The future of mobile engagement is here… kind of

Mobile engagement. It’s a fun, often unexplained, often overused phrase we hear tossed around in the marketing and advertising industry. But what is mobile engagement? And, how is it changing?

Before we look to the future, let’s take a step back. For years, brands have been trying to wrap their heads around the best way to reach mobile consumers. They’ve done it by creating apps, rolling out mobile ad campaigns and other varied approaches. Yet, according to a recent report from Flurry Research, consumers are now spending more than five hours a day on their mobile devices. That means that the strategies of the past are now just table stakes, and we are moving in the direction of a much more entertaining and enlightening era of mobile engagement.

Look no further than explosive popularity of apps like Snapchat (which currently has a $24 billion market cap), Instagram Stories and iMessage and you’ll find the one thing that is becoming very clear – content is becoming a requirement for engaging mobile consumers. Each of these applications have recently rolled out branded content in the form of digital stickers, overlays, filters and themes. And if brands want to stay relevant in this ever-changing mobile landscape, they’ll have to create a mobile content strategy just to even be a part of this conversation.

According to a recent article in Fast Company, the Emotional Intelligence Agency polled 5,000 consumers to find out what made them actively seek out brands. They then analyzed what these brands did in terms of trying to engage consumers. They found that the most sought after brands had “multifaceted personalities,” all of which triggered some kind of emotion from their audience.

That’s exactly what this new form of branded content is designed to do – connect with consumers in a fun and emotionally-centered way. And it’s working.

For instance, a popular breakfast cereal brand in the U.S. ran a campaign earlier this year to re-energize its fan base and acquire a new generation of customers. The campaign celebrated and modernized the brand using a series of branded content like emoji and GIFs of its mascot as well as colorful uses of the cereal. The goal was to drive awareness and conversations about the brand across mobile messaging apps like iMessage and Tango. The campaign ran for a month and a half and netted more than 112,000 downloads of the branded content and two million shares of the content across the messaging apps.

Let’s face it – it’s unlikely a consumer will share a digital banner ad with a friend, but they are likely to share a new emoji or filter that represents their core values

Brands are starting to see immediate value by using a variety of creative branded assets to create an emotional and engaging connection with consumers. In other words, they are speaking the language of their audience in a way they are familiar and comfortable with. What used to be a commercial with the latest hot celebrity has been replaced with emoji of celebrities or branded digital sticker packs with your favourite movie characters and mascots within a mobile messaging app (like this Despicable Me 3 sticker pack or the MGM Las Vegas sticker pack.)

But it’s not just about generating awareness anymore. That was really just phase one of this evolution. Sure, it’s great to see how many impressions a digital sticker generates, or how many times a filter was used - but brands and advertisers want a measurable call to action. They want to be able to apply traditional advertising measurement models. Which brings us to the next phase of mobile engagement: clickable content – an approach that delivers a more traditional advertising action.

Clickable content allows a brand to serve up a digital sticker, emoji or a GIF with an embedded link. This approach creates an easy and effective way for brands to gain valuable insights about what kind of content is resonating, how they can mirror the approach across other channels and where they should invest their advertising dollars moving forward.

Clickable content creates a much richer set of analytics – which remain an important part of the strategy for brands. And while measurement of these mobile engagement campaigns has been somewhat nebulous in the past – platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and Swyft Media’s Mobile Engagement Platform have created a more sophisticated set of tools within their suite of offerings. Brands are now able to gather information on demographics like gender, geography and age group, and go deeper to find which content is being shared most often, as well as how, where and when it’s being shared. These insights can help to inform and refine future campaigns and allow for near real-time decisions on ad spend.

The most important thing about mobile engagement is that it’s a continuous relationship. The metrics are great in terms of helping to profile the most interested and active consumers. However, the real win is being able to create an army of brand advocates. Each time you reach a consumer with new content and they respond and share – they have become a brand advocate and encourage others within their network to do the same.

Let’s face it – it’s unlikely that a consumer is going to share a digital banner ad with a friend – but they are very likely to share a new emoji or filter that they believe represents their core values. Brands that test the water will find that campaigns can be very successful, but will leave the consumer wanting more if they are not sustained campaigns. Much like traditional digital and mobile advertising, it’s important for brands to have a long-term mindset when they are developing mobile engagement strategies. We’ve seen the most success with brands that set a long-term strategy with multi-campaign execution.

To recap – mobile engagement is changing fast and furiously. We’ve moved beyond using branded assets only to generate awareness. These assets are now causing consumers to act… and if brands don’t act on establishing a mobile engagement strategy, they will miss an important subset of influential consumers. 

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