Mobile is 40 – and has grown into an authoritative communications channel
Paul Doran, founder of Switch Communications and a PRCA Digital Group member offers his thoughts on the impact of the mobile phone as it turns 40 today.
Today is being celebrated as the 40th anniversary of mobile and I for one can't believe it. It feels more like 20 - still full of promise of great things to come.
My personal experience of mobile began while working as part of the communications team on the 'World's 1st 3G network', a test bed on the Isle of Man with the then BT Cellnet.
The 40th anniversary acknowledges a Motorola employee, who made a call in New York to rival AT&T's research division on a Motorola DynaTAC - widely regarded as the first cell phone.
It was no 4G touch screen smartphone, the device was nine inches tall, comprised 30 circuit boards, had talk-time of 35 minutes, and took 10 hours to recharge.
Progress has been swift. The mobile has become one of, if not the greatest, technological advancement of our age. However, it has had a bumpy ride and brands and communicators have all played their part.
Remember WAP? No. Nor do I - it was so over-hyped and under-delivered that mobile was set back a couple of years. Fingers burnt.
Then mobile went through its wild teenage years, bringing gifts such as the Crazy Frog, music ringtones, and who can forget the premium rate SMS scams so favoured by media and brands around the world.
With the developments in devices, network speeds and operator tariffs now in favour of the consumer, brands and communicators can look towards mobile as a powerful and personal way to connect with customers. But tread with caution.
From a targeting perspective, marketeers and brands need to learn the new rules of marketing via mobile.
The aggressive, often spammy, advertising push, targeting and retargeting world of the Internet does not translate well in the mobile world. With devices being held so personal to their owners, this means the balance of power has shifted and resulted in a reduced tolerance for ill-conceived, poor targeted communications.
Consumers are far more demanding of relevant communications on the second screen. Not only should communications be relevant, they increasingly need to be contextual, taking account of the time of day, behavioural patterns and the next big marketing driver, location.
The other significant change mobile has driven is the propagation of 24 hour citizen news, meaning that brands can't hide. Everyone is a camera man, a news anchor. Everyone with a smartphone has the ability to spread news fast.
This means brands need to consider their reaction times to protect against or capitalise on breaking opportunities or, worse, negative stories. And this means at a minimum listening.
In the next 40 years the signs are clear that mobile, whatever its age, has a powerful future for brands. It will bring about positive change in how we live our lives, changing retail, how we consume TV, how we monitor health and how we connect with friends and family.
All wonderful stuff. But please, let's all agree to turn it off now and again and spend some time together in the real world.