At the recently held Custom Content Conference, Julie Ask (VP, Forrester Research) gave a presentation titled "Real Time Marketing," which focused on three main topics about mobile: 1) the state of mobile today, 2) the key trends in mobile and 3) the implications that mobile has for marketers. While Ms. Ask's 56-slide presentation was packed with useful information, there was one sentence/concept that I found to be more insightful than others, which was "Mobile will be a service layer." Simple concept, but I wonder how many marketers really view and consider mobile in this manner, as opposed to concentrating on how to monetize mobile in some manner, or how to conduct search and/or advertise on mobile.
While the offering of an app might be considered a "service," I believe what Ms. Ask is saying goes much deeper than that. To me, it seems as though mobile can become an extension of a company's desktop website, call center, product owner's manual, advertising and promotion, packaging, sales representatives, marketing collateral, retail location, trade show booth, etc., etc. In some shape or form, mobile can work to extend all of these aspects of a company's business and marketing and, as a result, serve to enhance the overall interactive, and very personal, experience a consumer might have with a brand, product and/or service. And, it's also very much worth mentioning and realizing that all of this can happen in real-time. Pretty powerful stuff or, at least, the potential is certainly there.
To illustrate all of this, pick two campaigns that I have reviewed on the blog, one labeled "pass" and the other labeled "fail," and you'll notice that the "pass" has more components of mobile as a service than the "fail." Maybe it was a listing of local retailers, maybe it was the offering of a white paper, maybe it was the offering of a time or location sensitive coupon, as opposed to simply showing a self promotional corporate video or linking to general/generic web content.
As the functionality and capabilities of mobile continue to evolve and mature, there's little doubt that marketers will be lured into many different directions. But to keep the use of mobile focused and in perspective, as well as to extract the greatest long-term value out of the channel/medium/platform, I believe, marketers need to heed Ms. Ask's advice and concentrate on mobile as a service enabler more than anything else.