Mobile gives meaning to marketing

TRENDAFRiCA July 12, 2013

By Abey Mokgwatsane

Marketers have since time immemorial wanted their craft to be recognised as a business driver – an essential service deserving of a seat at the boardroom table. From being just a cost centre to a profit generation function, this nirvana is still desperately sought after even today.

One way of doing this is to integrate marketing into the core function of a business as opposed to relegating it to a department that simply promotes products and services. This is happening somewhat with marketing services as it extends into distribution, product innovation, business model design, data and hardcore analytics. This is a good sign.

Mobile is a tool that I believe can be effectively used to create more meaning for marketing, as the field moves from being a promotional tool to a service channel for everyday business.

There was a time when mobile was used mostly as an SMS promotional application, but it has evolved well beyond that with the advent of smartphones, apps, augmented reality and so forth. The real magic of mobile happens when these devices are used as an essential component of the services businesses provide to customers. Using mobile as a promotional device won’t fade, however, there is a new world out there that gives marketers access to the business-driving seat again.

Here are some examples:

Metropolitan – Instant gratification is a win-win

Metropolitan allows you to track the progress of your claim through your mobile device. You no longer have to call to get an update. In fact, you can even send an SMS to get an instant update if need be. Sounds easy enough but just imagine the time and money this simple app has saved Metropolitan and its customers.

mPedigree – Saving lives through mobile verification

Bright Simons, a social entrepreneur from Ghana, realised that counterfeit drugs were reaping havoc in poor communities on the African continent. In some instances, what people thought were malaria pills turned out to be counterfeit drugs that killed babies – it’s estimated that a quarter of all drugs in Africa are counterfeit. So Bright invented a service called mPedigree whereby people purchasing medicine can scratch off a panel attached to the packaging. This reveals a code which consumers can SMS to a database for free to confirm if the drug is the real deal. 

Aurasma – image activated augmented reality

In my opinion, most augmented reality apps are geek tricks. But Aurasma has done something unique. You can point your smartphone to any logo, image or text and it activates an augmented reality experience on your phone. Still sound geeky? Well think about how this app can explain recipes on the packaging of a mayonnaise bottle, or give nutritional advice to mothers off the back of a baby milk can, or it could explain how to work the sat nav in your car. The possibilities are endless. This application and many more like it will move mobile out of the geek space and further into the consumer utility space.

Shazam – Find the name of a song anywhere, anytime

Shazam is incredible. You simply expose your phone to a sound source, radio, club, and TV and it tells you in an instant what the track is. Even better, it links to iTunes and allows you to purchase the song right there and then. The company is taking things even further now with the integration of Shazam with TV programming on some networks in the US. You can Shazam your favourite TV show and open up behind the scenes or exclusive content, competitions and episode downloads. Now is that a marketing idea or a service idea? I think it started as a marketing/geek idea that became a real service that has utility value for consumers and subsequently generates income.

Absa Pebble – Empowering merchants to turn your phone into a wallet

Absa is in the process of developing a mobile transaction platform called Pebble – a smart card reader device that plays into your mobile phone. This is the foreseeable apex of mobile – the ability to transact with your phone. Yes you can transact through iTunes right now but soon you will be able to swipe your phone, as it will be synced directly with your bank account. The current services are still stodgy and lack seamless integration but these niggly issues can be resolved. Now, all of a sudden, your phone is your wallet and this opens up a plethora of opportunities for marketers to be at the forefront of business through mobile. You can now promote, instantly track, understand consumer behavior and transact on one screen that is always in the consumers’ hand.

So what should we do?

Marketers need to invest heavily in mobile resources and rapidly increase the depth of understanding of these devices that are getting smarter by the day. At Ogilvy & Mather South Africa, we have acquired South Africa’s leading mobile services company, Strike Media – specifically for this reason. We cannot claim to be at the forefront of marketing services without an intimate understanding of the potential of mobile.

More so for marketers, the opportunity is to understand how mobile extends outside the promotional role of marketing and steps into a new world of services that provide consumer utility, drives business and adds value.

That is how mobile gives meaning to marketing. Now let us marketers seize this opportunity before somebody else does.


Source: Ogilvy & Mather South Africa CEO, Abey Mokgwatsane @abeyphonogenic, is an Ogilvy TREND.spotter for TREND.


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