When smartphones first appeared on the scene in 2007, there was little indication they would intrude on traditional online marketing. Mobile, we were told, was different. Consumers are much less open to marketing messages on their phones. Any targeted advertising would have to be permission-based.
But it didn’t shake out that way. As wireless speeds improved, along with the phones themselves, smartphones emerged as a proxy for the web. Today there’s nothing out of the ordinary about browsing your phone the way you might browse the Internet on your laptop.
For many marketers, this change translated into a profusion of banner ads.
Banner ads, however, are a notoriously ineffectual advertising medium. The average click-through rate for such ads on desktop is roughly 1 in 1,000—and you can be sure that many of those clicks are accidental. By all indications, the picture is somewhat better on mobile, but it’s unclear whether user interest or just fat fingers drive the higher rate.
Here’s the reality: The banner has failed on desktop and is now failing on mobile.
Now, I ask you what works?
Content marketing does. Content will win with mobile. Why?
Because advertising on mobile is not about interrupting and irritating consumers who are engaged with their mobile devices. Rather, this advertising helps customers find and share information.
Consider some advantages:
Screens are growing bigger. Apple used to be the standard-bearer for smartphone screen sizes, and Apple liked to keep them small. However, according to a November 2013 report from the International Data Corp. (IDC), Google’s Android operating system has cornered 80 percent of the market. This means that consumers are flocking to models with bigger screens, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, which sports a 5.1-inch screen vs. 4 inches for the iPhone 5S. Meanwhile, Apple is rumored to be planning a larger screen for the upcoming iPhone 6.
That extra inch or so makes a huge difference on mobile. Suddenly media like Kindle books and magazines are readable on your phone.
It works better for business-to-business marketing. With expanded screens, consumers can read more in-depth subject matter than that which is contained in the typical ad. A September 2013 report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau estimates that 81 percent of marketers consider “articles on site” to be the most effective marketing method. Because of screen size and the perceived nature of mobile media, marketers had hesitated to emphasize such content on mobile. Yet now that more than half of Americans own smartphones and a growing number have tablets, is there any reason to keep content marketing off these increasingly popular devices?
It’s more humanly relevant. The average prospect for a B-to-B sale is smart and hungry for unbiased, relevant information. These are the consumers who devour white papers and research reports. Thus, a successful campaign must respect the intelligence of these prospects, providing them with helpful information that promises authenticity and integrity.
Do not be misled into thinking that this savvy consumer wants the information to be dumbed down to accommodate the dimensions of a mobile screen. Regardless of screen size or perceived context, our consumer wants—and should be given—the same kind of information he or she might see on desktop. The content, however, should ideally be broken down into snackable portions.
My conclusion: The old thinking about mobile is passé. Although in times past, B-to-B consumers might have been wary about choosing their mobile devices for serious work or research, they now make little distinction between their phones, their tablets and their PCs. It has become one big bouillabaisse of media—and opportunity.