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Think BR: Are you mobile first or last?

It's time for brands to get mobilised or risk missing out on untold opportunities, writes John Rudaizky, CEO WPP Team Vodafone.

John Rudaizky, CEO WPP Team Vodafone

John Rudaizky, CEO WPP Team Vodafone

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Still think mobile is a passing fad? Is it absent from your brand's media/marketing comms schedule because you’re waiting to reach a tipping point?

Think again. The energy at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was optimistic, but unlike in the past when this optimism was focused on technology, it was focused on how mobile is transforming all our lives and is doing so at ever escalating rates.

Whatever number was mentioned, all were about doubling, trebling and compounding.

There are now five billion connections on the planet, and these connections are climbing rapidly to six billion - close to that number will be accessing rich data at broadband speeds by 2016, while 300,000 Android enabled smartphones are activated every day.

What other industry is attracting customers like that? (It's not exactly recessionary talk.)

Smartphones are transforming our lives. There may have been the visionary technologies on display like the DoCoMo 3D phone, but mass brands such as Microsoft, Google, Vodafone - and a myriad of others in this mobile ecosystem - are driving a real transformation, right now.

People are rapidly changing habits and embracing a range of mobile uses.

So, the question that struck me at the congress was, why aren’t more brands getting mobilised?

What does all this mean for brands? What felt to me like a gaping hole in the conversation was that none of the so-called traditional leading consumer brands were mentioned as part of this new "mobile ecosystem".

Perhaps understandable, as it is a mobile congress, after all. But for how long? One has to wonder why traditional brands weren’t out there in force.

When you see the convergence at play between TV, connected SIM energy meters, cheap tablets, couponing opportunities, health telemetry for 24-7 doctors, health applications... are brands still thinking the only new challenge is getting to grips with a social media campaign? A Facebook campaign for desktop PC’s? 

Mobile now presents untold opportunities for brands. Not just in communications, but in product, loyalty and as the ultimate one-to-one relationship tool. 

As Sir Martin Sorrell said at the congress: "The power of apps and location-based marketing are the holy grail for advertisers.

"By enabling brands to connect with consumers at numerous touch points, apps become a classic example of the shift from broadcast to multi-faceted engagement.

"Applications will be a significant opportunity for retailers to open another virtual shop, with the added benefit of it being in consumers’ pockets both when they’re out shopping and when they’re not at the shops, because impulse purchases can be made anywhere."

And what of "machine-to-machine" SIM card application (otherwise called the "internet of  things", with SIM cards embedded).

Connections in products mean fast data, monitoring, real-time communication; from embedded Tom-Toms to devices that send physical information to your doctor from an embedded SIM.

Do you have a brand that could benefit from having a SIM card embedded? One that requires real time metering, monitoring, connecting? Sports brands (health, GPRS, peer-to-peer competition), food brands (monitoring intake, gaming), car brands (smart navigation), banking (NFC, exchange, contactless payment) insurance companies, media (seen the CNN tablet app? Wired magazine with such a rich media mix?), health (monitoring, intake, remote access to drugs like Vodafone’s life transforming Malaria SMS programme in Tanzania), energy metering...

There is probably no significant brand today that cannot find a way to exploit the potential of mobile when you add a SIM.

I wonder how many traditional brands and marketing are starting discussions and initiatives with a mobile approach first, not last.

It’s no surprise that the likes of Google have a mobile first approach to everything they now develop.  

Not just in product terms, but even regarding so called traditional TV - as Eric Schmidt observed, think of the creative personalisation potential of smartphones for the masses, not just for targeted SMS, but highly creative, one-to-one TV quality ads.

They are possible and will be increasingly possible as smartphones for everyone are rolled out.

As Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said, mobile has the power to "create real social value". This social value is shown in Vodafone projects such as M-PESA, Roll Back Malaria, their Webbox for accessing the internet on television and their new portable instant GSM network, easily transported in three suitcases to get to disaster areas fast. 

Applications for the masses. Collaboration technology. Social connection. All innovations that will transform lives, like the power balance between government and people, as recently witnessed in Egypt.

So, with all that potential, is your brand part of this mobile  transformation? 

Despite having been personally immersed in mobile for the past six years, when people asked me when the tipping point would be I never had a clear answer.

But judging by the confidence, the doubling and trebling of the numbers, the array of titans lined up, and the prevelance of smartphones, mobile has now tipped.

It’s no longer time to experiment. With mobile possessing this type of application, now is the time to become fully engaged. It’s time for all brands to wade in and get mobilised. 

John Rudaizky, CEO WPP Team Vodafone

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