Mobile marketing heats up!

Summer JM post

Summer means kicking back with a mojito (or three) and coasting on your mobile marketing efforts, right? Wrong. The dog days of summer have got nothing on mobile marketing.

In 2014, Marketing Land crunched North American smartphone and tablet usage data during July and August vs. the winter months and found that smartphone use was higher during summer months by about 7 percentage points. More recent data from Facebook suggests that summer is a cool time to get mobile consumers’ attention. Last summer, Facebook users posted 26 percent more on mobile devices than they did the rest of the year, with sharing of video content up by 43 percent.

My take: Mobile marketing in summer is a great time to grab the five second window with consumers. School’s out for teenagers. Adults take vacations. Two-day weekends often stretch into three. There’s more daylight. People goof off, which means doing things on their smartphones instead of getting actual work done on their computers.

Where summer meets mobile

How can mobile marketers take advantage of all this mobile use? Your summertime mobile marketing success will depend on what you’re offering and how it relates to what consumers are doing:

  • Summer is high season for travel, and with low gas prices, this summer should be a strong one (despite worries about terrorism and the Zika virus). Mobile devices are now the number one way that U.S. travelers research and book trip arrangements, say 85 percent of respondents to a recent Opera Mediaworks survey. Travel offers delivered to mobile users will likely do especially well.
  • As always, though, it’s smart to follow the “less is more” strategy. The last thing people want during the summer is to receive a lot of push notifications, alerts or other messages sent to their mobiles by brands using the ‘spray and pray’ method. “Be careful not to spoil the underlying notion of summer when it comes to your marketing promotions,” warns James O’Brien, writing in the Amex OPEN Forum. “In other words, play it cool. Businesses that bombard consumers with too many messages can drive prospects away rather than draw them in.”
  • Mobile offers timed not just to locations but to events are likely to do well. Along with the July 4th and Labor Day holidays, this summer also brings the Rio Olympics (August 5 through August 21). And even though the Rio games have been dogged by controversy, a lot of consumers will be on their mobiles, catching up with their favorite sporting events. Facebook mobile sharing is likely to jump again this summer, as Social Media Today reports, in part because of the Rio Olympics. Facebook research shows that 63 percent of people who’ve expressed interest in the summer Olympics have indicated they’ll use their mobile device for updates, and 38 percent said they’ll watch replays on their phone.
  • Unlike, say, Christmas and New Year’s, when the holiday period is compressed and the stakes are high, summer lasts three months. It contains three holiday weekends (Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day). It’s prime vacation time. And consequently, consumers may be a little more relaxed and a bit more open to new things. This make summer a good time for mobile marketing experiments.

Fourth of July’s augmented reality

Macy’s conducted an interesting experiment. The national retailer augmented its sponsorship of the New York City July 4th fireworks display with the Makelight mobile app. With the app open on your smartphone, your screen changed colors in sync with the fireworks in real-time, and you could hear the musical accompaniment as well.

“With handheld digital fireworks and musical accompaniment, we are giving the more than three million spectators that line the shorelines of New York City and millions more watching from home, a tangible way to share in the celebration and become part of the fortieth anniversary of Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks,” said Orlando Veras, a Macy’s media relations spokesman, to Mobile Marketer.

It sounds cool. And I bet for those watching NYC’s fireworks on TV, the app added an extra dimension to the experience, a sense of feeling connected to an event happening elsewhere.

At the same time, though, I wonder if it had the opposite effect on the three million people expected to watch the fireworks in NYC live? Wouldn’t looking down at your smartphone diminish the live experience that you’re there to have?

Mobile marketing: mojito time!

Ultimately, though, good for Macy’s for trying something different. And while its Fourth of July fireworks and mobile app synchronization are undoubtedly an expensive affair, maybe your brand can experiment during the summer, too. Offer your target customers something interesting, useful, unexpected or awesome, with the goal of making your mobile users feel not just engaged but connected to you.

Do that, and you’ll have deserved those three mojitos. Bottoms up!


James A. Martin is an award-winning, San Francisco-based journalist. He started covering mobile technology sometime after the Apple Newton bellyflopped but before the PalmPilot went viral. You can reach him at jim@jamesamartin.com.

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