How mobile fundamentally changes marketing
Rethink everything, or risk repeating the mistake of the transition from radio to TV
“How many of you remember any mobile ad that you’ve seen in the last month?”
When Harvard Business School Professor Sunil Gupta asked this question at the Digital Initiative Summit in March 2015, not one hand went up.
“We’ve basically taken the banner ads from the desktop and plastered them onto the mobile device. Those are interruptions, that’s why I’m not surprised that nobody in the audience remembered the ads.”
Instead of transferring the same model of advertising from the desktop web to mobile, in the same way that companies transferred the same model from radio to TV, Professor Gupta, Ernst & Young’s Janet Balis, and Twitter’s Glenn Otis Brown say that with this new form factor, companies need to rethink how they advertise as mobile screen time increases:
Similarly, mobile commerce will be different than what we’ve known as e-commerce: it will be more image-based rather than text-based, which changes what can be sold and how it can be sold.
Professor Gupta also believes that mobile commerce will evolve into three distinct experiences:
“Even companies that are very good at mobile marketing are still figuring it out.”
Brands want to engage with all consumers, but consumers don’t want to engage with all brands. Some will find that they can create enough of a compelling value proposition to get their customers to download an app, others will find that their best approach is good old fashioned email marketing. As Balis notes, the most interesting play in the long term is to “own the customer,” rather than “renting” them from a media company:
As with all aspects of digital transformation, there are more questions than answers about the right way to approach and capitalize on the opportunities presented by the ubiquity of mobile devices. But one thing is clear: mobile is more than just another screen — it’s a completely new form factor. To succeed, companies need to develop new capabilities.
Sunil is the Edward W. Carter Professor of Business Administration and Chair of the General Management Program at Harvard Business School.