2011: Mobile Year in Review — Q&A with Rick Mathieson, Strategic Marketing Expert and Author of Branding Unbound and The On-Demand Brand

December 21st, 2011 by

Welcome to the third article of our “2011: A Mobile Year in Review” Q&A style blog series that features the thoughts and insights of mobile industry luminaries, media executives and brand marketers.

In this post, we interview Rick Mathieson (@RickMathieson), strategic marketing guru and digital marketing adviser to FedEx, Virgin America, Bloomingdales, Procter & Gamble, Yahoo, Kraft Foods, MasterCard, Warner Bros., Hard Rock Café, Accenture and many others. Rick shares with us why mobile payments and augmented reality are on his list of top innovations of 2011, why mobile is the cornerstone of a brand’s marketing strategy and what brands can learn from last year’s experiences to realize high ROI from mobile in 2012. Lastly, Rick unveils his predictions for the next twelve months and names 2012 as the year of… Well, you’ll have to read the rest of the article to find out.

Rick Mathieson is an award-winning writer, author and creative strategist. Heralded as “a strategic marketing expert” by Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, his research into next generation business models has earned praise from USA Today. And his insights on postmodern marketing have been featured in ADWEEK, Advertising Age, Wired, Forbes and on MSNBC, CNN Radio and NPR. His book BRANDING UNBOUND has ranked as the world’s #1 best-selling book on mobile marketing. And his new book THE ON-DEMAND BRAND was an Amazon #1 “Hot New Release” and has been described as “Required reading for the digital age” for its strategic approach to delivering blockbuster brand experiences through digital innovation. Learn more at RickMathieson.com.


Q – What did you see as the biggest driver of growth in the mobile sector this past year?

A – The biggest driver of growth this year was quite simply consumer behavior – how consumers are using their mobile phones. Nearly 10% of all online sales now happen on a mobile phone, and 52% of shoppers say they will use their mobile phone to help with holiday shopping, whether it’s to compare prices, read product reviews or simply to find what they’re looking for in the physical world. Retailers in particular are going to need to find new ways to harness the power of the mobile channel both in attracting people into the store, and for enhancing the experience once they’re there. You look at what Sephora is doing with mobile, Macy’s, Best Buy and others, and it’s clear mobile is not something to be feared. It is to be capitalized upon to empower the brand experience.

Q – What was the single biggest mobile innovation you saw this year?

A – Mobile as a payment device is coming into the fore, which is very exciting. I think it will evolve in a different direction than most retailers do today, but it is very exciting. From a branding and experiential perspective, mobile augmented reality has helped companies build buzz and delight customers. You look at Nike hiding virtual shoes in stores or even outdoors and enabling consumers to go find them for special discounts. Or VW turning physical world billboards and signage into amazing AR experiences. Or Red Bull’s ‘Augmented Racer’ game, where you can take Red Bull cans to build a racetrack that you scan with your phone – and can then race on a track in that same configuration on your mobile phone. Augmented reality is going through the hype cycle, and today it is really very gimmicky. But over the next few years, it will begin to have a transformative impact on what we call “marketing communications.” And it’s a major element of my latest book, THE ON-DEMAND BRAND. In the book, I talk to Matthew Pinakatt, head of interactive marketing for Coca-Cola Europe. And he believes over the next few years, any major marketing campaign of a certain size will have an augmented reality experience in it. In fact, as he points out, mobile AR is so powerful, even our brand logos don’t have to just be static icons anymore. They can be rich, multimedia experiences every time someone trains a mobile phone on them. Every marketer should be watching this space closely to figure out not “if,” but “how” it might help bring their brands to life for consumers on the go.

Q – Over the last year, did large brands’ approach towards mobile change? How?

A – Yes, and again a great example is Coca-Cola. Here is a brand that recognizes mobile is not a stepchild to other channels – it is the most important channel for reaching its audience. Whether it’s branded games or Coke Rewards offers, this brand is actively looking for ways to connect with consumers. Also look at Ford, which really made mobile the cornerstone of its marketing this year. Ford recently included SMS as a response mechanism in print ads and saw a 15.4% conversion rate. Every traditional ad should have a URL and a mobile CTA. It’s that simple.

Q – What were the most important mobile marketing lessons learned in 2011? More specifically, what can brands learn from those lessons to realize a significant ROI from mobile in 2012?

A – For me, it’s to recognize that with mobile, all of our communications become interactive. Our TV spots become interactive. Our radio commercials become interactive. Our direct mail becomes interactive. Our outdoor signage becomes interactive. Our storefronts become interactive. Point of purchase becomes interactive. Packaging becomes interactive. Even the product itself becomes an opportunity to interact and engage consumers – and taking it a step further, to facilitate digital services tied to your product. Mobile creates a level of consumer engagement previously unimaginable. And today’s smart marketers are looking for ways to integrate mobile into everything they do.

Q – Tablets are hot this holiday season. Even book retailers are introducing multimedia tablets. How do you see this trend affecting mobile marketing initiatives?

A – I am actually not a huge proponent of today’s form of mobile advertising – taking an ad model from the old school Internet, namely a “banner ad,” and plopping it onto a business card size screen or even really the larger screen of a tablet. But I do believe the tablet offers up whole new ways for consumers to interact with the brands they know and trust. Obviously more people will use tablets to access websites. Every website should be built first with mobile phone screen in mind, scaling next to the tablet and lastly to a desktop Internet experience. But also, tablets open up gaming and service-based engagement that will be far more compelling than what’s possible on a mobile phone. I think the tablet will be distinct from mobile, but also offer up an on-the-go framework for consumer engagement.

Q – 2012 is shaping up to be the year of  fill in the blank. Why?

A – The year social media falls to Earth, at least just a little bit. It’s been so overhyped and overvalued. A Facebook profile page for 2X Ultra Tide detergent is hopefully not the apex of social media innovation. Rather, I think people will begin to defriend their “air-quote” friends this next year, and start to get as real in their online relationships as they do in the offline relationships. I also think mobile is going to transform social media in 2012. Look for more social networks to connect real friends in the real world, or to act as a social lubricant for meeting people who share your interests – but in the real world instead of within a desktop Internet experience. Look at Vail Resorts and its Epic Mix app. It enabled skiers to literally see where their friends are on the slopes, and post accomplishments based on the moves they made on the slopes. And look at GroupMe, LocalMind, Fast Society and others. 2012 is the dawn of the next wave of social media, thanks to the power of mobile. And what we have come to know as social media, will start to be replaced by something much more compelling, via the mobile channel.

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