What does a consumer’s mobile brand say about them?

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Following the unveiling of Apple’s much anticipated iPhone 6 handset Marketing Week looks at what consumers’ mobile brand choice really says about them.

The mobile phone market is buzzing with expectation as manufacturers including Apple, Samsung and Sony ready a host of new handsets.

The most hotly anticipated is the iPhone 6, which was unveiled by Apple yesterday (9th September). Not to be outdone, Samsung’s sleek metal Galaxy Alpha handset will be in stores from the 12th September, while Nokia and Motorola both unveiled new handsets last week. Reviewers are already raving about the HTC One M8, which was released this summer.

While all the media hype is around what the technology can do, the more intriguing question for marketers is what a consumer’s choice of mobile handset says about them. How far can ownership of a particular phone brand help marketers to segment potential customers?

According to behavioural data analysed by digital advertising intelligence firm Exponential Interactive, iPhone users have the greatest taste for sushi, Samsung owners are the biggest fans of tennis star Rafael Nadal and those buying Nokia handsets are the most likely to earn over £60,000.

“We have moved beyond the stage of using mobile advertising just to target young people,” says Francesca Baker, insights manager at Exponential. “Everyone has a mobile these days but they are all using them in different ways so it’s important to look for these nuances.”

The insights are derived from anonymised data of the content viewed online by people who are actively involved in purchasing a particular phone brand. It reveals which interests the buyers of each brand are more likely to share compared to the general online population (see methodology).

The study finds that buyers of Apple iPhones, as well as being four times more likely than the average person to dine on raw fish, are also 19 times more likely to research skiing holidays and the most likely to book a cruise, which is a surprise considering that cruises are associated with an older generation and Apple is synonymous with younger trendsetters, says Baker. It is one indication of why behavioural data could be more valuable than simple demographic assumptions in building audience segments.

Samsung and HTC buyers are far more interested than the average person in luxury holidays, according to the data, while LG and Sony users are both four times more likely to go trekking and Motorola fans are five times more interested in adventure holidays.

Building detailed profiles

While these facts may seem of limited use in isolation, Baker suggests they can help marketers build more detailed profiles of potential customers. They could also help marketers understand the types of content, promotions and celebrity endorsements that are best directed at particular phone buyers – in relation to sports, for example.

Just as Samsung users are 12 times more likely than average to be fans of Nadal, HTC users are 15 times more interested in his on-court nemesis Roger Federer. World number one Novak Djokovic is the tennis ace most popular with LG users, who are five time more likely to view content about the Serbian.

The sport of choice for Nokia and BlackBerry fans is football, with buyers displaying particular interest in Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. Nokia users are 27 times more likely than the general public to be fans of the footballer while BlackBerry owners show three times more interest. This is despite Messi being a brand ambassador for Samsung. The data also finds that people interested in Messi are four times more likely to purchase Nokia over Samsung, says Baker.

In fact basketball is the sport of choice for Samsung users, who are 23 times more likely than the average person to be fans of the game, while snowboarding piques Sony users’ interest, who are 22 times more likely to hit the slopes.

Yet there are also indications in the data that the phone brand alone cannot give a rounded picture of an individual.

Despite their penchant for sedate cruises, the study finds that Apple users are also adventurous as they are 14 times more likely than the general population to be curious about off-road racing.

LG fans are the most eco-friendly consumers identified by the research, as they are 31 times more likely than average to have been looking at BMW’s new electric i car and they show seven times more interest in solar power for the home.

Samsung buyers are also environmentally aware with users of its handsets 13 times more likely to be researching Toyota’s hybrid car, the Prius.

As with LG owners, Apple users are also BMW fans with users 22 times more interested in the 530 model than the average person, while BlackBerry buyers show 36 times more interest in the Mini brand.

From a practical point of view, this data can help guide brands in tailoring their advertising more effectively, says Baker, as it highlights qualities that are most common among certain mobile phone users.

Yet the data shows that consumers’ interests relating to their brand of phone are far from predictable, indicating that aggregated behavioural data such as this will be most useful to brands when combined with information about personal preferences or further data sets that could make segmentations even more detailed.

Marketers’ response

Richard Bates, Samsung

Richard Bates, European consumer and market insight director, Samsung

This data fits with our understanding of our customers in that they have an eclectic and wide range of interests and passions. This is why, when we launch new devices, we not only offer consumers an enhanced user experience and new features, we also provide a tailored set of valuable content and services at no extra charge.

Our research shows that consumers typically sit somewhere on an attitudinal spectrum, from those that focus more on what their choice of technology says about them to those on what it enables them to do. So while the Galaxy Alpha with its sleek, stylish design might be perfect for younger, style-oriented consumers, the products we launch over the course of the next few weeks are likely to meet a different set of needs.

Adam Johnson, Nokia

Adam Johnson, Marketing director UK & Ireland, Microsoft Mobile Devices

Our buyers’ love of Lionel Messi certainly reflects our vision of Nokia Lumia owners as being adventurous, ambitious and possessing a certain flair. We call today’s core customer the ‘inspired doer’. They are inspired by what’s around them and are inventive, optimistic and determined to make things happen. They’re not slaves to brands but are looking for technology to empower them.

We appreciate that great smartphone experiences happen when hardware and software combine to create something genuinely meaningful, and being part of Microsoft means we can access even more apps and services to make the experiences both seamless and more affordable for people.

Samsung’s SmartLab community

Samsung phones
Samsung users are bigger fans of basketball, more environmentally friendly and more interested in luxury holidays than the average person

Samsung has built a community network to help it get closer to customers and better understand their needs across key European markets.

“We have been overwhelmed with how enthusiastically [customers] have worked with us,” says Richard Bates, European consumer and market insight director.

Users posted more than 32,000 comments and ideas in the first half of the year, and initiated over 400 discussion topics, which has enabled the business to understand what matters most to its customers.

“It has helped us gain valuable insight into the role technology plays in their lives today and how they would like to live and interact with it in the future,” explains Bates.

The SmartLab community, which is run in partnership with Promise Communispace, has also helped the manufacturer prioritise which features on each device are most important to different customers.

“It has helped us understand real-life situations or use cases in which these benefits typically come into play and are most valued by customers. This in turn helps us to better communicate how our products are capable of enhancing customers’ lives,” he says.

Innovation is key for Samsung, which is why it spends $40m (£24m) globally every day on research and development and makes 90 per cent of products in its own factories.

Samsung also has plans to drive growth in other areas such as smart home technology, which consultancy Berg Insight predicts will be worth more than $12bn (£7.3bn) by 2017.

Samsung will use the SmartLab community to help understand customers’ response to, interest in, and use for, these emerging technologies.


Exponential Interactive looked at the online behaviour of 1.7 million people in the UK, who were researching mobile phones during May 2014. It assigned every website across its publisher network with one of 50,000 different interest groups. When someone visits a certain page, which could have content on sushi for example, it is cross-referenced with their mobile preference data to see how much more likely they are to be interested in sushi than the general population. The data is anonymous and aggregated at server level.

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