American Marketer


Mobile swiftly moves to core of all brand communications

November 19, 2010

Richard Ting is executive creative director and vice president of mobile and emerging platforms at R/GA


By Richard Ting

Mobile exploded in 2010. My prediction that mobile budgets would double in 2010 held true as we saw clients increase their budgets over the course of the year.

Not only was spend up, but the sheer volume of mobile projects that launched was unparalleled.

Brands now recognized how strategically important this channel has become.

This year, mobile began its move into the core of all brand communications and I predict that this monumental shift will be complete in the next two to three years.

At this point, if you do not have an integrated mobile strategy or if you are not properly funding mobile projects, then you do not have a proper growth plan in place for your brand.

A few key insights in 2010 helped move mobile to the core of brand communications.

1. Applications fInally went multi-platform
As Android accelerated, we started to see brands venture into the multi-platform space.

Google claims that Android is activating more than 200,000 devices per day. Those stats are staggering and, as a result, brands can no longer think about single-platform applications that only target the Apple App Store.

Brands that are not going multi-platform risk leaving behind the very sizable Android population.

2. Mobile strategies went multi-faceted

A large portion of consumers are still not using smartphones. Brands that wanted their mobile strategy to massively scale had to think beyond just applications and go multi-faceted.

Only a combination of applications + mobile Web + SMS could help achieve that scale across diverse target audiences.

3. Mobile commerce grew

In 2010, users started to become much more comfortable making purchases with their mobile devices.

Internet Retailer reported that close to 50 percent of mobile phone owners have already made purchases via a mobile Web site site or native application.

As more consumers become comfortable typing a brand’s URL into their smartphones, not having your brand’s site optimized for mobile commerce means leaving money on the table.

User expectations shifted in 2010 and many brands shifted their mobile commerce strategy to match it.

If 2010 was about scaling up mobile experiences and creating mobile commerce opportunities, here is what we can look forward to in 2011.

1. Everything mobile will be social

Everything on the Web is becoming social, so the same will be true of mobile, especially when Facebook wants to be your one true mobile platform.

The company’s announcement in early November moved Facebook from a mobile application to a socially-powered mobile platform (see story).

The ability to access the Facebook Open Graph via mobile allows you to “bring your friends with you,” and the introduction of Single Sign-on ensures users will remain logged on to any social application on their phone.

Services such as Facebook Places and Deals will only accelerate the intertwining of mobile with social in 2011.

2. Mobile in retail goes mainstream

In 2011, we will see an explosion of retailers and third-party companies continue to develop simple tools to aid the in-retail shopping experience.

Providing consumers with the ability to compare product prices, read product reviews, make shopping lists and get social shopping advice from their Facebook friends will transform the retail shopping experience.

One area of mobile in retail that will become ubiquitous in 2011 is bar code scanning. Scanning bar codes to access product information as well as ratings and reviews will soon be a normal user behavior while shopping in retail.

3. Mobile local commerce gets ready to scale

Thanks to the hyper-growth of check-in services such as Foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR and Facebook Places, mobile local commerce is poised to scale tremendously in 2011.

With the recent update to the Facebook Places API and the introduction of the Facebook Deals platform, the barrier of entry to creating large-scale mobile local commerce programs will be miniscule.

Facebook Deals will allow merchants to easily push local information, deals, promotions and reviews out to customers that check in at specific venues.

Additionally, through the Facebook Open Graph, users will be able to see if any of their friends already accepted those deals.

It sounds very familiar to what Foursquare was already doing, but Facebook Places is going to scale across Facebook’s massive 600-million-person user base and it is going to be dead simple to implement.

4. The open-standards mobile Web rises

Let us be clear about this. Applications are not going away anytime soon despite the projected growth of the mobile Web.

Applications are thriving both in the Apple App Store, which recently crossed 300,000 applications and in the Android Marketplace, which recently topped 100,000 applications.

However, the growth of the Open Standards mobile Web will be undeniable in 2011 and a very appealing alternative to applications for agencies and marketers to explore.

The appeal of the Open Standards mobile Web lies in the fact that it uses common standards such as HTML5, CSS and Javascript that allow Web applications to run directly in a device’s browser.

Some believe that this will force consolidation of a brand’s mobile assets away from applications and force a move toward the mobile Web because of its “write once, deploy everywhere” appeal.

While the Open Standards mobile Web will undoubtedly rise in 2011, I do not believe it will replace applications just yet.

The bottom line is that brands should do both applications and mobile Web, if necessary, but use applications for what applications do well and then use the mobile Web site for what the mobile Web is good for.

In the next two-to-three years, mobile will move to the core of all brand communications. The transformation will be swift and fast as the next wave of consumers start to spend more time with their mobile devices rather than their computers or television sets.

Smartphone penetration nationwide is forecasted to reach 50 percent by third-quarter 2011 and mobiThinking predicts that 85 percent of mobile handsets are expected to be Web-connected by the end of 2011.

As brands want to reach consumers where they are and expect greater real-time social connections with them, mobile is the only medium that can deliver on that.

Expect 2011 to bring huge advances in how mobile is reinventing brand communications.

Richard Ting is vice president and executive creative director for mobile and social platforms at R/GA, an Interpublic Group interactive agency in New York. Reach him at