Why it pays to play with mobile video

01st March 2017

GSMA’s Mobile World Congress is in full swing with the global industry leaders from the mobile tech sector gathered in Barcelona. I’m excited to be here once again this year with our client, GSMA managing some of their extensive live event content for them. 

The conference asks, “What part does mobile play in all our lives now?” and their answer is “Elemental” reflecting that mobile is ubiquitous and an essential part of our lives. We no longer think of (mobile) marketing, but rather mobile is an integral part of any marketing strategy. In this blog, I want to take a step back and examine why mobile is so elemental for marketers.

Successful brands think mobile first following consumer behaviour; globally and in many countries now including the US (Google Insights), there are more searches taking place on mobile devices than on computers, and in the UK it’s at 55.6% on desktop. (Guardian, Oct 16) Google’s Hummingbird update which prioritised mobile optimised sites in its search algorithm is both reflecting and encouraging mobile’s dominance.

Reacting to the consumer obsession with smartphones, mobile ad spend growth hit its highest level in mobile than two years in the first half of 2016, with video growing fastest increasing 129% to £298m. (IAB study) Indeed the unstoppable rise and rise of video goes hand in hand with the shift to mobile; smartphones allow users to create their own moving content and watch content on the move.

For brands, it is important to understand how and why people are engaged by their mobiles, and generate content in the moments and minutes which key into their purchase intent and influence buying behaviour. In one survey it was noted that people interact with their phones an average of 13 times per hour, giving an indication of the opportunities in these micro moments to connect with consumers, and it’s vital to know how your audience is using their mobile to research, shop and share.

Why does video work so well on mobile?

Before looking at how to engage users with mobile video, it’s important to understand why it works so well. Smartphones are no longer just for making calls; they’re with us all the time day and night acting as a camera, alarm, torch, diary, newspaper, music player and so on. As we live so much of our existence through mobile devices, we have mentally adapted to viewing them as an “extension of our personal self”.

This concept stems from the Extended Mind hypothesis (Clark & Chalmers, 1998) which argues that the distinction between the physical brain and the external environment is blurred. They do not regard the mind as just contained within the skull; the cognitive process is affected by external objects. For instance your mobile phone with directions to a particular location on the map can be said to be acting as an extension of your mind.  As Director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and the Self, Sherry Turkle said:

“The way we can build and customize our phones around our interests and hobbies – whether you’re a foodie or a gamer or a social butterfly – is another way of constructing technology, so in essence it becomes a reflection of yourself.”

Mobile video engages consumers’ emotions via an object that they can hold in their hand conferring ownership and relating to their sense of identity.  Thus, we watch video on our mobile, a device to which we feel connected and on which we store much of our everyday life and increasingly our personal history.  As mobiles are now so integral to how we regard ourselves, the things we watch on them are taken by us to be more significant than if viewed elsewhere, making it a powerful marketing tool.

Furthermore, as we touch the screen we feel more ownership of what we are looking at as we get physical feedback from our fingers which drive psychological connections. Mobile phones use haptic technology which communicates with us through touch. Stoli Vodka harnessed this sense in an advertising campaign, where the phone vibrates corresponding with action on the screen, such as a woman shaking a cocktail.

Showtime uses similar tech in a tactile teaser trailer for Homeland, where users’ mobiles vibrate when an explosion goes off. The results were impressive with a click through of over five times industry average and a 12% increase in mobile episode premiere views.

People feel that they have more control over something that they can touch and studies have shown they will even be willing to pay more for it. Can you offer interactive content where users have to touch the screen to explore the benefits of your product or service?

So we now know why mobile works, how can we make mobile video work for your brand?

Multi-narrative non-linear marketing

The small screen of mobile should not be confused with a small TV; mobile should be treated as a different medium in its own right. Brands need to do more than shorten TV ads for mobile.  To be successful, it’s necessary to understand the medium and create content that works with it. Here’s an example by Coke Zero which uses Shazam to create an integrated campaign which worked across all platforms.

To connect with user behaviour and avoid adblockers, brands are creating digestible content that’s useful, funny or shareable within the context of using their phones. Are your customers cooking at home? Then provide them with recipes. Do they want to know how to put on makeup before they go out? Make a video makeup tutorial.

Catch your audience’s attention

Can you grab attention in less than eight seconds?  That’s what human attention span is now said to be. Coupled with the fact that there’s such an array of content out there vying for those precious eyeballs, it’s vital to get to the point quickly. Viewers will give you time and attention if it’s relevant to them – in fact studies have shown that they will give you more attention on mobile than via TV. (Google / Ipsos) A creative, snappy video opener can work well, but more importantly it should to connect with the target audience. When they see the content it immediately needs to speak to them with an emotional driver whether that’s FOMO, laughter or helpful advice.

Get touchy feely

Brands should identify and understand these emotional drivers and then weave them through their content across screens and platforms. Wherever a user comes across your brand, they should receive a consistency of tone although the content may differ.

A two-year study by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, showed that positive emotions elicit 40% more shares than video that focuses on negative responses such as anger or fear. But whatever the mood, emotions rule with content that drives emotion twice more likely to be shared than content that doesn’t create a gut connection.

Monitor your mobile marketing

Remember to analyse how your audience is engaging with your brand via mobile and how your content is encouraging behaviour change and impacting purchase decisions. It’s important to look at the whole user journey so that you can identify which types of content are working and the context of viewing. None of this is easy, but if you take the time to review and experiment, then your brand will be rewarded with long-term ROI.

Whatever the impact of this year’s Mobile World Congress, (mobile) marketing continues to offer a wealth of opportunities for brands to connect with their audiences. If you take a step back and think about why mobile video works so effectively it can really help your brand cut through the crowded marketplace.

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