5 Words to Describe Ineffective Mobile Marketers

I asked today's brand and tech leaders to set us straight

Google's Jason Spero refers to consumer actions on mobile devices as signals, rich with information that tells marketers a great deal—if they are on the lookout for them.

"I have more marketers that I'm convincing to be curious about those signals than marketers who are overusing those signals to the point of abuse [like invading privacy]," Spero, Google vp of performance media, told me in an exclusive interview for my new book, The Art of Mobile Persuasion.

"My problem isn't that marketers are afraid to use those signals because they over-respect them or think the consumers don't want it. My bigger problem is marketers that still don't know how to action the most basic capabilities in mobile. We have all the signals we need to deliver a great UX [user experience]. But we've got a heck of a lot of work to do to get there."

In other words, short-sighted marketers are being inattentive when it comes to mobile. 

There are four additional words to slap on ineffective mobile marketers: 

Impulsive

Another highly successful marketer on the global stage chides those who go to such conferences as South by Southwest and unilaterally seek to determine which products and services will matter.

"The consumer is going to decide," said Sean Lyons, global chief digital officer at Havas Worldwide. "A lot of these early thoughts about how things will be used are often wrong. And it's not because people aren't intelligent. It's because we haven't really found what the behaviors are yet.

"Just think about how long it took for something like the video phone call, which was introduced in the '60s, to actually come into use. Even now, we're Skyping [and only using a voice capability]. Other people might be doing FaceTime. But it's not our main method of communication. What's envisioned is often not what happens. To me that's the fun part, especially for brands."

So what is a marketer to do?

"Once you realize that you are not going to be expected to have the answer, and you just kind of feel your way through it, the better you will be," Lyons said. "That's going to allow you to not have the pressure of solving the problem. You should be simply observing."

Selfish

Much like the ill-advised race in 2007 to build an iPhone app, many marketers have taken on Big Data more to check a box than to get closer to a business outcome. The wise ones know better.

"There needs to be a specific need that benefits the customer," Jonathan Stephen, who drove innovative mobile programs at JetBlue, said. "We should not be selfish in our endeavors to reach customers. I think we get very greedy with big data.

"If possible, we want to know what our customer had for breakfast. We want to know how many sugars they put in their coffee and if they used Splenda or Truvia or whatever. There's this grasp for data, and the funny thing is people [marketers] find out that they don't even know what to do with that data."

Timid

Several of the leaders who I spoke to said sitting back and doing nothing about the migration of customers to mobile devices could be even more harmful to your business than making the wrong choices in these relatively early days.

Coca-Cola, one of the world's most recognizable, beloved and successful brands, isn't being passive. Instead, it is fulfilling its long-established mission in an increasingly large part through the use of wireless devices.

"Our mobile strategy was really articulated in the 1920s when Robert Woodruff described the role of The Coca-Cola Company as putting our brands within the arm's reach of desire," said Tom Daly, the brand's global director for mobile and search. "The only thing that is different today is that at the end of that arm, between it and desire, is a mobile device.

"To the degree that strategy is a choice, the choice that we are making is to have mobile enable desire. The alternative is to do nothing and have mobile become a barrier. That doesn't sound smart."

Illogical

In this mobile era, there are two essential questions to ask and answer. One: Would a particular mobile initiative enable me to reach or get closer to my business goal? Two: What is in it for my customer or prospect?

"In determining new capabilities, whether it's technology, design or overall customer experience, we really are looking for a customer benefit," Sean Bartlett, director of digital experience, product and omni-channel integration for Lowe's, revealed to me. "We saw this recently with Touch ID [a fingerprint recognition feature designed and released by Apple], where there was a clear customer benefit to allowing people to log into their account using their fingerprint. Passwords are an archaic way of authenticating, or validating, someone's ID and people still have trouble with them. They use various email addresses.

"We look for clear customer benefit, not a huge technical hurdle, and the value that it could bring to the customer and the business."

I'll offer one more word to describe the commonality in the more than dozen business leaders who I interviewed for The Art of Mobile Persuasion: pragmatic. Doing anything less will make you ineffective or even leave you out of work.

Jeff Hasen is founder of Gotta Mobilize and author of the recently released book The Art of Mobile Persuasion. Follow him on Twitter at @jeffhasen.