Mobile Myths Debunked

Blackberry Is Not Dead, Steve Jobs Isn't King of Handsets, and Other Conventional Wisdom You Should Reconsider

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Mobile is a confusing marketing space, and we're in the midst of a hype cycle perhaps equaled only by the dot-com frenzy of years past. And whenever there's hype, misconceptions aren't far behind. Here's a look at four of them -- and a reminder why you shouldn't believe everything the soothsayers say.

[Excerpted from "What You Need to Know About Mobile Marketing," a recent Ad Age Insights report.]

It's not an all-Apple world ... and it never will be
There seems to be an app for just about everything at this point (with more than 250,000 available, and counting). And while Apple seems to have a lock on the app market, in fact it represents just a small part of the U.S. mobile market, according to ComScore. Gartner, which tracks phone shipments rather than usage, pegs Apple's 2009 U.S. market share at 5%. The iPhone is a game-changing phone, however, as its interface is the one that managed to alter consumer behavior irrevocably; as a result, it has enjoyed the greatest interest from developers.

Credit: Source: comScore custom survey, November 2009
The iPhone audience is a distinctive one. It is youngish (but not too young; consumers under the age of 24 are not likely to be able to afford an iPhone, or to be locked into a long-term AT&T contract). And it is made up of early adopters, those who influence the purchases of others and who are a marketer's dream. If Apple's exclusive contract with AT&T is done with this year, as has been reported, and a Verizon version hits the market, there is no telling how much Apple's penetration will spike. Until that happens, there are other platforms marketers must pay attention to.

Blackberry is not dead
Research in Motion's BlackBerry is still a significant presence in the market and will continue to be, especially in the business world. The BlackBerry is supported by most Windows-based concerns. For marketers looking to reach the business audience, high-net-worth individuals and a slightly older demo than the iPhone, targeting through the BlackBerry is a smart (nay, essential) move. The BlackBerry challenge has been that, with the mass of devices having a trackball rather than a touchscreen, it's simply not as interactive an interface, and can make it difficult to even locate apps. BlackBerry has plans to introduce a new browser.

Consumers love Google, and now, to ride the wave of that affinity, the company has rolled out Android. Research on future phone purchases from ComScore and ChangeWave indicates T-Mobile's ads touting its 3G capabilities -- plus the fact that not all consumers want a contract with AT&T, and that the Android is a close-enough facsimile to the iPhone -- suggests we are at the dawn of a phone war that stands to benefit all consumers, as it likely will lead to better service and pricing [see chart 16, pull from page 14 in white paper].

Microsoft ceded its early dominance in the smartphone market to RIM and BlackBerry, but this fall it is launching Windows 7 for mobile. Reports from the Mobile World Congress earlier this year, where the system made its debut, were positive.

Not all people do all things on all phones: market accordingly
At this point in the evolution of mobile as a marketing medium, the number of consumers who perform activities such as downloading apps or looking at the mobile web or WAP (wireless access protocol) is relatively low; comScore estimates that 34% of those with cellphones consume some sort of mobile media (WAP or apps), 31% use SMS (but do not consume any media via the phone) and 35% use phones only for making calls. This is changing rapidly, however, along with the adoption of smartphones. What people do on their phones is predictive by age and gender. The younger a consumer is, the more likely he or she is to personalize his or her phone, or purchase a ringtone or wacky screensaver. The older, more business-oriented consumer, however, is more likely to have an unlimited data plan and, thus, to use the phone for web access. Guys are more likely to listen to music and purchase games on their phones. [see chart 17, pull from page 15 in white paper].

mobile charts

RIM's market share and the demographics of mobile media activities
"People need to stop looking at mobile consumer activity across modalities -- browsing, apps, and SMS/MMS -- and think that one form will predominate while others go away. More importantly, marketers need to stop wishing for this to happen. While it might be easier to exist in a world where mobile consumers only used apps, the reality is that SMS and browser-based activity will continue to reach audiences that apps cannot and, in the case of SMS, be a more effective medium to drive response," Evan Neufeld, VP-marketing, GroundTruth, said.

Smartphones are not likely to ever penetrate the entire market
Just as there are people out there with analog TVs with those funky converter boxes, some people just want to use their phones to talk and will not ever be incented to pay fees for data. Some people simply do not want e-mail and media whenever, wherever. Due to behavior displayed by younger consumers, the group described here will likely concentrate in older demos. Smartphone adoption may be somewhat analogous to the digital video recorder. While the TV industry worried that DVRs would achieve much larger penetration in a short period, in truth, DVR usage stalled out at around 30% of TV households in 2009, according to Nielsen. Not everyone wants to pay for the service, and not everyone, clearly, desires that much control over their media.

It's not as complicated as it sounds
Not all types of mobile marketing apply to all companies, and the "crawl, walk, run" principle should be employed with mobile. Pick the discipline that most relates to your product category and start there. For some content providers and retailers, it may be optimizing their sites for mobile (a surprising number of companies have not yet done this). For retailers with successful email programs, it may be developing an SMS program to appeal to the legions of "textirati" who prefer SMS to e-mail. For any marketer using print, TV or outdoor, activation programs can extend the effectiveness of their campaigns by helping to generate opt-in lists or hand-raising customers. Whatever you do, don't just develop a one-platform app and assume that you've got mobile covered.

Kathryn Koegel is a media research and marketing specialist who is currently a consultant with her own firm, Primary Impact.
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