than half a million apps in the Apple app store, cut-through with a campaign app is not the place to spend those testing dollars. Here are some areas where brand marketers should look to invest:
1. If you don't have a mobile website (60% of businesses don't) build one. A very high percentage of mobile web searches are looking for contact details. If you have retail outlets, make the mobile site location-aware, and expose the telephone number to ensure you can be dialed with a single finger prod. Link to your favorite mapping resource. Make all information easily shareable.
2. Increase your mobile retail presence. If you don't own retail outlets, ensure that your distribution database is made securely available for your potential consumers and for your retailers to make use of the same data. Keep the data up to date.
3. Provide entertaining mobile content. Think of your social web and mobile assets as more like a TV program than an ad break. Three-quarters of the content needs to entertain or provide utility.
4. Ensure privacy controls. Privacy is a massive concern but easily addressed. Allow consumers to have control over what they share with your brand. Give them a choice of privacy settings, be absolutely committed to keeping their data secure, and compensate them for their trust with added value or incentives.
5. Use data to enhance your mobile offering. Once you have built the trust of your brand community, make all marketing communications as uniquely targeted as possible. You will have demographics; use technographics such as location, application use, search terms, social data and any other data to target your messages.
The mobile industry has challenges. For instance, telecommunications companies are investing in faster networks, but more of the services provided on those networks are not driving direct revenue for them. Also, many application developers do not have a business plan for monetization.
The opportunities for brands lie in these challenges. Through partnerships with technology companies, we can fill the value gaps around our brands, driving value into our consumer communities through entertainment. Make sure you are building those partnerships. Book your ticket for Barcelona in 2013. I know a great tapas restaurant. I will send you the map.
Greg Armshaw is the Singapore-based chief technology catalyst, Asia Pacific Region, for McCann Worldgroup. He can be reached at Greg.firstname.lastname@example.org.