How “anti-mobile” in marketing is helping shape offline behaviours

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Less than 5 years ago the attention and spend dedicated to mobile was tiny compared to other marketing levers. I remember discussions where investment in mobile advertising efforts were deemed as experimental and quickly ignored when results didn’t live up to expectation. Bottom line, there was appetite for minimal innovation, but a very light one. Those that were more bullish reaped rewards. A clear example of this is eBay who was rapidly declining in shareholder value as the likes of Amazon and retailers with progressive eCommerce plays made auctions less necessary. eBay focused on scaling its B2C efforts and developing a solid mobile platform. Last year its annual share growth was one of the technology industry’s most remarkable.

Today mobile is a focus for many industries, where a majority of their product or service purchase (and even Brand consumption) is via mobile. Mobile growth is simply staggering (see infographic below). As a consequence, there are increasingly aggressive and bold initiatives in mobile marketing. Beyond stand-alone mobile projects and advertising budget allocation, marketers are integrating mobile into everything that they do (in the same was as they are doing with Social – which isn’t surprising because the two are inextricably linked).

As a reaction to this rapid rise in cultural influence, many marketers are using mobile to influence offline behaviour. In other words they are “hijacking” mobile routines, not creating more of them.

A very interesting approach to leveraging mobile to create an offline behaviour is to lean into its shortcomings, into the way it has altered human behaviour negatively. The one that many marketeers, myself included, have danced around is how mobile has altered face-to-face interaction. We often see people in groups sitting around a table at a bar or restaurant ignoring each other in exchange for their smartphone. The act of speaking, exercising the written word, is exchanged for short character writing. Macquarie Dictionaries of Australia wanted to address the problem head-on by creating a word for this behaviour and spreading it around the world. In doing so, they wanted to show the power of language and thus the necessity to maintain modern language. The word was “phubbing” and it spread rapidly. Have a look at the video below.

Certain marketers look to mobile behaviours to inject a utility that greater purpose to that behaviour and through this raises awareness of an important offline behaviour.  The City of Oslo in Norway wanted to encourage people to use the green recycling bag, made for natural waste. To raise awareness of its benefits, they leveraged “food Instragraming” to power a public bus. Each time someone used the food photography with #greenbag, the bus was powered for 12 meters. In other words, they “hijacked” mobile behaviour to spread the world of changing an everyday behaviour. What a remarkable change in the influencing power of mobile in just a few years where it not just is given more marketing focus, it is used to change offline behaviour!

Yet another use of borrowing mobile behaviours to influence offline behaviours is by mocking certain cultural mobile habits – say hashtagging. The cultural integration of the hashtag is mind-blowing. There was even a very popular Late Night with Jimmy Fallon skit done (see below). For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a new hashtag and corresponding behaviour was created. As you will see, it mocks the excessive use of hashtags to create… a hashtag movement!

Here is the infographic about mobile growth and its influence on behaviour change. Look at common rituals such as shopping and how mobile has profoundly integrated into theses routines and changed them.



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