Mobile's Breakout Star in 2012?

Mobile Marketer asked me which moble channel will shine brightest next year.

This is what I said:

"The 2012 breakout mobile channel won't be a shiny object. The newest innovation will get the buzz but won't be widely adopted immediately if ever.

"My bet for breakout star is the mobile Web. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have produced a tripling of activity and shows that we're out of the early adopter phase.

"With more capable deivces in more hands, the mobile Web becomes indispensible for commerce, entertainment, information and more. Brands that missed the boat this year have no time to lick their wounds - get busy planning now.

More here 

More Bird Talk

Steve Smith from Mediapost wrote about the Kikkoman mobile program and quotes me here

I told Steve that the campaign combines in-store calls to action with email, SMS, mobile web and video.

"By giving consumers a choice in how they'd like to interact with Kikkoman, the company is increasing the likelihood of participation and ongoing engagement."

A Latte and a Squirrel. Cute But Why?

Somehow it became news that we can interact with characters in Starbucks.  Haven’t we been doing that all along?

If you haven’t had your dose of reality – augmented reality, that is – let me fill you in. Beginning next Tuesday, customers who download an app for iPhone and Android devices can experience what Starbucks is calling “Cup Magic”.


Specifically by firing up the app and pointing it at a holiday cup, one can interact with five characters — an ice skater, a squirrel, a boy and a dog sledding and a fox — on your screen.

And, if you are so inclined, you can share the feature on Facebook and via email.

The object, Alexandra Wheeler, Vice President of Global Digital Marketing for Starbucks told Mashable is to “surprise and delight” customers during the holiday season.

My take?

It’s one more case of augmented reality showing off whiz bang technology but not delivering much value. At the risk of being a Scrooge – it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been so described – what’s in this for us? I am in Starbucks six days a week, looking for a jolt of Joe, not cuteness.

Sure, Starbucks created buzz with the campaign but don’t we already get that with our Venti latte?

For years that sometimes feel forever, we’ve counseled brands to create mobile experiences that drive business. Our MillerCoors client uses mobile for one reason – to sell more beer.

Will Starbucks move any more product by giving us skaters in our holiday cup scenes? Isn’t augmented reality more useful if it serves a utilitarian purpose like showing me the nearest discount on coffee when I’m in a new city?

When it comes to augmented reality, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.

(first appeared on


Talking Moments of Trust, Mobile & Social at MMA's Los Angeles Forum

We're about to enter a holiday season like none other with more shoppers bringing their megaphones to retail locations where they will comment on Moments of Trust via Twitter, Facebook, text and more.

I'll discuss the implications Nov. 16 at the Mobile Marketing Association's Forum.  Details are here>

Ping me if you would like a discount code.

Battle For Public Opinion To Be Lost Via Mobile

Mobile Marketer asked me to name one unexpected thing that may happen during the holiday season.

Here's what I told them:

“Retailers who provide poor customer service will suffer as mobile subscribers armed with what I call megaphones take to their social networks and use messaging to voice their displeasure.

“The adage forever was that you could lose the battle for public opinion in two hours. It is now more like two minutes when experiences at these Moments of Trust touch points get communicated on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

“How bad can this get for a retailer? Smartphones now have eight megapixels, HD capabilities and near-instant posting options. It can get very bad very quickly.”

The full article is here


Siri At My Service

My first hours with my new personal assistant had me wondering if I should do more interviews to fill the job.

Siri, through my new iPhone 4S, was spotty -- and I'm being generous. Frequently, she said she couldn't find the network. Requests in a loud envionment were a waste of time.

But synching helped the network problem and things have gotten somewhat better.

She's no All-Star. I'm still shaking my head over how she delivered Washington DC results when I specifically asked for a gym near Seattle.

But adding an appointment to my calendar couldn't be easier and sending a text to someone in my contact list is a breeze.

I'll get to know her better and report back. 

Will Siri Really Serve Us?

We all need an assistant. The more intelligent, the better.

In addition to the announcement and news around the soon-to-be-introduced in iPhone 4S, this week’s conference gave us a deeper view into how Siri – the technology Apple quietly (and cleverly) acquired last year — plays in a bigger ambition to deliver us suggestions, recommendations and assistance on our mobile devices. Apple’s Siri is marketed as the smart helper that gets things done. All we have to do is ask.

Think of Siri as an electronic concierge and virtual assistant at our call 24/7. No job interviews, hourly wages or background checks before we take Siri into our employ. Siri is trusted and smart — equipped to manage our lives as if she came right out of Harvard or Oxford. Or so we’re told.

According to Apple, Siri understands context and natural language. No need to tailor how you talk to match a machine. Imagine you ask Siri: “Will I need an umbrella this weekend?” Siri understands you are really looking for a weather forecast.

Apple also tells us that Siri — like any capable and qualified assistant — is knowledgeable about using the personal information we allow it to access. For example, if you tell Siri: “Remind me to call Mom when I get home,” it can find “Mom” in your address book and carry out the task. Ask Siri “What’s the traffic like around here?” and it can figure out where “here” is based on your current location, data communicated by the GPS capability in the device.

And the list goes on. Siri supposedly helps you make calls, send text messages or email, schedule meetings and reminders, make notes, search the Internet, find local businesses, and get directions. You can also get answers, find facts and even perform complex calculations — all this just by asking Siri.

There are obvious benefits to having an electronic concierge to help us manage our lives and work – if the technology works, of course. However, voice recognition is not entirely suited to how we live our lives. There are times when you can’t speak out loud (in class or during a play to name two).  And let’s not forget that voice recognition has been inexact for years, especially in loud places where the technology often can’t distinguish one voice or noise from another.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Siri does exactly what Apple says it can. There are huge implications for brands when our personal devices are equipped with personal digital assistants. Are companies going to continue to pay for an ad in a Google query if a mobile subscriber can bypass traditional keyword search altogether by just asking their new and knowledgeable pal, Siri? Will advertisers still sponsor the traffic alerts if Siri can tell their customers all they need to know?

On the positive side, the concierge concept could deliver marketers deeper demographics and more insights into what people want, prefer and demand based on what they ask Siri to do in the first place. Siri may be the next big thing, but we won’t know for sure until the devices are on sale and the service stands up to consumer road tests in the wild. The big question is: how much will people trust and rely on Siri for assistance. It’s one marketers will have to wait out. One thing is certain: marketers won’t get the answer just by asking Siri. This is where first-hand experience, knowledge and interacting with customers will give us the ability to gauge their real interest and actual participation.

(first appeared here

Remembering Steve Jobs

Much like I remember where I was when I learned the tragic news that John Lennon had been shot (I was watching Monday Night Football and heard it from broadcaster Howard Cosell), I’ll now never forget where I was and what I was doing when I learned of Steve Jobs’ passing.

It’s rather fitting that I was 36,000 feet in the air connected to an in-flight Wi-Fi system working on a MacBook Air at the time. Thus, I was able to benefit from the technology advancements made possible by visionaries (like Jobs) who have brought us all advantages that generations before us would never know.

And that brings me to another connection between Lennon and Jobs. Each asked us to imagine and look beyond the ‘here and now’ to what will be – if we are open to it.

In this respect, the contributions by Lennon and Jobs are tied to imagination and what can happen when we free our minds. They reshaped our thinking about peace, technology and the world around us. And through their vision and passion they made our world a better place.

To me, this is their legacy and the biggest lesson they have taught us. Dare to dream. Strive to have impact. Rather than accept limitations that would normally convince us that “we can’t”, these two men – in their own fiercely individual ways — showed us that “we can.”

The Coolest Thing In Mobile

My friend and one of the smartest marketers I know, Mario Schulzke, asked me to be a regular contributor to his outstanding IdeaMensch site For those out of the know, IdeaMench is a community of people who, in Mario’s words, do ideas rather than talk about them.

I'm honored.

My first piece ran today on what I believe is the coolest thing in mobile today – a 15.4 percent lead generation rate garnered by Ford and its dealers.

You can read it here

More Access To Mobile Than Clean Drinking Water

Sadly it wasn’t news to me when Nielsen reported recently that more in Africa have access to a mobile device than clean drinking water.

We pray that technology advances will improve the water situation soon.

Other data points from Nielsen were new and fascinating:

South Africa ranks fifth in the world for mobile data usage, ahead of the United States, which ranks seventh.

Facebook is the most popular social media platform, used by 85 percent of mobile subscribers. Half of all users of Facebook in South Africa access the site via their mobiles.

Text messaging is used by almost 4.2 times more people than e-mail. More than two-thirds (69%) of consumers prefer sending texts to calling, in large part because it is less expensive, and 10 percent believe texting to be a faster way of communicating.

The majority (60%) of South African mobile users said they are aware of mobile banking services offered by banks, but only 21 percent say they use such services. A much larger number of those aware of the services said they would never use them, suggesting banks might need to invest in communicating the benefits and security of mobile banking.

Nielsen’s blog post on the study is here

For Travelers, Mobile Is As Commonplace as Toothpaste

Mobile devices have become nearly as commonplace as toothpaste for travelers in North America and Europe. Like the true road warriors we are, we take our wireless gear with us wherever we go — and our use of them is unprecedented.

According to new data from Boingo Wireless, a leading provider of software and services worldwide, smartphones and tablets passed laptops as the most widely carried Wi-Fi device in airports, reaching 58.9 percent of all devices in June. Mobile devices topped the 50 percent mark for the first time in February of this year. The study draws from data across Boingo’s managed network of 60 airports and aggregated network of hundreds of thousands of hotspots worldwide.

There are ample opportunities for marketers to reach these folks. In my latest MobileGroove column, I discuss Blue Moon’s efforts and more.

Roundtable on Coolest Things In Mobile

One of my favorite books in recent years is The On-Demand Brand: 10 Rules for Digital Marketing Success in an Anytime, Everywhere World

Rick Mathieson is as savvy as they come about how brands need to evolve.

Rick invited me recently to speak on a mobile roundtable with Julie Fajgenbaum, vice president of brand marketing and social media for American Express, and Adam Broitman, CEO of digital ad agency

There are several installments posted on Rick’s site including this one where I discuss the “coolest” thing in mobile these days – Ford’s 15.4 percent lead generation program that adds mobile to the automakers’ ample marketing spend.


Are Group Messaging Apps A Good Choice For Marketers?

Mobile Marketer asked me whether group messaging apps are an effective tool for brands.  Here’s what I told Chantal Tode:

“Savvy marketers like Macy’s, MillerCoors and others use text messaging for both reach and to build a one-to-one relationship that has valuable remarketing opportunities.

“The mere idea of a group app eliminates the means to personalize communication and offers. Marketers are succeeding through relevant exchanges, not group messages that can feel like impersonal blasts of information.

“I see these apps as niche at best.”

For more of my comments and the entire story, please see