Rewind 2015: Guest Column: Mobile is a personal device. How personalized is your marketing strategy? Ankit Rawal

Are marketing strategies personalized? There is still a lot of work to be done, writes Ankit Rawal, GM, India at InMobi

e4m by Ankit Rawal
Published: Dec 29, 2015 8:48 AM  | 5 min read
Rewind 2015: Guest Column: Mobile is a personal device. How personalized is your marketing strategy? Ankit Rawal

Are marketing strategies personalized? There is still a lot of work to be done, writes Ankit Rawal, GM, India at InMobi.

The mobile phone is the most personal object ever known to mankind. The wallet/purse and watch are other objects that come to mind, but all of these can now be bundled into one device. From the time you wake up to when you sleep, you spend about 175 minutes of your day on a mobile phone, according to data from eMarketer. Oh, and this figure doesn’t even include the times you make a phone call – ironically, the mobile device started off as something to make phone calls. Now, you will never hear an Apple or Xiaomi speak about voice calls. Voice calls happen to be on mobile. It’s simply not as important as everything else that surrounds the underlying function of a mobile device.

Whether you’re a mobile phone power user (someone with more than at least 50 apps on their phone) or not, you probably use your phone for perfunctory functions like checking the time, the date, Whatsapp messages and SMSs, meetings during the day and for sharing pictures you clicked using your phone (camera). Some advanced users indulge in tasks that range from: customizing their ringtones based on the person calling them, tracking their sleep quality, streaming live-video content, measuring daily calorie intake to buying and selling goods.

A common thread across all such activities is the fact that the mobile phone is a personal device. You use your phone to perform actions that are important to you, when you want to and the phone gives you the power on how you perform these actions as well. The phone is your personal assistant, your vicarious friend, your guide, and with all the reminders of meetings and action items can start resembling your boss! Yet, legacy companies look at advertising on mobile like it were TV or print. It’s not a mere change in medium. It’s an entire mind and messaging shift – one that the industry is still grappling with.

As a user, when was the last time you felt ads shown on your mobile device are ‘personalized’?

As a marketer, using mobile advertising it is critical to understand that users today are not satisfied with ‘approximations’ when it comes to advertisements. A friend recently mentioned that she gets ads in Kannada because she’s based in Bangalore. The friend is from Kerala and is a smart-phone power user. More importantly, she found the ad interesting, but couldn’t decipher its meaning. (It had a catchy image of a power bank) Clearly, the underlying data to serve the ad to a non-Kannadiga meant that its relevance is lost. Marketers and brands need to be far more innovative and deterministic while devising their mobile marketing strategies. The ability to integrate machine learning and design, to deliver engaging, and user-relevant ads in real time is not easy, but definitely possible.

One of the simplest steps is to capitalise on ‘location-based advertising.’ But carrying the previous example of my friend from Kerala forward, simply targeting all users in a city or state might not be enough. Depending on the nature of the campaign, it would be useful to club this with specific ‘persona targeting’ and deep-linked demographic data. For example, can I determine that a potential customer is about 300 metres from a coffee day? If I then serve an advertisement for cold coffee with a discount coupon, I am more likely to convert this customer. Tapping on a target users’ painpoint and offering them a mobile-smart solution is another strategy that brands and marketers need to start weaving into their mobile marketing plan. Interestingly, the online to offline conversion opens a plethora of untapped opportunities for marketers.

An interesting example of this kind of advertising is of an air purifier brand in South East Asia. When the city was blanketed under a haze caused by forest fires, the brand used geo-targeting to display real-time PSI (Pollutants Standard Index) levels integrated into the ads. As the product had a premium price point, the marketers leveraged persona targeting, to target only ‘affluent’ users. The ad unit also displayed directions (leveraging map and location services available on smart-mobile devices) to the closest retail outlet, where users could test or buy a product. As the city was blanketed in a haze, all the residents were constantly checking PSI levels on their phones. By crafting a highly personalised mobile ad campaign, the brand was able to grab the audiences’ attention.

According to eMarketer, India is estimated to have more than 260 million mobile internet users by 2016. But mobile advertising is still playing catch-up to the giant strides in software and hardware innovation. Advertising can be cut-out for sensors too. Ads can mimic behavioral patterns and so much more. It’s an untapped field and marketers are still toying with traditional forms of advertising. It irks me no end when I see an app company advertising on TV. How many of us actually watch TV? Content is watched on mobile or is downloaded and watched on PC. Advertising has to evolve on mobile and marketers need to take bigger and bolder bets if they intend to reap richer dividends from their marketing campaigns. After all, a PC may or may not be shared with 2-3 people in the family. A mobile, however, is never shared. In about 10 years, mobile has disrupted some industries and given birth to far more. The question is, do brands truly realize the power of this beast of a disrupter? Not yet.

(The author is the GM for India at InMobi)

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