Mobile Marketing Fails To Live Up To Hype

Once heralded as the next big thing, marketing for smartphones just hasn't taken off.

Ed Hansberry, Contributor

August 1, 2011

3 Min Read

Nearly a decade ago, advertising on the Internet was the next big thing. Once Google got into it, it showed that there was a ton of money to be made. People think "search" when they think of Google, but search is only how the company gets its advertising out there. The vast majority of this, though, has taken place on the PC. Mobile marketing is the next frontier, or is it?

This was the prediction: As smartphones became the main computing device for most people, there would be tons of opportunity to market to users on the devices. The death of the PC has been predicted a number of times. First it was going to be done in with thin clients at the office, where massive servers did all the work and just pushed the screen down to the desktop. That failed. Then lightweight netbooks running Linux would take over with many of their functions taking place in the cloud. So much for that idea, though Google is still trying with its Chromebook product. Finally, the tablet and smartphone would eliminate the need for a PC for many people.

Despite all of these great ideas, none have taken hold. The PC remains dominant. What has happened, though, is smartphones and tablets (namely the iPad) have taken off--but most people see them as complementary to their PCs. In fact, for the most part, they still require a PC to be fully functional. There is no cloud-based iTunes to sync with, for example--well, not yet. Apple's iCloud will be available with iOS 5, but that still won't kill the PC client.

So how has that impacted the mobile marketing strategy? With users still spending a lot of time with their PCs, that means less time on a mobile device than was predicted. Additionally, users' behavior on mobile devices hasn't been what was expected. Forrester Research has a blog that explains users just don't care about branding nearly as much as the companies pushing branded apps. Today, you can't open a magazine without seeing a dozen ads or more from companies like Nike, Merrell, GM, and Ray-Ban, each with their own app for the iPhone and other platforms. The sole purpose of these impressive looking apps is to garner more brand loyalty from users.

The reality is though, users don't care very much. Sure, they like the product, and like using it, but that doesn't mean they want to experience it on their smartphones. Look at any top 10 list on the iPhone App Store page. See very many marketing apps? It seems to me there is more marketing bang for the buck by licensing your brand to a third-party developer and letting them come out with an app that raises brand awareness without the user really being aware of it, like the Toy Story 3 game.

If your company is working on mobile marketing for the mobile platforms, how is it going about it, and how successful as the strategy been?

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