Consumers now central to marketing

There are two key trends in marketing this year that look set to change the landscape for marketers worldwide. One is that consumers are now mobile and that marketers need to take the channel into account when planning their campaign strategies.
The other is that consumers are increasingly taking control of their interactions with brands and organizations as never before. That is demonstrated by the growing power of social media and the importance that peer recommendations have taken on for brands.
Taking these two trends together and considering that mobile allows consumers to have the most control over the communications that they enter into, it is evident that mobile will both cause and enable this change in consumer behavior to take place. The question for brands is: how will the new consumer centric form of engagement impact on them, and how can they gain maximum value from it?
Of primary importance for brands in the new playing field is understanding who the consumer is, what the similarities and variants are between them in different parts of the world, what the evidence is that they are becoming more driven by mobile and, crucially, what the moments are in day to day life that will encourage them to pick up their phone and engage.
According to a recent study by the Mobile Marketing Association and Lightspeed Research, 25% of consumers are more likely to respond to advertising - be that print, online or outdoor - if they are able to do so via a mobile response such as SMS. Also, entertainment and utility-based applications that can be used repeatedly stand out as the most popular among consumers, helping create a permanent and effective brand presence on the handset.
Marketers need to determine how to make these insights a critical part of campaign design and engage with consumers in order to achieve the fundamental goals of acquisition, retention or brand building. The ability to match a campaign mechanic to a target consumer’s lifestyle is far more important than getting bogged down in the technology options and trying to match the mechanic to the strategy.
After all, effective marketing campaigns start with a business objective, followed by consumer insight and a great creative idea before deciding on which channel to use. If marketers can take this on board and start to align mobile more clearly with separate marketing functions, then 2011 will see mobile marketing move away from its focus on advertising and the mobile internet, and start to encompass a far broader range of practices - from m-commerce to m-CRM, mobile direct response, promotion and permission-based marketing.
The consumer’s new role center stage in mobile marketing will also make privacy and personalization two key areas to address in 2011. While consumers want to cut out irrelevance and maintain control over what they receive, they must also share a certain level of information about themselves, which does not always sit happily with concerns over how the data is shared and used. Establishing a middle way between personalization and privacy will therefore be of central importance for the industry as a whole during the year ahead.
Once brands have aligned their strategies to incorporate all of these consumer-centric elements, the final piece to the puzzle will be establishing what the emerging business models in mobile marketing are and how the ecosystem as a whole will make money in a world where the consumer has control. That does not just apply to the brands creating the mobile strategies, but to the companies that are helping them to do so – for example, by creating solutions that enable personalization.
The future is irreversibly mobile and its acceleration is down to consumers using their mobiles as a fundamental accessory in their lives, and taking control of their interactions with the brands and organizations around them. The new world of consumer-centric engagement can, and will, deliver value to brands and marketers, but it requires a new way of thinking.

Paul Berney is the Mobile Marketing Association's CMO and managing director for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.