Mobile Marketing should be less Distraction, more Interaction.

Has the time for a truly integrated mobile marketing effort finally arrived?  It depends how you read the numbers on the level of user’s engagement with mobile content.  I personally think the time has come, but it requires a very gentle “touch” to ensure mobile is less distraction and more interaction.

Time magazine certainly thinks the opportunity for mobile has arrived.  Time is one of my favorite magazines, and when something shows up there, I consider it to have achieved mainstream recognition.  

According to Time, mobile is core to the daily experience of the average person, though some of the numbers were rather surprising and suggested we still have a ways to go with mobile as a stand-alone medium. Mobile is indeed a personalized marketing opportunity, but that opportunity is in itself very fragmented.  Mobile users are multitasking, and much of their interaction with their phones is already considered a distraction, invading their personal daily lives.  If mobile is a secondary vehicle that interrupts other interactions, how effective can mobile marketing be, since it is essentially a third layer of distraction?  Simply put, if you are in front of the TV and on your phone and an ad pops up, that ad is three degrees of separation from your attention.

Let’s recap some of the most interesting nuggets from Time’s mobile technology overview issue that hit newsstands on Aug. 27:
In the U.S., 29% of people start and end their day with their wireless device.  This number doesn’t seem very high, especially given that we are 15 points below the international average.   I would imagine if you broke this number down by age, the younger the audience, the higher this number would be.  In my immediate community I would guess this number is closer to 75%.  My guess seems supported by the fact that 68% of people surveyed say they keep their phone next to their bed at night.

Overall, (similarly) 29% of global respondents feel we place too much emphasis on technology in society.  Even though I live and work in this business, I would probably agree with this.  I love my technology, but it definitely should play second fiddle to my family.  Unfortunately, in the U.S., 35% of users admit to using their mobile device while playing with their kids.  This is disheartening to me.

Also in the U.S., only 34% of users think they go a few hours per day without their mobile device.   I would have thought this was higher, and in metropolitan areas I would suggest it is twice this level.  I have actually witnessed people having panic attacks when they realize they don’t have their phone on them.  I try to put my phone down for two to three hours each day minimum, but it’s hard.  It’s always ringing and distracting me from where I am at that moment.

17% say they check their phone at every meal, regardless of whom they are eating with.  What does this say about our dinner etiquette?  How engaging are those dinner conversations if you can nod off and check your phone?

I jest a bit to exaggerate a point: Mobile is a difficult medium to make effective for marketers because we haven’t yet identified the right way to do so from a delivery perspective.  It’s a personal medium, so marketing efforts are very invasive — more a distraction than a truly effective delivery vehicle. 

For mobile to become a truly effective medium, the messaging has to be engaging in and of itself, enough to gather the audience’s full attention.   The message delivery must drive interaction of some kind — though maybe not a click, but at least some kind of measurable response. It would be extremely helpful to have attribution models that take mobile into account. But meanwhile we need to explore creative that makes proper use of the medium.

By Cory Treffiletti
Cory, senior vice president of marketing, BlueKai, is a founder, author, marketer, and evangelist.
Courtesy of MediaPost.

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