Up to now, the staple of mobile marketing has been SMS messaging, a channel traditionally used for below-the-line marketing purposes. But mobile is about to become the next battleground for above-the-line campaigns as consumers spend increasing amounts of time on their smartphones and apps create opportunities for creative campaigns.
Rather than looking at traditional SMS messaging, brands and retailers are jumping into mobile messaging using apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp as platforms to create a more immersive and narrative-driven marketing experience.
“Consumers are spending a lot of time on these free mobile messaging apps, but the marketing opportunities are just starting to open up,” says Julian Smith, global head of strategy at mobile marketing agency Fetch. “So it’s quite a challenge, as WhatsApp has always said it doesn’t want to accept advertising, but others are more content rich and offer better brand opportunities.”
Recently UK footwear brand Clarks revealed plans to run a campaign using WhatsApp, which will see it push out messages to consumers that add a specific number to their WhatsApp contacts. Users who sign up will join a first-person journey that places the Clarks Desert Boot in the context of a series of cultural events over the past 65 years.
With Whatsapp boasting 700m users, Clarks saw an opportunity to tell a series of stories using the platform as part of efforts to interest an influential, but difficult to reach, audience.
“We wanted to connect with a specific consumer typology in a fresh and interesting way. We want reach an influential audience who have an interest in fashion and style. They are consumers who are looking for substance in the brands they buy, and are really interested in history and provenance,” says Roy Gardner, Clarks group director of category marketing, international.
The brand is seeking to influence consumers in their mid-twenties upwards, particularly those within the creative industries.
“They consume a lot of information on mobile and are digital natives. From our point of view, developing a solution that was mobile-first and was a way of presenting something in a fresh and different space was at the heart of the idea,” Gardner says.
The shoe brand won’t be using the campaign as a hard promotion for the boot.
“Let’s take people back in time, and recount these experiences using the different protagonists, which happen to include the Desert Boot.”
Keys To Success
For the brand, respecting the consumer’s mindset while they’re in this space will be key to the campaign’s success, says Gardner.
“Whatsapp has pretty high levels of penetration, and once people have it on their phones, they’re pretty committed to using it. We thought about developing our own app, but a lot of people download apps, use them once or twice and then move on. I think it can work if you can respect how consumers use Whatsapp - because ultimately it is a peer-to-peer communication tool - and try to create something that will be interesting for them.”
Indeed, the company said that while there will be opportunities to sign up to other marketing communications from the brand, it does not plan to use the phone numbers gathered through the campaign marketing after the three week long campaign ends.
As the campaign takes the experiences of people from the past and uses modern technology to tell their stories, Gardner says the campaign won’t just live in Whatsapp.
“We’ll link you out to other content whether that’s on Instagram, Spotify or Twitter. It makes it all come alive.”
“Blink, Share, Laugh, Forget”
Another app garnering significant attention from both brands and consumers is Snapchat, with comScore revealing in August last year that it is now the third most popular social app among millennials. ComScore found Snapchat has 23.89% penetration on 18-34 year olds, behind only Instagram and Facebook.
For Generation D (people aged between 12 and 18) working across five screens is standard, says the insight editor of trend forecasting agency Future Laboratory Peter Firth.
“They spend 41% of their time outside of school using mobiles to absorb content online and keep in touch with friends over the-faster-the-better apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat, according to Sparks & Honey. This ‘blink, share, laugh, forget’ mentality is now being adopted by marketers in terms of how they speak to Generation D members,” Firth says.
Many brands, particularly those in the fashion sector, are finding that the ephemeral nature of Snapchat is a good way of sharing behind-the-scenes footage and previewing collections before their catwalk shows, while creating a sense of renewed exclusivity with content that vanishes shortly after being viewed.
Surprise Builds Brands
The sense of surprise and novelty also helps to build brand equity, clothing company Free People’s director of Marketing Kathryn O’Connor told Fast Company Create.
"We keep followers guessing, so that when they go to open a snap, we have 100% of their attention. It’s a channel where followers get real insight into the brand and what we’re doing. There is a true delight factor in that.”
This same thinking was used by Heineken, which gave Coachella festival attendees clues to the location of a secret concert throughout the weekend using Snapchat, explains Fetch’s Smith. Snapchat users received snaps to help them figure out which artists were planning a surprise joint performance on a given day at the festival. Users that responded correctly got early confirmation of the act scheduled for Heineken House, the beer company’s stage at the festival.
In an article for The New York Times, Nick Bilton wrotes that the temporal nature of Snapchats creates a certain kind of freedom, compared to other social networks like Facebook or Instagram, which create a public performance because they (theoretically) remain online forever.
More Than A Snap
For brands looking to harness Snapchat, but which want a slightly longer lifespan for their messages, the platform has a feature called Stories, which is a rolling compilation of snaps from the last 24 hours that a user’s friends can see, and which can be watched repeatedly across a 24 hour period.
This creates an opportunity to craft narrative-driven campaigns, where stories can unfold across the platform. For instance, Taco Bell introduced its Doritos Locos Tacos (DLT) through a series of images that ran throughout the day, which told the story of a personal assistant who was asked to find out what the new DLT was for his boss. The pictures also linked together to create a romantic comedy film for Taco Bell.
Smith also highlights the prospect of Tinder opening up as a platform for advertisers, with the app being used at SXSW festival in order to promote the sci-fi film Ex Machina. The questions asked by the bot in the app tie to a character called Ava, an artificial intelligence being in the movie.
“If this is where my audience is spending a lot of their time, these apps are a way of getting in front of them in a very innovative way,” says Smith.
As phones have traditionally been a means for two-way communication, the brands garnering the best results from these apps are those that are playing to each platform’s strengths, rather than simply using them as another broadcast or promotional channel.
“People use different apps for different purposes, and brands need to be careful about how they use each. There can be no hard selling on these channels - they’re so personal where consumers interact with a small set of their peers. You’ve got to integrate very carefully into the channel,” emphasises Smith.