American Marketer


Time to cultivate a healthy dose of cynicism with mobile

December 2, 2011


By KF Lai

Great digital marketers, whether at a brand or an agency, require a unique mix of skills – part art and part science.

These marketers need that rare combination of intuition to anticipate how to position a product or service and analytical understanding of campaign planning and performance.

In the mobile marketing world, that mix of skills becomes even trickier to get right, since there is an additional challenge to deal with – fragmentation.


We face a dizzying array of platforms, and almost too many individual models of handsets to count.

Each handset has its own screen size, hardware configuration and mix of functionality. That can make setting a marketing strategy very difficult indeed, and the fragmentation issue does not seem likely to get any simpler any time soon.

Moreover, there is now more data, opinion and general noise in the industry than ever.

A lot of that information is generated by so-called experts with a significant investment in a particular platform or technology.

These experts’ opinions are seldom challenged, and when trawling through forums online, it is easy to find an echo chamber of others who will agree with them in promoting a particular platform.

Seeing this kind of endorsement can easily lead you down a path that may not be in the best interest of the brand that you are promoting.

That is why one of the most valuable traits for any mobile marketer right now is a healthy dose of cynicism.

Thoroughly question your sources of information, and do your best to sniff out the agenda of a particular analyst or commentator might promote. Even journalists are not immune from getting caught up in the hype of that latest shiny new technology.

Look carefully at any particular developer’s range of services if you choose to engage one, and beware the “platform specialists.” As they say, when the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

Getting it right

The first step to ensuring that you are setting an appropriate mobile strategy is to establish a clear, transparent and reliable picture of the whole market.

It is only by having this kind of unbiased view of the whole ecosystem that you can determine where your potential customers actually are, and how best to reach them.

I am of the firm opinion that you do not need to invest heavily in a single platform or technology.

If you want the widest reach, you should fish where the fish are – engaging via the mobile Web to reach all devices connected to the Internet, rather than limiting your outlook to one channel from the start or narrowing your universe to a handful of platforms or devices.

But wait, you are sure to be thinking now: am I promoting my own agenda? I represent a mobile Internet ad network, so certainly, I am. The question is, does what I am saying make sense? I am confident that it does.

ONCE YOU GET your campaigns up and running and are seeing some success on whatever platform you choose, be sure to constantly test your assumptions.

Make liberal use of A/B testing in your campaigns, testing several versions of your campaigns, and increasing the visibility of the one to which the market responds.

Even when you have committed to an approach that meets your requirements, be sure to periodically check in with a reliable source of insight into the ecosystem to confirm that you are taking full advantage of the opportunities open to you.

The best marketers take full advantage of the strength of digital media as measurable, adaptable, accountable and real time. They are always hungry and cynical.

KF Lai is CEO of BuzzCity, Singapore. Reach him at