We were overwhelmed by the attendance at our social and mobile breakfast in Sydney this week. While the event certainly stirred up a bit of a buzz, I think it’s a sure sign that social and mobile have moved up the marketing value chain and are now being considered as an integral component of the marketing mix. The time for being relegated to the bottom of the marketing wish list has gone.

An integral part of our lives

After all, just consider your own mobile usage and look at how your friends and family are using it, too. Check out the daily commute, the morning coffee queue. Look around the airport lounge. Mobile is everywhere and I think that brands have finally woken up to this fact. Mobile is an integral part of all our lives.

You certainly don’t need to belong to Gen Y to use your smartphone or tablet at the same time as watching TV. Indeed, a Nielsen report from the US published last month shows that during the fourth quarter of 2011, 88% of tablet owners and 86% of smartphone owners used their mobile devices while watching TV at least once during a 30-day period. Furthermore, the research found that at least 45% of tablet owners used their devices while watching TV on a daily basis, while a hardcore 26% revealed that they simultaneously use TV and tablet at least several times a day.

And to my mind, that’s a pretty conservative figure. These days we don’t go anywhere or do anything without our smartphones. We readily opt for mobile engagement over a single minute of down time. Whether you’re waiting in a queue, sitting on a bus or even watching the TV, your mobile device delivers an instant escape from tedium and monotony.

Checking email while watching TV

Disappointingly, the most frequent tablet or smartphone activity we do while also watching TV seems to be checking our email. While this may be understandable during a commercial break, it’s a woeful indictment on the quality of TV content when you consider your work emails are more interesting that the TV show. Sadly though, this may just be a sign of the times and a reflection of our global world and demands to be switched on 24/7.

Of course, many smartphone and tablet users also engage with content on their devices which supplements and expands on the TV show. And I think this area represents a huge opportunity for brand marketers to exploit with the TV networks. It’s about creating content that is optimised for mobile consumption that complements and adds value to the TV content.

And I think the only reason that this area hasn’t been exploited in full to date is that mobile is such a hugely disruptive technology. Brands and TV broadcasters have considered it as such a great unknown that it’s severely impinged on their ability to push into this space.

But mobile truly is here and now. The current speed of mobile adoption is about eight times faster than the internet revolution itself and Forrester Research predicts that there will be one billion smartphone customers globally in just four years’ time.

Game changer

Just think about it, by 2016, smartphones and tablets will put power in the pockets of a billion global consumers. Mobile is not simply another device for your IT department to support with a website that’s been shrunk to fit. Rather, mobile represents a much broader shift to new ways to engage. You have to think about context, location and utility first.

We’re almost at the point where more people access the internet via their mobile phones than via a desktop computer. In this world, the notion of a mobile presence that takes the form of a shrunken version of the company’s website is clearly laughable. Brand marketers need to get smart now and build a device-agnostic infrastructure that delivers consistency of experience, no matter what the device – PC, smartphone, tablet or the next new gadget.


Simon van Wyk
BY Simon van Wyk ON 7 June 2012
Founder, HotHouse Interactive. Tweet him @Hot_House