Mobile World Congress roundup: the key marketing takeaways

Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this year hosted record visitor numbers, with 67,000 delegates embarking on the Fira Montjuïc to get the first look at the latest devices, services and trends from the mobile sector.

Lara O'Reilly

There were sides to the marketing coin that were the main topics of discussion: how mobile manufacturers can differentiate themselves in such a fragmented and nascent market, and how other brands can utilise mobile to raise the volume on their marketing strategies and get closer to consumers.

Mobile manufacturers lay out marketing assaults

Minus Apple, all the major mobile manufacturers were exhibiting at MWC this year, and although not all had brand new pieces of kit to trumpet, brand differentiation was brought very much to the fore.

With the exception of Fujitsu, which was is set to make its first entry into the smartphone and tablet market outside Asia later this year, the mobile manufacturers were largely focusing on the consumer experience their devices offer rather than the technical specifications.

Motorola was communicating how its devices “make life simpler”; BlackBerry said it was the brand that stands for “making things happen”; Nokia wants consumers to share the experiences they have on their phones with others; Samsung highlighted creativity; and Sony’s marketing will focus on entertainment.

Now the smartphone and tablet markets have moved beyond the early technology adopters, these brands need to promote their devices as experiences that can augment consumers’ everyday lives, rather than leading on being the world’s “fastest”, “thinnest” or “clearest” (although, being a tech event, these words were still prominent in Barcelona) if they are to cut through the noise.

Brands are now grasping the importance of mobile in their marketing strategies

While previous MWC events have largely focused on new devices and the latest tech, marketing moved closer to the spotlight in 2012. It was encouraging to see that marketers are now truly understanding the importance of mobile as a stand-alone marketing medium, rather than simply an add on.

As a stand-alone medium, mobile offers a key differentiator from some other communications platforms: location, which is vital in pushing tailored messages and encouraging footfall into bricks and mortar stores.

Proximity marketing is hardly a new concept; brands have been sending out SMS messages tailored to people’s locations for years. However, the practice has moved on and brands speaking at key notes and to me personally at MWC that mobile marketing can only be effective if it acts as a service to consumers, rather than just blurting out advertising messages in a bid to emulate the noise created by TV campaigns.

An example of mobile marketing acting as a service discussed at the event included Nokia recognising location patterns to help serve people ads not just on where they are but what they are doing. An example included its software understanding a bored commuter waiting for his late train at the platform and serving him an ad to download Angry Birds for free to pass the time and a promotion at the station’s café to satisfy his appetite.

A more unorthodox example came from British Gas, which is working on an app that can help users control their heating remotely via their mobiles and other technology that can automatically recognise when a customer is out of a room and adjust the temperature accordingly.

Both ideas help consumers save money and also engage with a brand that is not usually at the forefront of their minds in a far more positive and exciting way.

The idea of mobile marketing – and indeed entire marketing strategies – becoming more based around service than boosting awareness was summed up by Karl-Heinz Land, chief evangelist and senior vice president of social iCommerce at MicroStrategy. He said mobile is soon to become the hub for marketing activities across all platforms.

“The customer was always king, but now he also behaves like one. He’s independent and tells you what he likes and what he doesn’t on a constant basis [on his mobile]…I see marketing as becoming a concierge service,” he said.

The advent of mobile appears to be changing the face of marketing as we know it, with customers providing hundreds of pieces of data every day about their interests, whereabouts, buying habits and social influencers all via their phones.

It is encouraging that brands are really starting to grasp the concept of marketing on mobile as not just another sign post to shove a display ad, but an entirely new platform that offers a host of enhanced opportunities to boost sales, raise awareness and improve consumers’ interactions and trust in their brands.

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