In just a couple of day’s time, the great, the good and the geeky of the mobile industry will descend on Barcelona to get the first preview of the latest phones, tablets and other wireless gadgets from some of the world’s biggest brands.
While Mobile World Congress is largely around devices and negotiating deals, the event is also likely to be of interest to marketers, both by shedding light on new trends and giving insight into how mobile brands are asserting themselves through marketing to stand out in the very fragmented market.
Here are some of the trends and news marketers would do well to look out for at the event in the coming days.
The “mobile wallet” has been conceptualised for what feels like decades but the idea has yet to reach mass penetration in the Western world.
That is set to change in the coming months, driven by the Olympics, which is set to be the “first contactless Games”.
A number of NFC (Near Field Communications) devices will be showcased at the show, with the main attraction likely to be the unveiling of Samsung and Visa’s new handset that allows consumers to pay for low value physical goods with a swipe of their phones.
Such brands will need to demonstrate to consumers and retailers how mobile payment actually improves the in-store experience: do mobile wallets actually speed up transaction times? Are there still any security concerns? And are people willing to give up their notes and coins just yet?
The list of questions is vast yet answers have been few and far between. Hopefully Mobile World Congress can attempt to make sense of the confusion.
Mobile transcending beyond the phone
Executive chairman of Ford Motor Company Bill Ford Jr’s appearance at Mobile World Congress this year marks the first time an executive outside the mobile industry has ever delivered one of its high-profile 6pm keynotes.
The decision to place Ford at the centre stage of the event is no coincidence as brands that manufacturer everything from TVs, to fridges, to utilities providers and the automotive industry eyes ways to tap into the consumer demand for mobile.
CES in Las Vegas earlier this year already offered some insight into the idea of the “connected home”, showcasing mirrors that resembled tablets, Wi-fi-enabled vacuum cleaners and even fridges that knew when its owner had run out of beer and displayed a reminder to buy some more. The Minority Report comparisons are set to continue in the coming weeks.
For brands the opportunity is immense and could allow them to extend their mobile strategies from apps and mobile optimised websites to any device that can be plugged in or powered by batteries.
In-car entertainment and live information is likely to be the key focus of Ford Jr’s address and his company will also be launching a new vehicle at the event, showcasing how automobiles and mobile technology can be aligned – an area that is likely to become more and more fragmented as each car manufacturer rolls out their own individual mobile platforms.
In what is likely to be lauded as the most irritating marketing buzzword of 2012, successfully combining of social, local and mobile – SoLoMo – is likely to be near the peak of marketers’ wishlists this year.
More than one in two people (50.3%) in the UK now own a smartphone so it is clear where the majority of brands’ audiences are.
Mobile offers marketers the opportunity to target consumers not just by demographic but by context, specifically location. Mobile also levels out the playing field between the big and small advertisers: any brand from a kebab house to a well-known national pizza restaurant franchise can inform consumers of their nearest outlet and phone number.
While the advantages of SoLoMo are clear, there are also a number of limitations and hinderances to think about: consent, invading a consumer’s private personal space and offering so many discounts and promotions that the receiver becomes deal fatigued.
Hopefully some of the speakers at Mobile World Congress discussing this exact topic – brands from FourSquare to Arsenal FC – should be able to shed some light on how to grasp the opportunities rather than the annoyances of this emerging mobile advertising format.
Sony (minus Ericsson)
Sony has now fully taken over the Ericsson portfolio and is likely to be trumpeting the relaunch of its mobile brand to “Sony” while in Spain as it rolls out a series of new smartphones.
The company is readying a £15m brand campaign to launch alongside its new Xperia range but the company has so far kept tight lipped on what form this marketing activity will take.
Will the new Sony brand be more than just a rebadging exercise? Rumour has it that the brand is going to take on a more “global” positioning, which will be bolstered by the appointment of Ericsson head of Western Europe Kristian Tear when he assumes the role in April.
Whatever the look and feel of the campaign, change is most certainly needed across the business. Sony Ericsson posted a net loss of €207m (£175m) in its fourth quarter and is only the sixth biggest smartphone manufacturer in the UK, with a 5.9% share of the market, according to comScore data for December.
Sony may need to reposition itself entirely if it is going to appeal to a market besotted with Apple and Samsung.
Speaking of change, Nokia’s turnaround strategy, which launched late last year, could hardly have gone unnoticed by the marketing industry.
The launch of Nokia’s first Windows Phones, including the flagship Lumia 800 device, was coupled with a new “youthful” and “revitalised” marketing strategy as it vied to make its return to the top of the global smartphone market.
Sales of the Lumia range have apparently exceeded 1 million, but even this was not enough to prevent total smartphone unit sales reporting a loss in Nokia’s final quarter, down 31%.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will be presenting a keynote at Mobile World Congress next week and will no doubt be attempting to answer critics of his company’s strategy and potentially speak about new additions to its marketing plans in his typical spiky vernacular – remember that “burning platform” memo, anyone?
Follow Marketing Week’s coverage of Mobile World Congress from 28 February, live from Barcelona. I will also be tweeting from the event at @larakiara . As Google’s Larry Page would say: “I’m super excited”.