The younger generation are keen to use their mobiles for take-anywhere entertainment but are so intimate with their phones that brand owners must tread carefully with content. By Martin Croft
The rise of the mobile phone has been phenomenal. According to the latest figures from worldwide industry body International Telecommunications Union, there were 102 mobile phone accounts for every 100 persons in the UK in 2004. It seems that some Brits love their mobile phones so much, they have more than one on the go.
Even more remarkable is the way that consumers have bonded with them – mobiles have become such an indispensable part of modern life that a significant proportion of the UK population would run back into their burning houses to rescue their mobiles, according to recent research.
What does that mean for brand marketers trying to connect with their target audiences? Graham Darracott, strategic partner at mobile content company Graphico, says: “You leave home with three things – your keys, your wallet and your mobile phone. If marketers can get their brands onto one of those, they’re laughing. The phone is arguably the easiest to get to.”
A lifetime habit already
Glu Mobile, a creator and global publisher of mobile entertainment, recently carried out some research into consumer preferences for downloads and mobile entertainment content. Kristian Segerstrale, managing director Europe, Middle East and Africa, says: “Although many of us still view mobile phones as a recent technology, a growing generation of consumers have known and used mobiles throughout their lives.”
Glu has developed a portfolio of games, ringtones, wallpapers and information applications for brands such as Atari, Cartoon Network and Twentieth Century Fox. Glu’s research confirmed that younger users are the most comfortable downloading and using multimedia content. The 16- to 24-year-olds are particularly keen to use their mobile phones as take-anywhere entertainment devices – they are as likely to watch a video or play a game as making a phone call. The four most popular activities people use their mobiles phones for are, in order, voice calls, texting, taking photographs and gaming.
The 16 to 24 age group is also the most content-savvy – making more use of their phone’s high-end functions and multimedia capabilities than any other age group – and 36 per cent of them plan to buy the same or more mobile entertainment during 2006. The survey found that 19 per cent have purchased games, double the number of people aged between 25 and 34.
Glu’s research shows that mobile entertainment is still a price-driven market, with cost influencing the majority of purchase decisions.
Overall, only 12 per cent of consumers will buy entertainment content because of an attached brand, while 22 per cent chose content on the basis of its look and feel. The trend is more positive among 16- to 24-year-olds though, with 25 per cent happy to choose content based on a featured brand and 35 per cent saying they would buy entertainment content purely for its look.
Chris Hassell is director of digital agency Ralph, whose clients include Orange, Franz Ferdinand, Universal Music, Nickelodeon, Sony, Kaiser Chiefs, Channel 4 and Philips. He says that if brands want to exploit mobile as a marketing tool, they must create/ “something engaging, amusing and relevant. If someone is receiving content sent to their phone, it has to be with their permission and it has to be relevant to them.
“There’s nothing more annoying than receiving a load of useless information in your text inbox. Amusing video clips that create conversation with your mates – or yet another way to while away the hours at work by playing a simple, yet compelling game – are usually successful,” he suggests.
According to Hassell, brands are likely to find the transition to mobile easier if they are already used to creating amusing and engaging advertising in other media. “Over the past couple of years, consumer brands have come to realise that people expect them to provide entertaining content online, and this is moving onto mobile devices. From this perspective, any brand that feels their consumers expect them to entertain or inform should be looking at mobile platforms,” he says.
However, he warns that mobile is a permission-based medium. Consumers have an intensely personal relationship with their mobiles and they ruthlessly edit what they choose to watch, and to share because much mobile content is, of course, viral. “Brands must realise this in order to build good relations with consumers. If they don’t, they will lose out,” he says.
Duncan Pringle is managing director of Digital Brand Marketing which last year partnered with online viral site Bore Me to launch Bore Me Mobile, one of the first mobile viral sites. He says: “In the UK, there are more mobile phones than people to use them. Not only that, but people carry their mobiles with them all the time.”
With traditional media audiences fragmenting, this trend makes it imperative for brands to wake up to the value of the mobile channel.
Pringle explains: “Mobile has the reach of television, the accountability of the Web, the precision of direct mail and the personalisation of e-mail. Mobile is not about a generation of children growing up with a new technology that adults don’t understand – we all use it. We all have our opinions as to how it affects us. We all have our own style of handset. It empowers us. Most importantly we, the users, have the choice.”
Brand marketers must remember that mobile is a one-to-one, interactive medium, perhaps even more than the internet. Alfie Dennen is a consultant on mobile blogging – the extension of the web log to mobile phones. “Brands need to use technology to engage consumers in personal ways – and mobile blogging can do that.”
But marketers must be transparent about their communications. As with internet blogging, brands that create fake blogs – to appear to be consumer-generated – will lose consumer trust.
When marketers are upfront though, consumers are still happy to download content that is of value to them and even to pass it on.
Dennen admits that mobile blogging is still in its infancy, but points out that it has enormous potential, particularly because of its immediacy/ “You’re walking along the Thames and suddenly you see a whale. Of course, you’re going to take a picture on your mobile and send it to your mates.” If brands can somehow be associated with that kind of content sharing, the benefits are obvious.
Content on tap
Consumer brands are not alone in exploring ways to tap into the mobile phenomenon, media owners have already spotted the huge opportunities mobile can offer.
Edward Humphrey is head of interactive at Flextech, which operates a number of TV channels including Bravo and Living. Flextech currently offers a range of “repurposed” content for mobiles via Mobi TV on 3 and Orange as well as the Sky mobile TV platform on Vodafone – effectively, two- to ten-minute “mobisodes” of Bravo and Living programming.
Humphrey says: “User figures are positive – session duration is higher than we expected, and there is far less ‘snacking’ than we thought there would be.”
In December, Flextech ran a test with its psychic investigation show, Most Haunted, where viewers were offered the chance to download their favourite Most Haunted moment to their mobile via a WAP site. Humphrey says: “Again, the results exceeded our expectations. While we thought people would just download one clip, most of them downloaded two or more.”
For media owners, mobile content could be a valuable additional revenue stream, with consumers willing to pay either a subscription fee or a one-off fee for content that interests them. Brand owners, too, may want to explore charging for content – if not to make a profit, then at least to cover some of the marketing costs.
Dan Clays, managing director of digital agency BLM Quantum, says: “Mobile gives you another dimension. But success will depend on the quality of the content you offer and on linking that content from mobile to non-mobile.”
If you have truly compelling and relevant content for your target audience, then Clays believes: “There is no reason not to look at ways of making it self-funding.”