The power of mobile

If anyone needed to be reminded about the power of mobile as a medium, we were given a wake-up call by US-based digital marketing evangelist Joseph Jaffe.

Showing a photo of a crowd attending US president Barack Obama’s inauguration speech (pictured above), Jaffe noted that virtually every member of that audience was taking a photo of that event, either via their phone or digital camera. We’re in the age of individual content creation, and it’s the mobile device that is spurring this on.

Jaffe was speaking at Vodacom’s Mobile Media Mindblast conference in Camps Bay on Friday.

It’s an irony that Jaffe comes from a place like the US to sing the praises of mobile on the African continent. In most emerging market countries, the mobile device has emerged as a key device, touching almost every part of our lives.

In fact for many, it’s more than a key device, it’s the primary device – used to not only email, browse and call, but as mobile money as witnessed by the innovative, world-leading MPesa revolution in Kenya.

In places like Egypt mobile accounts for more than 70% of all web access. In South Africa it accounts for 57% of mobile access to web. Contrast this to the US where mobile accounts for 25% of mobile access. (Figures supplied by Jaffe).

Jaffe noted that the US has been a laggard when it comes to mobile innovation. He mentioned that until the iPhone came around, America was “dead and buried” when it came to any sort of leadership in the mobile space.

For Jaffe, the mobile screen is increasingly the primary device, even dethroning TV. He says that the median age of the TV network viewer is now 51-years old: People just don’t watch TV like they used to anymore. Most TV viewing these days is interrupted by people using their mobile phones anyway.

It’s important to temper some of Jaffe’s evangelical ravings. It seems like TV is the new “print”. The beleaguered newspaper industry is just not fun to bash anymore… now traditional TV is the new target for internet evangelists to bash? The reality is that mobile is a great companion for TV. The reality is complex and full of people that consume their media in multiple ways. People are lazy, some are proactive and download their movies, but some — in fact many — like to sit back and watch the good old-fashioned broadcast.

But there is no doubt that the mobile phone is the key screen to rule them all. Jaffe says that mobile owns the “third place” — that time we spend commuting, travelling, gardening, gymming: “Mobile absolutely owns the third place, and dominates work and home. It’s time for us to say that mobile is actually the first screen, in first place.”

So what’s magic behind the power of the small screen? Jaffe gives us five points:

1. Ubiquitous and pervasive: That mobile phone fits in your pocket and it’s affordable. Everyone has one.
2. Engaging: Unlike a mobile phone, people don’t sit with their heads glued to a TV set. People use phones and are interacting with their phones continually. IPG Media Lab research shows that more than 60% of people’s time watching TV is spent being distracted by data applications on mobile devices.
3. Intensely personal – Permission is now more important than ever because it is a personal device.
4. Intimate: This should inform the type of content and marketing on the device. Jaffe did a search for “Karma Sutra” on the Apple app store and found a healthy supply of applications. Point proved. “Apps” are a truly unique mobile phenomenon and there are more than 300 00 of them in the app store, with more than 10-billion downloads.
5. Valuable and useful:. An example would be the millions of applications out there that assist us in life, from cooking assistance apps to apps that turn your device into virtual rulers.

Citing no source, Jaffe noted that $119bn US dollars will be spent on mobile commerce in 2015. For Jaffe, focusing on mobile is a no-brainer. We agree.



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