Sunday, May 4, 2014

Brand Managers—Ignore Mobile At Your Own Risk

As a brand manager, mobile technologies are rapidly evolving & presenting you with new opportunities to engage your high value markets. It’s difficult to make the right decisions in an industry that changes so rapidly, and we’re constantly challenged to understand exactly what customers want. Being a former account manager & graphic designer and graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC marketing program, I’ve become particularly interested in mobile trends and technologies and have found two articles that would be of interest to any brand manager.

A mobile-first proponent and President of Vertical Measures, Arnie Kuenn, swiftly reminds us that 2014 means we need to "get with the social times." His article in Marketing Land highlights the steady growth in mobile traffic over the last 5 years, and declares brands need to ensure their content and digital designs are mobile ready. Unfortunately, as Kuenn points out, if users cannot easily navigate your site on mobile, they are likely to leave the platform. If you’re still making progress on this transition, there are a few options you can consider to integrate mobile into your strategy, including a dedicated mobile site, a responsive design, or a mobile app; together with these design options it’s equally as important to optimize your content, including text design (e.g., line space, font size, etc.) and consider the properties and characteristics that are most simple and engaging users.  

Art Rivera,

On the other hand, Google Display Ad Chief, Neal Mohan, claims that mobile-first is already dead. The article agrees that mobile-first thinking was really important, but it’s no longer good enough for developers, designers, marketers, and most of all, consumers. Regardless of the growing trend in mobile use, consumers are not solely using mobile devices—the reality is they’re constantly jumping back and forth between multiple devices and platforms. How many times do you start a task on one device and finish on another? According to the article, 90% of consumers are increasingly comfortable with this habit, and unfortunately neither design nor messaging have adapted.  As the trend moves away from mobile-first, perhaps marketers are going to start thinking “reach-first.” We need to start thinking about how to work on multiple devices simultaneous, yet remember that the technology is totally irrelevant if the message doesn’t resonate with the consumer.

Kelly Hodgkins,

After reading these 2 articles, I believe brand managers must consider these 3 items before re-structuring your agency’s strategy and re-defining all of your branding methods based on a current trend.
  1. Think Multi-Device — Format not just for the device, but for the simultaneous use of multiple devices. We need to create a consistent message across all devices, and develop a platform that allows users to seamlessly transition across their activity. In some ways we need to take a lesson from Google Drive, and figure out how we can save information that's recognized across devices in a way that is simple and engaging.  
  2. Design to Expectations — Designing for trends is risky, because the only thing constant about trends is that they constantly change — if we put all this time, money and energy into mobile, what happens when the “next big thing” is here? Instead of running full speed in a single direction, step back and think about what actually motivates the customer and what needs are being satisfied. If we can capture that knowledge, we can truly design for the customer instead of the industry. 
  3. Content is King — Creating the most innovative technology could mean nothing if the message does not resonate with the consumer. People today are short on time and attention; content should be "bite-sized" and ultimately reflect your brand beyond the product. You can facilitate a strong, engaging community by creating conversations built on a shared passion.
Today, you cannot succeed if you ignore mobile, but more importantly you need to think beyond current trends and be prepared to adapt based on consumer motivations and needs.

Jesse is a marketing professional based in Chicago. Originally from central Pennsylvania, she attended Elon University where she majored in Media Arts. She’s currently an M.S. candidate in Northwestern University’s Medill IMC program. Jesse is passionate about creating content that sparks dialogue between company and consumer, and she has special interests in television commercial production, social media, and mobile marketing. 

Follow her on twitter @jessetunger

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