Don’t Be the Whale Man and Other Mobile Marketing Wisdom: A Q&A with Jeff Hasen
Nov 14, 2017 Samantha McGarry
There’s no denying it: I am a self-confessed mobile junkie. I’m one of those people who get twitchy if my iPhone is more than an inch out of reach. I’m also fascinated with the way mobile has changed the ways we communicate and consume information—impacting marketing, PR and journalism, as a result. So I was lucky enough to recently explore all these topics with Jeff Hasen, one of the leading strategists, evangelists and voices in mobile, and author of two books: Mobilized Marketing: Driving Sales, Engagement, and Loyalty Through Mobile Devices, and The Art of Mobile Persuasion. Here’s a recap of our conversation:
Q: Jeff, big question to kick this off: how has mobile changed the way we communicate?
A: The real question is whether we communicate at all or are all preoccupied with the small screen. The picture of the guy missing the whale beside him illustrates the relationship many have with their mobile devices. Whenever I’m off in that place, which frankly is quite often, my wife calls me out and says, “Don’t be the whale guy”.
(Credit: CBS News)
That’s the crux of the matter for brands. We still need to sell stuff in the mobile era. It’s the how that is different. And we must ask whether consumers will let us into the personal relationship that they have with their device.
Q: How would you describe how mobile has changed the way news is distributed and consumed?
A: As a former journalist and PR director, I’m very attuned to this. In recent years, whenever there’s a big news story, we learn about it on social sites like Twitter or Facebook via our smartphones. But news has always been curated; we’ve always chosen which newspaper we read or TV station we watch. Today, we’re in a place where there are so many sources and channels we can access through mobile devices. There are good and down sides to this. You only have to take a look at the surprise of last November’s Presidential Election to understand the impact of media, mobile and social.
Q: News cycles have greatly accelerated this year, making it more of a challenge for PR people and their clients to break through. But, politics and breaking news cycles aside, isn’t one of the biggest hurdles of mobile its capacity for distraction?
A: It’s true. Mobile makes everything more immediate and we need to figure out the trade-offs between believing we are being more productive by quickly responding to an email or checking Twitter or whatever - and paying attention. None of this stuff is simple. I’ve been guilty of checking my email in the middle of the night but truth is, you don’t win the lottery or get a new job at 2am.
Q: Let’s talk about how social apps have influenced news distribution and consumption. In particular, I’m most fascinated by Snapchat Discover. Serious publishers, like NBC for example, are producing dedicated content specifically for Snapchat to reach the millennial demographic. What are your thoughts on this?
A: I think it’s smart. It’s always important to put your content where the eyeballs are. You need to understand your audience and the best channels to reach them—as well as any supplemental touch points that maximize the opportunity to influence. For example, rich push notifications are a great way to alert someone to a news highlight in a very clickable way. NBC is, I’m sure, doing what most successful marketers do: they invest 70 percent of their content and marketing in proven channels, 20 percent on innovative channels that are at their tipping point (like Snapchat, perhaps) and 10 percent on as-yet untested channels. Sure, marketers and brands get all excited about something new, but it needs to fit into the mix. A great quote in my first book “Mobilized Marketing” came from the head of mobile at the American Cancer Society who said, “Don’t bet it all on one place, if you do and you lose, you’ll end up selling coffee. Very few people are like Mark Zuckerberg.”
Q: What advice do you have for today’s marketing/PR professional looking to be successful in this mobile world?
A: My most recent book included 15-20 interviews with major brands and discussed many paths to success when thinking about mobile. The key takeaways are: be pragmatic, start with your business objectives and work back. Mobile may or may not need to be part of the strategy. But if, for example, customer churn is a hot business issue, then think about using mobile to create a highly personalized experience right off the bat. The key is to be collaborative and open-minded; last year’s playbook is already old since mobile moves so fast. It’s the same for PR and reaching your audiences. The iPhone may be 10 years old but very few things we’re doing now have been done before. There are still so many learnings.
Q: You describe yourself as a mobile CMO; what do you mean by that?
A: I got into mobile by accident and it was arguably the best thing that happened in my career. You see, what we need to do as marketers and PR folks is to continuously morph. It’s not wise to ignore the world we’re living in and personally, morphing is exciting. The most common thing I hear from the most senior executives is: we need people to help us figure it out, not just be tactical. That’s why mobile is a great opportunity for marketers and PR people. So being a mobile CMO, for me, is a point of differentiation. It’s where the world is - and where it’s going. But it all comes down to the fundamentals: you have to start with the business goals, understand where your audience is and how they consume information - and then see if mobile is the way to get there.