Is Smart Marketing An Oxymoron?

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We need to forget about the idea of mobile marketing and start focusing on smart marketing.

In my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, I lay out the case for the one screen world. It’s not about three screens (TV, Web and mobile) or four screens (some people like to say that the tablet is the fourth screen)… it’s about one screen: whatever screen is in front of me. Too many brands continue to build digital ghettos where the Web, mobile, social and even e-commerce occupy and have their own, unique, strategies. These strategies are often run through different departments, managers and teams. Sometimes, the only unifying quality is that they all represent the same brand. In a world where screens are connected, ubiquitous, cheap and in the palms of our hands, perhaps all of those strategies are stupid, and what brands are in dire need of is a smart marketing strategy.

When mobile is less about where you are and much more about who you are.

The indication of mobile used to be about portability and location. Knowing who the consumer is, where they are and what they’re doing. In 2013, it really has become about that last part: what we’re doing. The context of the situation. In theory, you can be on your mobile device, but sitting on the coach at home. Trying to market against this using a mobile strategy seems almost as ridiculous as trying to get conversion from a QR code that’s lambasted on a billboard that is situated on the interstate. So many brands are struggling to understand that mobile is less about the fact that everyone has a phone on them and much more about the fact that these phones are not phones at all. They are, as my good friend Andy Nulman likes to call them: the remote control for our lives. To this day, too many brands are looking at the advertising opportunity (how to get a message in front of these users), instead of the marketing opportunity (how to create something that will add value to their consumers lives) that these connected screens offer the world.

Are we still talking about the need for brands to embrace mobile marketing?

In fact, we are but we should not be. The truth is that the consumers have already made the choice and now brands are woefully behind. You would think that they would have learned their lesson after watching the adoption of websites, then e-commerce, and then social media over the past two decades, but they have not. Just last week, there were a handful of interesting factoids that point us to a post-PC and post-Web browser world that should make brands stand up straight and take notice.

  • Factoid #1: Smartphone sales now surpass feature phone sales. This may seem like something that was inevitable, but it has finally come to pass according to the TechCrunch article, Smartphones Finally Overtook Dumbphone Sales Globally In Q2, Android Now At 79%, Says Gartner. With Samsung leading these sales (close to one third of all sales) and Apple in second (at about 14% of all units), the growth may be coming from areas like Asia Pacific, Latin American and Eastern Europe, but sales have grown in all regions (according to the analysts). It won’t be long before all phone sales are smartphone sales.
  • Factoid #2: Smartphone traffic continues to grow by leaps and bounds. "Smartphone traffic has grown 10 times more quickly than desktop traffic over the past year," stated the Marketing Charts news item, Smartphone Traffic Growing by Leaps and Bounds. We’re looking at a traffic growth of about 125% between the first half of 2012 and 2013. Desktop had a 12% growth. Furthermore, the data reports that mobile devices (feature phones, smartphones and tablets) closed in on 30% of all website visits in Q2 of 2013. This is a staggering growth point that seems to be moving at an exponential pace with no decline in sight.
  • Factoid #3: Mobile devices account for over one third of online conversions. This is where it gets interesting. We’re talking about money spent. Consumers gaining confidence in the platforms and comfort in transacting from these devices. The Internet struggled to find this level of legitimacy in the early years. Many brands thought that the Internet was simply a fad or something for the truly nerdy back when it was first commercialized. There were years of discourse and public outcry about consumers who feared putting their credit card number into a website. Smart devices are driving people to spend dollars. According to the Marketing Charts news item, Mobile Devices Accounting for Almost One-Third of Online Conversions Across Major Verticals, saw that 31% of conversions in the telecom, retail, auto and travel verticals happened on a mobile device, and that 65% of those conversions took place on a tablet. This works out to a growth of close to 30% over the past year. Once again, this is a massive stride from where we were just a few short years ago.
  • Factoid #4: Mobile commerce is close to 20% of all e-commerce revenues. According to the news item, Mobile commerce contributes 17.4% of total ecommerce, from Retail Digital we’re seeing entirely new ways for brands to provide levels of personalization, service and commerce to consumers. While e-commerce introduced the concept of shopping around the clock on an as-needed basis instead of waiting for regular store hours, being able to transact anywhere and everywhere seems to be a major attraction for consumers and an increasingly easier way for them to connect with brands.

We need to get over the words "mobile," "Web" and "social media."

What this data points to is a smart consumer using smart devices. These could be connected televisions, smartphones, tablets, laptops or anything else. These devices – in a one screen world – are smart. They’re getting smarter and more connected and the only thing that brands need to be paying much closer attention to, is just how well they are building a Smart Marketing plan around these consumers. The digital strategy ghettos are rampant in most organizations (both B2C and B2B), and this is primarily because brands don’t see smart devices as a business strategy. Sadly, they see them as engines of advertising or engines of commerce instead of being what they truly are: a digital representation of the the business entity.

Let’s see if smart marketing can become something more than an oxymoron.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


  1. Great post. I completely support the notion of a smart consumer who despite owning multiple screens, is (for the most part anyway) focusing on using the one directly in front of them. While there are a few individuals ahead of the curve, I think it is time for all of us to start considering the sequential usage of devices when formulating our marketing strategies. Great article, great book – Thanks

  2. I think smart marketing is where we are needing to focus our attention. It really doesn’t matter the media anymore. We need to connect and engage at a level at which the we can find the customer. It is no longer acceptable to cast the nets out wide and troll, we need to make strides to individualize out efforts to that customer that needs our offerings and touch not the thing that is of no import or they who will not benefit from what we offer.

  3. Fantastic post man. Especially this: “it’s about one screen: whatever screen is in front of me.”

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