Passion Exposed: A Mobile Marketer’s Manifesto

An old mentor of mine used to say, “Never fear asking the wrong question, fear the day you lack the desire to ask one at all.”  It is innate in all of us, as humans, to crave knowledge. From the moment we’re born, we not only crave it, we seek it out; even thrive off it. Knowledge sparks passion, which quickly ignites innovation and change, yet without it, most are condemned to watch sparks fizzle into smoke. I am the Founder and CEO of the Mobile Leaders Alliance (MLA), a company dedicated to the continued education and socialization of mobile professionals, and what you are about to read is my passion exposed.

When I sat down to write this, I wasn’t exactly sure what to say. For those of you who know me, you know that’s a rarity when it comes to me and the topic of mobile. I decided to watch a little early morning television and hopefully find inspiration in the comfort of that glorious blue tint. When I turned on the TV, there was an Eva Mendez movie on called, ‘Live!’. IMDB describes this 2007 drama as, “A mocumentary following an ambitious TV network executive trying to produce a controversial reality show where contestants play Russian Roulette.” I know, sounds amazing, right?!?

Now, ordinarily I would have just changed the channel, but as I scrolled through my guide hoping to find a suitable replacement, a quote used by Andre Braugher while attempting to persuade the FCC to air the reality show got me thinking. He said:

“The function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute.  It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it invites a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.  Speech is often provocative and challenging.  It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it passes for acceptance of an idea.” – Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas

With Douglas’ statement in mind, I propose to you that mobile is to the marketing industry today as free speech has been to the American way of life; a platform both ‘provocative and challenging’ that has had ‘profound unsettling effects as it passes for acceptance of an idea.’ Not too far off from what the digital world experienced in the early 2000’s, but at an accelerated rate, with a greater degree of difficulty in the execution and increased demand on traceable results; heavily due to best practices and standardization of the digital platform over the last 15 years. It is important to remember that mobile is not a new digital medium. It is a new platform all unto itself and a very powerful one when used properly.

Mobile shot to the forefront of the marketing industry around 2008 with the launch of the iPhone. Let us not forget though that mobile did not begin with, nor should it ever be defined by the iPhone and its capabilities. Make no mistake; what Steve Jobs and Apple have done for this industry has been truly monumental. However, much like the introduction of fire, the wheel and (dare I say it) the original GameBoy, mobile itself has changed the way we live.Thus, it is imperative to our future as (mobile) professionals to remember that this is just the beginning and not a time to become complacent with the ‘tried and true’, but a time to push the medium; to continually reinvent it, so that in the end, people will marvel at what we’ve built.

This emerging platform has given us access to long-sought-after consumer data like real-time location, a piece of information we use to create “relevance,” one of the keys to mobile advertising according to IAB Mobile’s recent Local Buyers Guide. While location has its place in the ecosystem, I challenge that our job is not merely to remind consumers where they are, but to help place them where they truly want to be at that moment of engagement; driving that new car, sitting in first class traveling to some tropical place or simply satisfying a quick caffeine fix. Only mobile has the ability to provoke such inspired emotion and subsequent response, because we see the device as an extension of ourselves; a distinct identifier of whom we are as people. Finally, a truly one-to-one form of communication between brands and their consumers, but as it’s been said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Our mobile phone is the most private device we own. It’s what makes mobile interactions so powerful; the exchange of private information for perceived value back to an individual. But what does that really mean? Individuals are as different from one another as the operating systems that power their devices.  So how do we find that perfect blend of value exchange while still achieving both relevance and reach? We do this by creating a deeper understanding of our consumers as individuals and how they prefer to interact with their device or brand of choice.

Understanding consumers at this core level takes time and heavy investment, two things mobile marketers often find themselves in short supply of in these early days. However, when considering going mobile, one merely needs remind themselves that the “R” in ROI stands for return, not revenue. Defining short-term, realistic goals for your business’ mobile strategy is pivotal to its long-term success. I often refer back to the world of construction during this process, using the mantra, “Measure twice. Cut once.” There’s nothing more detrimental to a brand’s mobile success than a poorly executed user experience.

Innovation is moving fast and while eyeballs are shifting, some marketers are struggling to shift with them, seemingly stuck in a never-ending cycle of “dipping their toes in,” while cries of fragmentation and insufficient attribution echo in sellers’ ears. While better attribution models seem hopeful, the fragmentation of mobile is not simply going to disappear and sitting around waiting for it to “stabilize” is not a strategy, it’s a death sentence. Mobile does not come with a one-size-fits-all label attached. You can’t merely check it off a list. It requires substantial planning of a holistic mobile marketing mix with cross-platform tie-ins, testing various pieces of the puzzle at a time with a grander image as the end-game.

Lastly, and most importantly, investing in a new platform isn’t just about running test campaigns and analyzing engagement rates. It means investing in the hiring, education and development of resources to help better understand the infrastructure. It means employing qualified mobile professionals in-house and empowering them to make the tough decisions, not just offer suggestions. What’s more, it means educating yourself, because information is everywhere and absorbing it means the fragmentation stops looking so scary. You never know, you might just find something to get passionate about (again).



Dan Wittmers

Dan Wittmers is the Principal, Head of Venture at Digital Phoenix Consulting. He is an accomplished Senior Executive, Advisor, and Thought Leader with more than 15 years of success across the marketing and advertising industry. His broad areas of expertise include digital strategy & investment, digital transformation, integrated media planning, and client management.