customer service via mobileRory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group, a leading integrated advertising and marketing communications agency, challenges the view that mobile is somehow in its infancy and has yet to grow up and compete with the Big Boys (such as online, TV and print) that continue to account for the lion share of advertising spend.

As Rory sees it: the proper way to measure the importance (and effectiveness) of mobile in the marketing mix is not to look at spend. The cost of developing a brilliant text-based mobile marketing campaign may be minimal, but the impact can be tremendous.

Sure, marketers should look at numbers — but the numbers that matter are the results. To drive the point home, Rory walks us through several scenarios and break-through campaigns.

A prime example Rory offers is BMW’s brilliant use of text (and picture messaging) to connect with car owners and inquire if they would like to purchase snow tires — at precisely the moment it started to snow. The campaign, which stands as a textbook example of what simple text messaging can achieve, turned approximately $60,000 spent on advertising into $45 million in revenue. In Rory’s view, the brand broke new ground with a campaign that was “timely, ‘placely’ and climatically targeted.”

In short, marketing success is not a measure of the budget you throw at it. “I think there is a terribly dangerous tendency to assume that a piece of marketing activity has an importance that is somehow  correlated to the amount of money spent on it.”

Human touch

rory sutherland bwRory admires all approaches that do what marketing should: “produce a human reaction which leads to some form of behavior change.” On mobile – a fiercely personal device that also enables the delivery of contextual advertising –the human touch (not the technology) is key.

“We should forget that the purpose of advertising is not to produce pretty pictures, or moving images, or nice music,” Rory explains. “Those are the means. They’re not an end.”

Moreover, the fundamental objective of advertising delivered may be very different than we first assumed.

Granted marketers can promote products and increase brand awareness. But the real power of mobile may be wrapped up in all the ways it can be used to enhance customer service.

Rory offers us several entertaining examples of how (and why) mobile is central to conversations between people and businesses.

With mobile we can have real and valuable conversations with the companies we interact with. From coffee shops to hotels, the ability to interact with establishments (and their ability — even duty — to listen) enhances and improves the overall experience.

“The most intelligent use of [mobile] is closer to customer service than it is to advertising….And you don’t need a media [marketing] budget to provide good customer service, you simply do it.”

Rules of engagement

Mobile has clearly transformed the way we communicate with brands. Add social to the mix and the rules change completely.

In Rory’s view, we should not be surprised if our comments on Twitter and other information we willingly volunteer about ourselves triggers a brand response.

Rory offers uses the example of a recent stay at a quaint and charming hotel on the island of Madeira. Rory tweeted that he had arrived and the hotel ‘answered’ back to welcome him and make him aware of an event taking place. That ‘conversation’ was not opt-in, but it was a “timely, placely and relevant.”

What’s more it was “triggered” by Rory’s own actions. “If I don’t want to engage in a conversation, then I shouldn’t really be gabbing on [on Twitter] about the fact that I am visiting the hotel.”

Clearly, not all contact (and advertising) must be “consumer-instigated”, but brands must be aware of the requirement for permission and preferences.

Mobile is a real-time communications channel — and should not be abused. “It’s a channel where intrusion is actually worse — and more annoying and more disruptive -than it is in other places where advertising affects you.”

My take:

Again, an interview you shouldn’t miss. What is the state of mobile spend? We need to rethink the question. The approach may be off the mark since mobile campaigns – particularly text campaigns – might not eat up a lot of budget, but they can certainly deliver impressive results. And don’t just think advertising. Mobile can also be used to drive loyalty and improve customer relationship management.

Listen to the podcast with Rory Sutherland here. [16:52]


Next week: The series concludes with a look at what motivates people to accept marketing in the first place and what is next for the industry.

Related reading:

Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland: Mobile Marketing Should Target Moments, Moods


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