Besides pondering why the 49ers QB didn’t use the legs that got him the starting job to get himself into end zone last Sunday, I’ve also been pondering how mobile changes the relationship between consumers and brands.  I got started on that after a recent mobile media conference (Mobile Media Summit) I attended in San Francisco. 

The guy making the point was Jeff Bernstein, EVP and global managing partner at the media agency Universal McCann Worldwide, in a presentation about real-time marketing and real-time mobile marketing and its manifold opportunities and complexities. Bernstein cautioned the audience that mobile marketing and advertising practitioners need to take care to avoid being overcome by the technology hype.

Couple of his key points:

  • Media has transformed from something people watched (read, listened to, etc.)to something people do (consumers control their media experiences, not programmers)
  • The average U.S. consumer is exposed to 1,200 ad messages/impressions per day (marketing budgets go up but its harder and harder to break through)

So what’s a mobile marketer to do? Buy more targeting data? Build an application? More outbound traffic? Turn up the volume?

Maybe, but not until marketers stop to really understand the changing nature of the relationship between their brands and consumers.  Bernstein noted that in a media-saturated world, advertisers have to acknowledge the implied social contract in mobile that’s very different than the implied social contract for established mediums such as TV.  In TV, the consumer knows that for every 30 minutes of TV content, there are guaranteed six minutes of advertisements.  Mobile marketers are failing today because they don’t realize what’s changed.  Today, the implied social contract in mobile is that the consumer will engage if the trigger point is relevant to them and their particular context, it’s compelling and it’s authentic.  (To the point about compelling and authentic content, see my colleague Jake Sorofman’s recent post on brand journalism and content marketing here.)

Knowing at what moment a marketer or advertiser can add value for a consumer is absolutely crucial. This then requires having the right assets in place that can be delivered at the right point in time. 

At one point Bernstein was asked if privacy was going to be a hurdle, given that establishing these kinds of relationships (to deliver such precisely timed relevant content) requires a flow of information from a consumer that is fraught with privacy challenges. 

But Bernstein doesn’t see privacy and technology as the biggest hurdles. I’m paraphrasing here, but he argued that while privacy was definitely going to be a persistent concern, the biggest challenges were going to be found in changing the business processes and datasets and straight-up logistics involved with developing user scenarios and the right content mix to mobile consumers.  Much of the technologies are in place to deliver on the rosy future of mobile marketing and advertising, Bernstein said, but the business processes are not. 

OK, your turn.  So how do y0u think you should meet the consumer halfway with mobile?