Q&A with Joseph Jaffe: ‘Mobile is the one device to rule them all’

In the world of marketing Joseph Jaffe is a well-known name. Jaffe is the founder of Crayon, a strategic consultancy firm that was acquired in 2010. He has authored three books on marketing, branding and consumers, and his knowledge ranges from traditional marketing, mobile to social media.

Before this talk at the Mobile Media Mindblast on Friday, Jaffe chatted to Memeburn about marketing, mobile, social media and the future.

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Memeburn: Why is the mobile device such an important aspect of marketing?
Joseph Jaffe: Mobile is the one device to rule them all (with apologies to “The Lord of the Rings”). It is ubiquitous. Pervasive. Intimate. Unitarian. And every day becoming more and more like TV and the PC Web.

MB: iPhone or Blackberry? iPad or GalaxyTab? Chrome or Firefox?
JJ: iPhone. iPad. Firefox.

MB: What are your top five favourite mobile apps?
JJ: Instragr.am, Tripcase, Angry Birds, Kindle, Mashable.

MB:It has become somewhat of a cliché to talk about the amazing mobile marketing opportunity – what about an example where mobile is not working?
JJ: The branded app or the (cr)app! Apple’s iAds have also proven to be less successful than originally hoped. No denying there are creative people at Apple or that the creative itself is smart and fully utilises the unique features/functionality of the iPhone, but ultimately the question is whether consumers want advertising on their mobile phones.

MB: There are a dizzying array of choices: mobile web, a variety of mobile applications, variety of platforms – how do I choose? How do I prioritise?
JJ: Do it all. Seriously. Brands have way too much money to be debating Android or Apple OS for example. Standardisation is critical to be sure and perhaps this is the second coming of online advertising.

MB: What’s the cheapest, fastest way of getting a mobile presence out there, targeting all mobile application platforms and the mobile web?
JJ: It probably should begin with a mobile web version of your most critical website functionality and/or engagement. Everything else builds from there.

MB: Mobile devices are personal devices – do consumers really want intrusive marketing messages on them?
JJ: No they don’t. But they do want utility and value. And they do want content for free. Apple’s iAds are not doing as well as was originally hoped. That doesn’t bode well for mobile advertising’s future. That said, Pandora’s revenue increased 136% in Q1 of 2011 vs the same time last year. And that format is about as intrusive as you can get.

MB: Mobile technology is changing at breakneck speed – would you ever advise companies to stay out of the game until it settles down?
JJ: Never. Experimentation is the order of the day. Smart strategic and bold experimentation.

MB: When should a company ignore a traditional desktop web presence or offline presence, and go straight to mobile?
JJ: It obviously depends on the country, target population, culture, objectives of the campaign etc. That said, apps are a great example of this scenario i.e. when the slate is clean/clear e.g. for a startup, an app may be just the ticket.

MB: Social media: Under what circumstances would you advise a company not to delve into social media?
JJ: As long as your consumers are talking, you need to be able to listen, respond, be invited to join, catalyse and start conversations with them. And there’s no doubt or debate this is happening at scale and in droves. Social media is not a medium or ad platform. It’s a philosophy and mindset.

MB: How should a company decide which social media platforms to target? And which to avoid?
JJ: Good question. On one hand you have the obvious choices e.g. Facebook based on where the “puck” (action) is right now and where the reach is right now. Twitter is right behind that. Foursquare right behind that. Then you have the next wave of challengers: Instagr.am, Path, Groupon, Shopkick etc. I would add two things:

  • It’s always going to depend on the objectives, category, vertical at hand e.g. B2B = LinkedIn
  • Don’t forget the basics: YouTube, Blogging, Flickr, podcasting etc. It’s amazing how we’re always chasing the next big thing instead of focusing on the key building blocks of this social media evolution and revolution.

MB: There is mostly an evangelical promotion of social media – what about the dark side and negative effects of social media?
JJ: Absolutely. Led by privacy concerns. Let’s face it….the repercussions and lasting aftereffects of our actions today will be felt for years to come. We’re going to need to be really smart and strategic about how much information we put out there. Too much transparency is almost as bad as too little. I fully expect a pullback/backlash which won’t be a complete pendulum swing, BUT I think it will bring us back to a more normal sense of equilibrium.

MB: There are so many “social media experts” out there – how can a company be sure that it are being advised by someone who really knows their stuff. What do they need to look out for?
JJ: Ultimately I believe it’s a balance of real work experience (integrated marketing communications, maturity, practical vs theoretical knowledge) and subject matter expertise. This isn’t necessarily about “age”; it’s more about mindset and in this department, strategic thinkers and thinking will trump any tactical push (regardless of number of years in the business). To be sure, too much experience can also bring with it legacy thinking, incumbent baggage etc., which is why I place so much emphasis on strategy.

MB: What would you say to Twitter sceptics out there?
JJ: Have you actually tried it? Used it? Really. Have you applied a strategic lens to it e.g. real-time problem resolution / customer service. Are you looking at the “finger” (Twitter) or “where it’s pointing” (again, the notion of real-time response; customer service etc) Finally, are your customers there — if not en masse, then at least the innovators and early adopters? If so, how can you ignore establishing a hub or outpost in partnership/tandem with them?

MB: What is the future of social media?
JJ:The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed. That’s a William Gibson quote that accurately describes where we are today. In addition, my belief is that social media works best as a retention driver/platform, so I’d hang my hat on that.

MB: What’s going to be the next Facebook?
JJ: Maybe Path. But I’m completely going out on a limb here. Basically we may be looking at a much more fragmented segmentation of the “mass” Facebook proposition across an intimate and personal segmentation. This is not necessary a replacement per se, but a 1-2 punch.

Path – Nervous at Home from Path on Vimeo.

MB: I’m plugged into the main social networks, but HELP! I’m being bombarded with information, promotions and marketing messages… OVERLOAD! What would you advise?
JJ: Curation. Curation. Curation! Quality before Quantity. Too much is as bad as too little. So without all the clichés, basically I’m saying…use common sense and focus on a more manageable set of sources/feeds. It used to be called an RSS Reader. Think it still is.

MB: If you were stranded on a desert island with just a bran muffin and a tablet computer with just Twitter and Facebook on it, what application would you choose? And why?
JJ: Twitter.

MB: Can we blame SEO for the endless reams of low-quality content on the internet? Will SEO ultimately kill Google, then kill the world wide web as we know it?
JJ: Quality always rises to the top and call me an optimist, but I believe in a triangulated salvation of human-driven, socially infused and curated content.

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