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Mobile cannot just be about impression-based advertising

By Gary Schwartz

There is nothing like a good old BBC nature series. And after eight years in the mobile marketing world, I can safely say that the mobile ecosystem is as complex and fragile as any recondite nature show.

The problem is that we do not have Sir David Attenborough's fatherly voice to help explain how all the pieces fit together.

On the contrary, we are faced with mobile evangelists who travel through town with a loud bell touting one or two isolated services. What is for sale today? Bluecasting, Microsoft's mobile tagging, QR codes at retail point-of-sale and etcetera.

Unfortunately, solution-driven strategies rarely work.

Can't we lobby the BBC to run a stop-motion documentary on the mobile ecosystem and explain how each piece works or does not work in any given situation? What would Sir Attenborough say?

Usually Attenborough starts at the bottom of the food chain.

I would guess that the mobile food chain begins with "discovery."

Mobile, unlike push media and even online media (that has better search ergonomics) is not something the consumer can easily find.

Without a well planned discovery strategy, mobile is vanity press and simply does not exist.

Discovery primarily comes through short code activation of SMS and SMS with link to a mobile web destination. There is also direct access through the mobile web which is gated by the wireless carrier's on-deck links or the pervasive iPhone store.

There are other discovery solutions in market: image recognition applications that require the user to send in the photo image for processing.

Additionally, there is one-way content bluecasting.

Another often discussed strategy is adapting Japan's DoCoMo solution of using the phone to scan codes to discover Web-bound product details.

SMS is data-light, simple-to-use and an effective, monitored channel.

Most U.S. marketers recognize that SMS is the top menu button on every loyal customer's phone and is the communication channel of choice of millions of prose-challenged Americans daily (Well over one billion text messages are sent every day).

Whichever way the channel is discovered, "mobile interactive" is a fundamentally different animal to its related genus, "online interactive." Although a click is a click is a click, and thus follows many of the online characteristics, there are two key differences:

1. Geography: The mobile primate is "mobile" and therefore closer to where they and their brand sponsor would like them to be: the mall, convenience store, dealership, event . . .

2. Consumption: Mobile is on-the-run snack food and online the main course. As my colleague at the IAB, Joe Laszlo, writes: the mobile consumer uses the phone to "save time" ( Looking up an address or map are examples of a time-saving application, as are checks of traffic or travel information) or "kill time" ( fill unexpected slow moments in the day. This use case, too, is likely to be short and interrupted unexpectedly; however, a user in this mode is open to -- indeed hoping for -- amusing distractions.)

The mobile user is often consuming in a quick, impulse manner, therefore it is an ideal environment to opt-in to saving alerts, coupons, promotions, store reminders, etcetera. And because these offers are consumed on the run, the mobile user is often ideally positioned to act on a call-to-action.

With this in mind, mobile cannot be just about impression-based advertising but must extend beyond-the-click activation and bridge to point-of-sale, point-of-entry, etc. The brand misses half the mobile ecosystem if he/she does not explore passed the mobile display.

Mobile is all about "what next."

Of course, this is admittedly an abbreviated overview of the mobile ecosystem but I am sure Sir Attenborough will oblige us with a more detailed Blu-Ray series on homomobilius very soon.

Gary Schwartz is president of mobile marketing technology firm Impact Mobile Inc., New York. Reach him at .