Content, Mobile Marketing & the Winds of Change

[November 21, 2010]

At the recent Mashable Media Summit, one topic was the trend toward mobile marketing that many predict is much more than the latest wave. The rapid adoption of portable, touch screen digital access seems poised to shape user behavior for the next few years.

So the question arises, what impact will the pre-eminence of mobile devices have on how people retain and share digital content? The quickest glance at the touch screen of any high-end i-something or droid-wazzit tells me users are already powerfully influenced to perceive content in terms of tiny, compact chunks of engagement. 

An app, a tweet, a friend update, a memeshot, or a video earning its 7.5 minutes of viral fame, are well on the way to being the standard to which all forms of content are expected to conform.

To me, that says one thing: It’s no longer going to be possible to cram every single marketing message you want to deliver into every single engagement you hope to have with consumers. As someone constantly enjoined over the last few years to bulletize, summarize and merchandise in ever-smaller spaces, I can assure you the era of the Incredible Shrinking Copy Block is over. 

Unless you come up with a way to inscribe your outdated copy online with quantum holography, something’s got to change.

In other words, you’ll have to build your marketing strategy around saying less in each communication. Only by lowering the real content density of your message can you hope to score your business goals on mobile computing’s space-challenged playing field. You’ll need to break your narrative into units that flow naturally, idiomatically onto smaller screens. 

And you’ll have to do it without summoning “Learn More,” that hoary gremlin, who defaces digital communication night and day—scrawling his name wherever there’s a pixel-width to spare.

Refining your sense of touch.
While there’s nothing wrong, in principle, with referring interested users to a Web site for a complete discussion of a topic, the more mobile your users are, the harder it is to tempt them to learn more. 

It’s partly a cultural thing. After all, in the time it takes your audience to “touch through,” they could respond to an IM, repost a tweet, comment on a photo, take a photo, post a photo, comment on their post and watch a response video shared by a friend.

The solution brands must find, if they wish to engage mobile audiences, must lie in understanding what value to deliver and when. Each brand will need to break its narrative and the message it conveys into categories, based on immediate impact, entertainment value and what may have research value once you sell your audience on taking an in-depth look.

Then again, you’ll have to think twice about how you deliver that research value. Once tempted in, mobile users won’t sit still for content they can’t break into digestible bites. What’s needed, as I see it, is a new kind of bookmarking system. 

That is, not another third- forth- or fifth-party app, but a built-in feature of your Web site. This system would allowing users to read a portion now, bookmark and return where they left off instantly, the moment they dial up your site. 

That means, yes, skipping past the home page and every last overkill callout you now think is indispensable to “making the sale.”

Tapping the cocoon.
And speaking of sales, I’m starting to believe that the definition of “sale” may now be in flux. Considering the expertise it takes to get mobile users to engage, the biggest sell will be getting them to notice you. 

Finalizing the sale will have to involve a simple, rapid delivery system for price points, special offers and so on—followed by an order form that *sigh* doesn’t waste an ounce of attention span on survey questions, sweepstakes entries or CRM programs that merely recycle home page content from your static Web presence.

Having stimulated that first impulse—and enticed a user to touch through—you must conserve every precious second. Otherwise, your mobile customer will be off again, answering, responding, downloading, uploading, updating and settling back down into the digital cocoon that embeds more and more Americans in a cozy psychological world of instant, self-referential gratification.

As I see it, what this points to is a radical rethinking of the shopworn maxim, “content is king.” In a mobile messaging universe, delivery is the dominant player—though I prefer to think of mobile marketing not as a monarchy, but as an autonomous collective.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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