Mobile&Me – Exploiting Inseparability

The Mobile. For Consumers, it plays a indispensable role in their everyday lives since it facilitates a variety of uses. Goggin (2006)

I happen to agree with this view, because I know if my battery dies or  if I happen to leave my phone at home I immediately get that sinking feeling, I begin to feel lost. Embarrassing to admit, but an honest account of what I go through the mobile is a indispensable part of my life and  I’m confident I am not the exception.

In fact, Bournemouth University recently conducted a social experiment ‘Unplugged‘ challenging participants to avoid not just mobiles but also radio, television, and the internet  for 24 hours. Participants reported a number of withdrawal symptoms such as overeating, nervousness, isolation and even disconnection. Dr Roman Gerodimos who conducted the experiment said “They don’t know what to with themselves or their time.”

While I’m sure this pleases the owners of those ‘oh so pricey’ BlackBerry rehabilitation clinics over in Seattle, and by the way do check out this brilliant CrackBerry addiction diagnosis test, I can understand why people feel the ‘disconnection’.


Mobiles facilitate a variety of everyday functional uses, acting as alarm clocks, mp3 players, cameras, address books etc. As the technology has developed, and our quest for the ‘all in one’ device has increased, we have moved  far beyond the basic functional ability to simply ‘make calls’ or send frustratingly short sms messages consisting of just ‘160’ characters (Don’t get me started on twitter).

Modern Phone’s are now capable of simultaneously connecting a user to a host of people, content, and of course possibilities. Connected to the internet mobiles can access email, blogs, social platforms, ‘apps’ and an infinite amount of data when factoring in the mobile web.

In fact, feature phones are being heralded by some as the future for providing interent access to countries and remote locations falling behind the trend for ubiquitous connectivity, therefore combating the digital divide. In essence, mobiles could be seen as ‘the primary personal computing device’ (Barton et al)

For me the idea of mobile’s as personal computers has already begun. The increase in feature laden Smart Phones and the decline of the feature phone in the western world has played a key role in developing our reliance on our mobiles and there seems to be no change in the pace of development.

SmartPhones should be, and will soon be seen as the ‘only phone’ in the developed markets, and this has had a profound effect on our daily usage habits; Consumers in markets such as the US, UK and Japan are embracing an increasingly wide range of mobile media activities such as MobileApps, M-Commerce, video content & social networking. (Warc 2011)

As Roger Entner, Senior Vice President of Research and Insights at Telecom Practice said: “We are just at the beginning of a new wireless era where smartphones will become the standard device consumers will use to connect to  friends, the internet and the world at large.”

Manufactures are partly to blame for the trend, global device leaders such as Samsung, HTC and Apple continuing to deliver increasingly sophisticated technology to the consumer while driving prices down through the use of open source systems (Android) and questionable partnerships (Microkia).

When you combine the increase in smartphone and technological functionality, there are a range of exciting possibilities for advertisers, far to many to discuss in any detail or wisdom, it’s just too new a market. However personally location based advertising particularly interest me.  With a GPS enabled device there is an amazing opportunity for consumers to establish connections to the world around them, no longer limited to people or data.

Location based services allow users to access a range of ‘proximity’ based information, such as localized advertisements, businesses, tourist destinations & even people all in real time. Proximity marketing builds upon the idea that a consumer is more likely to respond to a more relevant advert and is really nothing more than an extension of basic direct marketing.

Facebook Places is a particularly crude example of this, where friends can check in to a variety of locations, commenting on their friends activities and engaging with locations in order to receive incentives such as Starbucks Coffee, Theme Park Admission etc. Recently integrated into Facebook’s ‘Sponsored Stories’ in an attempt to increase click through, and advertising engagement I personally find these advertisements rather invasive and uninspiring.

Example of Sponsored Stories Feature

Although with recent statistics highlighting the increasing number of consumer engaging with location mapping applications, companies are eager to establish early market entry. There is good reason, and not just for the market size, theres logic to this medium. Phones are highly personal (McStay 2010) rarely leaving our side, if we really are inseparable the mobile is a continuously connected channel creating a unique channel advantage. Recipients can be contacted at all times, with more media options and in situations/locations which were previously unaccessible. (Goggin 2006)

However, the invasive models of ‘proximity’ marketing do little to support this point, I personally believe the future lies in interactive approaches, were the customer is actively engaging with the location, brands and environment often through ‘locative media’.

Locative Media, depicts how location based applications can effectively graft electronic information onto the real world navigable by a wireless  devices. Essentially about layers of digital information shaping our experience of the urban environment,  the mobile  acts as a new medium for interactivity. (McStay 2010)

Foursqaure and Mini are two companies I feel have particularly grasped this concept placing the consumer to become the heart of service or campaign.


Unlock Your City

Unlock your City, an apt slogan. FourSqaure put the user at the heart of it’s service tracking the real time location of users to provide approved friends opportunities to ‘meet up, start conversations and discover the city.’

Besides friend interaction, FourSqaure creates opportunity for environment interaction, with a range of badges,  & city statuses to be awarded for check in, while incentives from local and corporate owners to reward nearby, new and loyal customers are a nice touch.

FourSqaure Incentives

FourSqaure even ‘grafts’ UGC to the landscape including reviews, tips and hidden feature of the city to enable a collective discovery process between users. As the person is at the centre of the process, I believe it comes across less corporate, the focus on connecting people, places and knowledge.

Mini – StockHolm

Allowing iPhone users to literally become apart of a ‘guerilla’ outdoor campaign, the independent advertising agency Jung Von Matt arranged a city wide race, inviting users to participate in ‘catching’ a virtual Mini Countryman. Once caught and kept for 7 days you were awarded the Mini, so long as no one else playing within 50 metres captured it from you.

Mini Countryman Getaway – Location Based Game

This campaign was highly innovative, using the latest in iPhone GPS technology to literally drive users to engage with the brand across a wide landscape. The environment, the city of Stockholm was a running commercial, and the highly interactive campaign spanned a range of media coverage, industry acclaim and personal satisfaction from the winner!

I agree with the comments of Andrew Kaplan when commenting on a similar Nokia advertising stunt, The World Biggest Signpost which also integrated mobile devices to dictate the campaign:

“Rather than using the biggest, brightest ad to talk at us, this thing encourages — rather, requires — that we talk with it. The brand is inviting consumers to participate, and our data fuels the ad.”

For me, these campaign’s and services are the future of location, where a more interactive, user fuelled service can be offered through devices we are increasingly attached to.


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