Choice is the Killer Mobile App

Three marketers without a horse in the race say that consumer choice, not one product or tactic like QR codes or the mobile Web, is the key ingredient in successful programs that include mobile.

“Obviously the big game changer was the iPhone,” Steve Mura, director of digital marketing at MillerCoors, told me in my new book, Mobilized Marketing: Driving Sales, Engagement, and Loyalty Through Mobile Devices. “It wasn’t a big game changer for the masses but it was a game change and sort of woke up the beast and then everyone said, ‘Smartphones are it. They’re the next thing — look at all the things these mini-computers in your hands can do,’ and then everyone saw the potential.”

But it was options that Mura’s customers needed rather than the iPhone and Apple’s restrictive iOS operating system. Mobile’s potential became even more clear with the launch of Android. The iPhone didn’t connect with MillerCoors’ consumers because it’s a closed environment. And lets not forget about the cost. Creating for the iPhone was/is expensive. You had to get it at AT&T. According to Mura, the iPhone really created the possibilities and for the MillerCoors consumer, the Android delivered it.

Eileen Woodbury was one of radio’s earliest and staunchest believers in mobile, largely due to its ability to make passive listening interactive through calls to action and permission-based messages. Still, Clear Channel Los Angeles’ director of marketing hasn’t excluded other channels with the inclusion of mobile.

“People will communicate with you the way they want to communicate,” she told me. “So texting isn’t replacing the Web. The Web didn’t replace the phone call. People who want to call will want to call. People who never called us before hopefully will engage with us through text. Some people prefer Twitter or are on Facebook all day.”

The bottom line is that this is the age of choice and people communicate the way they want to. In early 2011, Macy’s developed a differentiating in-store program called Backstage Pass that gives shoppers access to 30-second videos that provide fashion tips and a behind-the-scenes look at clothes from Bobbi Brown, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Greg Norman for Tasso Elba, Rachel Roy, Irina Shabayeva for I.N.C., and Martha Stewart. Perhaps what is most interesting about Backstage Pass is Macy’s inclusion of calls to action involving SMS, MMS, QR code, and the mobile Web. There is even a URL given for those few who aren’t carrying a mobile device with them. For Macy’s, it’s about choice. After all, the retailer isn’t limiting shopping in its stores to those who drive red sedans. Why would it want to dictate mobile behavior?

Jeff Hasen is CMO of Hipcricket, a mobile marketing service provider.