Like all businesses, the mobile industry has various terms that get batted around all the time. Concepts like SoLoMo, LBS, APIs and WAP confound newcomers and experts alike, as it’s hard to determine what slight nuances each individual introduces along with his or her perspective.

I bring this up to point out that confusion has pros and cons. On the positive side, confusion introduces points of view, which gives us the cool stuff: discussion debate, positioning, and packaging. Where confusion becomes negative is when terminology negatively impacts company strategy.

Cases in point: “mobile messaging” and “mobile marketing.”  With regards to mobile messaging, the basic idea is that companies use various mobile channels like text, voice and push to communicate with their customers. Straight forward right?

Well, yes, but no. Mobile messaging can’t be “straight forward” because mobile by nature is an interactive device. Companies that have success with mobile are those that develop an input/output relationship with their customers, rather than just sending uni-directional blasts. So the meaning of “mobile messaging” actually misleads the optimal strategy behind the concept.

Which brings us to “mobile marketing.” Again, basic idea being that companies can use mobile to market products and services to their customers. Well that’s all well and good until you consider two things:

  1. Are organizations like FEMA really “marketing” to “customers”
  2. Does any consumer actually like “being marketed to”

In my opinion, the answers are “no” and “well I certainly hate it.” Organizations like FEMA use mobile similar to how a brand might, but it’s a matter of interacting with an audience – not marketing to customers. And when I receive a marketing message, I delete it without reading. When I receive a contextually relevant message, I take action.

Which brings us to the concept of “mobile engagement.” I think it solves the insufficiency of both mobile messaging and mobile marketing. “Engagement” certainly suggests a two-directional communication flow. And engaging customers via mobile applies to any type of entity, whether FEMA’s emergency alerts or a brand’s text-to-win campaign.

So, when you chat with people who are speaking about concepts like “mobile messaging” and “mobile marketing,” push them to see if they are getting at the idea of mobile engagement. Those are the ones who understand an industry that’s ripe for opportunity.

Now, with all that said, here’s where it gets really interesting. What makes “mobile engagement” effective? Is mobile engagement a sufficient phrase that describes an optimal strategy?

Well, no.


I’ll let that one marinate for a bit.

Stay tuned.

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