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MMA Forum reflected strides in mobile

By Jeff Hasen

The world’s memory champion spoke at the MMA Forum this week in New York. I cannot remember his name.

Etched instead in my mind are the clear strides that the industry took in advancing the understanding and use of mobile marketing and mobile advertising.

This was no 101 session conducted by the Mobile Marketing Association. There are other conferences, not to mention books, on the basics. Last year, I dinged the forum organizers for bringing introductory content to the nearly 1,000 in attendance, many of whom had heard such information in previous years.

What makes the forum special is the large representation by brands and agencies. Their words and actions bring a sense of realism to the mobile industry that drinks the proverbial Kool-Aid elsewhere – you know, everyone’s business has “taken off,” and there are not enough conference rooms to hold all of the new business meetings.

Not just fizz
On to what struck me in New York:

Coca-Cola was everywhere – in the coolers during the breaks, but more importantly, on stage for several sessions.

One of the oldest and most active in mobile, Coca-Cola says “you can’t stop learning.” And the company did not stop teaching, which struck me as significant since we hear brands say that they do not want to talk about their programs for fear of alerting the competition. That is always a head-scratch since the very nature of high-profile marketing programs is that they are noticed and remembered.

Coca-Cola marketers had previously told us that the majority of its efforts are on proven strategies and tactics, including large-scale text messaging programs that provide “reach.” At the forum, we heard the insider thinking around Super Bowl advertising using a mobile element – do not “compete” with the telecast. Instead, make the marketing complementary. Sounds smart.

GE provided insight into its extensive and growing mobile lineup. For instance, the company’s key mobile metric for appliance sales is activity around the dealer locator feature. That “shows intent,” GE’s Andy Markowitz said. And that certainly made sense.

I am one of those who can never hear enough case studies. ComScore reported on an unnamed retailer using television, online video and mobile video during the holidays – the company said that 91 percent of people exposed to the message on mobile were incremental to TV. That was interesting and begged for more detail, not to mention additional experiences from brands.

Not everything I heard was believable.

Screening for truths
There were seemingly passionate arguments that mobile is already the so-called first screen.

Kleiner Caufield Perkins & Byers executive Mary Meeker’s highly-respected report delivered recently says otherwise – 46 percent of time spent in media is with television, nearly double the runner-up, which is not mobile. There was debate about whether people pay attention to television, but that sounded like mobile hype to me.

I heard Arbitron say that its panel of opted-in mobile subscribers use apps seven times as much as the mobile Web. Such a gap is contrary to other research and makes me wonder if it is representative.

The measurement company also said that voice, email and messaging account for 51 percent of activity on smartphones. Included is a leading 35 percent for messaging which, if true, counters much of the notion that SMS diminishes as devices get smarter.

I will remember the line from Tom Wheeler of Core Capital Partners that mobile changes the “tyranny of place” in viewing video. He said that consumers do not have to go to it – video comes to them. That may happen, but it has not yet reached large scale nationwide.

Some of the largest players in mobile including Apple, Facebook and Twitter were not on stage. Their interests, primarily gathering data to monetize, were talked about by many.

I listened in on a session on privacy from Verizon’s Ash Evans. He said that consumers care about protecting their identity, but they are not interested in doing much themselves.

Mr. Evans, Verizon’s director of corporate strategy, got pushback from the audience when he said the government has a role. He heard even more dissension when he called for a “universal” identity system – a central place where one’s personal information is housed and accessed. That, of course, is problematic given the potential for breaches.

I do not remember the privacy question being solved – it is safe to say that it was not. That is fine. It certainly was progress that we were talking about it.

Jeff Hasen is chief marketing officer of Hipcricket, Kirkland, WA. Reach him at [email protected].