What is the role of mobile in your marketing strategy?

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Is mobile a 1st screen, 2nd screen or 3rd screen in your marketing strategy? What should it be?

If you agree with author Chuck Martin, it’s the Third Screen — also the title of his book.

If you favor my friend Tom Webster’s view it’s the First Screen and another well thought of thinker, Chris Brogan would agree. To him it’s a mobile first kind of world.

And with this year’s Olympics, NBC considered the mobile (tablet actually) as their second screen strategy.

Now these are all very, very smart people and yet, they can’t seem to agree on which screen mobile is — first, second or third. So, which is it?

Ha, it was a trick question. The answer is, it doesn’t matter.

The Only Screen That Matters

Our job as marketers is to penetrate and persuade. So all of this talk about which screen comes first in a consumer’s life is a bit off base.

As marketers, we don’t need to worry about which screen is first, second or third in a consumer’s life. We just need to worry about which screen is in front of them when they consume our content, advertising and communications. Because at that moment in time — when they’re consuming our message — the only screen that matters is the one they’re using. To succeed we have to be able to maximize the impact of the message on that screen.

Screen Planning for Marketers

If only it was as easy as “I’ll create content for this screen or that screen” our jobs as modern day marketers would be so much simpler. But the hard truth is that today a consumer is likely consuming the same content on different devices.

Technology today allows us to start watching a movie on our TV (think Netflix for instance), then pick it back up on our phone for the train ride to work and maybe finish it up over lunch via our tablet — all without ever missing a beat.

Printed content is worse. Laptop, iPad or mobile phone — which device are you using to access my content? Is that the only device you’ve ever used? Will it be the only device you ever use?

Of course not. You’ll access my content, your content and pretty much everyone’s content on the most convenient screen available to you.

So we marketers have to develop multiple forms of content and marry that format to the screen the consumer is in front of at that very moment. We’ll need technology that instantly determines a screen shift and contextually anticipates if and how the content or message should be reformatted based on the new screen/context situation.

The Role of Context in Content

You may be thinking to yourself, that’s easy Tom. Technology can already do this. We can already determine which screen (mobile, tablet, computer, TV) a consumer is in front of when consuming our content.

And you’d be right. But what you’re probably not considering is context.

If I’m reviewing your content on a mobile phone, why am I choosing that platform? Is it a form factor decsion? Is it indicative of physical context? Am I on the move or stationary? Am I in a deep information state of mind or a glance and go mode?

Consider that mindset/context versus the tablet screen. If I choose a tablet am I in lean forward or lean back mode? Am I going to consume more or less content than I would via my phone or a laptop or a TV. Am I in linear (entertain me) mode or non-linear (actively looking for specific content) mode?

The screen choice may or may not (only time and audience tracking will tell) answer these questions. Likely we’ll need real-time behavioral inputs from the device itself to aid us in formatting or reformatting the content instantly to deliver the optimum message/content consumption experience that will not only penatrate but persuade the consumer.

Today’s technology means that context matters now more than ever. That 500 channel world we grew up reading about has been surpassed by a 5,000,000 channel world accessable anytime, anywhere.

It’s not about which screen is going to win.

Every new screen threatens to replace the previous one. TV was going to kill off radio (a metephorical screen). Computers and the Internet were going to replace TV. Mobile is going to kill computer, etc., etc.

It’s not about which screen is going to win because none of them are going to win. Consumers will do as they have always done. They will pick the channel/screen that is the most convenient tool to consume the content they wish to consume in the manner in which they wish to consume it.

Our job is going to be figuring out how to determine not only screen but context. We’ll need to develop deeper consumer profiles that go beyond demographic and pscychograpic targeting to real-time behavioral mapping and content presentation customization if we want to win the screen wars of the future.

Are you ready?

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About Tom Martin

Tom is 20+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and digital gadgets that helps digitally challenged companies create innovative and effective digital marketing strategies. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Connect with him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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