EVERYONE'S DOING IT. NO ONE IS GETTING IT.
26 July 2011
Rei Inamoto, AKQA's chief creative officer shares his thoughts on why using is believing for mobile
Everyone's doing it.
It's the first thing we look at when we wake up. Many of us check status updates even before we get out of bed. It's often the last thing we check before we fall asleep. We even tell the world that we are going to bed. Everyone has one in their pocket, wherever and everywhere they are. And even when they are on the go - on streets, cars and buses, on trains and planes, we stare at it literally everywhere.
Brands are in the business of connecting with consumers. If there is one medium that's perfectly suited for connecting with people, there is nothing better than mobile. It's intimate, immediate and inimitable.
Yet, in the marketing and advertising world, no one is getting it.
Coming out of the last few months of this award season, it is painfully obvious that very few, if any, brands or agencies are getting mobile right.
iPhone was the revolutionary new product that would change everything - and it did. Android is slowly but surely taking over and is becoming 'the Windows' of this decade. New tablets are being released every week. It was in 2008 that mobile access to the Internet exceeded desktop computer-based access. And in this day and age, that's a long time ago.
Through decades and even centuries of the history of media, whenever there was advancement in technological evolution, there was a leap in creative expression in our communications industry. Whether it was the printing press during the 1460's, proliferation of televisions in the 1960's or popularization of the World Wide Web in the 1990's, our industry has been able to capitalize (and monetize) these surfaces and screens as media to push messages and 'build brands'.
With mobile, we are in midst of another technological evolution in history. Great innovations are happening all over.
However, they are coming from startups, not brands and marketers.
The irony is that the big part of marketers' job is to communicate and connect with consumers. Mobile, the most pervasive medium of our time, is the perfect vehicle. And what's even more ironic is that marketers do have the budget to do it. For instance, Instagram, the hot darling of the mobile world, was started with less than a million dollars (subsequently and very quickly money did flow in for them) and it was four people.
Imagine if, for instance, a company like Kodak had the foresight to create a similar tool. Or if they hired a couple of young, bright, entrepreneurial developers and UX designers and let them invent a tool.
As an imaging company, that would have been such a brilliant marketing move for Kodak (or any brand in the similar space). Not only could Kodak have provided a new avenue to engage consumers, it would have raised awareness about its brand AND improve its image. Isn't that what 'marketing' is supposed to do?
So why is no one in marketing and advertising getting mobile right?
In many advertising campaigns, mobile is often treated as one of the check boxes, if at all - and so were websites or even digital at large for a long time. In the agency-client dynamic, the work gets shown to clients in meetings and presentations - often as words, pictures, and as slides. Or even as films. That's where mobile suffers - in client presentations and in award show judging.
Mobile is best when used. It's great at enhancing the moment on the go. When human psyche is fused with human behavior in context, it can be magical. But it's never shown or presented in that context.
We can all claim that we build brands by telling stories. But increasingly, instead of telling 'a story' to consumers, we need to provide 'a place' where consumers can form and tell their own stories. That's exactly what Instagram is doing. And as what we do shifts from telling stories to enabling stories, how we sell and present an idea also needs to adapt.
Often, what we are selling to our clients may be closer to software than to stories. But clients are not yet used to buying software ideas.
So, when selling a software idea to our marketing client, what we at AKQA do is this: Put the user experience into a story.
First we sketch out - mostly by hand - a few screens, no more than five. Just like an idea of an advertising campaign, an idea for software needs to be simple in order for the final product to be elegant. There is usually one screen that captures the essence of the "idea" of the software.
We then design it and prototype it - not pixel perfect but realistic enough so that you can 'feel' what the user journey could be. And this journey is told as a story. Storytelling is a fantastic technique to illustrate a point - or communicate an idea.
But the more usable the prototype is, the more believable it is. So the 'seeing is believing' rule no longer applies. The new rule is 'using is believing'.
I wonder how many years it'll take for an integrated campaign that is led by mobile to be recognized at award shows like Cannes. And as long as we as an industry are stuck in the 20th-century definition of brand-building through stories, the industry will continue to miss this opportunity in the most pervasive medium of all time.