For consumers and advertisers, the mobile space is becoming a game of moments, driven by impulse, convenience and mood. Mobile technology has created a world where buying tickets to a show, booking a table at a favorite restaurant, or simply getting a ride across town are just a few taps on the smartphone away. And a growing number of big brand marketers, large technology companies and yes, even celebrities are all scrambling to take advantage of the ultra-connected gold rush.
As Brian Wong, founder of Kiip, a mobile rewards network, put it succinctly at the VentureBeat Mobile Summit in Sausalito, California yesterday, “Capturing those fleeting moments is where the next billion dollar opportunity resides.”
Wong’s appearance at the end of the two day conference was noteworthy because he was accompanied by one of his investors – MC Hammer. The rapper, dancer and actor has been a previous financial backer for a number of technology startups including the mobile payments company Square and Bump Technologies whose app allows for Android and iPhone content exchange (they were acquired by Google in 2013). Hammer’s investment in KiiP was not officially confirmed until his on-stage appearance yesterday with Wong.
Through his involvement in Kiip, Hammer hopes to capitalize on the growth of real-world and real-time mobile rewards. KiiP provides users with a tangible reward from name brand advertisers such as Pepsi, who recently offered a free bottle of Propel to users who downloaded certain fitness apps.
Based on his current tech investments, it appears that Hammer has a deep interest in the mobile space and he realizes that, just as in popular entertainment, catering to the whims of the consumer is key. “You’ve still got to create a great experience at the end of the day,” the creator of musical hits such as “Can’t Touch This” and “Too Legit To Quit” told the VentureBeat gathering.
Turning that mobile experience into meaningful ad dollars remains an ongoing challenge for marketing executives and advertising agencies, especially when it comes to capturing millennials, the crucial customer base between 18 and 34 years of age. This has led companies such as Spotify to shift their mobile strategy as recently as fourteen months ago when they realized the need to capture a share of the smartphone market quickly in order to compete and survive.
The launch of their free mobile music streaming app has propelled the company from being 90% desktop driven at the end of 2013 to being more than 50% mobile powered today. And according to Brian Benedik, Spotify’s vice president for advertising, it was a careful strategy to woo their millennial audience through branding rather than direct marketing that fueled user growth. “Millennials actually don’t like ads, but they do like brands,” said Benedik.
This has led Spotify to create catalogs of their music that carry names such as the “Coca-Cola” or “Red Bull” playlists. “Our desktop audience has stayed flat,” Benedik said yesterday, “but our mobile audience has skyrocketed.”
Targeting mobile ads to reach critical audiences such as millennials is a process that is still very much in the earliest stages. In a breakout session at the VentureBeat conference yesterday, top executives from Movile (creator of the hit game PlayKids) and BabyCenter, shared insights into what works and what doesn’t.
According to Eduardo Henrique, head of global expansion at PlayKids, his company follows a strategy of testing over 1,000 new ads each month in hopes that he can find at least ten that will pay off in reaching his parental audience. “It’s part of the process to make mistakes and fail fast,” said Henrique.
For BabyCenter, a digital resource for parenting and pregnancy whose business is nearly 75% mobile traffic, the challenge is to determine what parents are looking at and what they value. “There’s no silver bullet for targeting. It’s an arsenal,” said Scott Adler, vice president of editorial.
Adler described one unnamed financial services advertiser who worked with BabyCenter on a campaign to attract parents interested in signing up for college savings plans. But the company insisted on running mobile ads “targeted to business people playing golf,” said Adler, instead of towards millennial parents. “It was a disaster.”
For MC Hammer, Brian Wong, and others grappling today in the mobile space, seizing the moment much as an entertainer strikes a chord with their audience remains the “holy grail” for advertising success. “We’re in the business of delight, as cheesy as that sounds,” said Wong yesterday. Seated next to him, Hammer could only nod in silent agreement.