The Mobile Relevance Project

Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with Terry Ribb, Chief Marketing Officer at Relevens, Inc., about a very interesting and rather unique piece of research, which her firm completed a short time ago and presented on at DevCon5, called the “Mobile Relevance Project.”

Where the majority of companies and/or individuals who research and track the mobile industry focus on statistics, such as number of smartphones, number and types of apps, time spent on a mobile device vs. the desktop, the number of bar code scans, the conversation rate of mobile ads, the popularity of mobile search, etc., the Mobile Relevance Project differs in that it focuses on discovering about and learning how the next iteration of the Web, Web 3.0, and the use of semantics will change the way companies develop and offer mobile apps, as well as the way consumers, fans, users, etc., think about and make use of these apps.

“If we take a step back and look at the past,” said Ms. Terry, “it’s easy to see where we are with mobile now and where it’s headed in the near future.” In saying that, Ms. Terry provided the following story/analogy. In the early 1900s, radio was king from a communication and entertainment perspective. Then came television and broadcasters thought of and used the medium as a visual window on the world of radio, where a camera was simply placed in front of actors reading their lines. For some time, this type of programming was the norm and television was never able to realize its full potential, that is, until some visionaries thought to change the format. Instead of simply broadcasting a somewhat canned radio show, programs were created and designed from start to finish with television, and it’s audience, in mind. When this happened on a large enough scale, television finally evolved into the communication, entertainment and advertising giant it is today.

If we take this story and insert ‘Web’ for ‘radio’ and ‘mobile’ for ‘television,’ we will find that we are in the same place that companies were in when television, as a technology, came on the scene and started to overtake radio, as a technology. As new and different as mobile might be, companies still want to think of it as the Web. Look at most any mobile website and/or landing page, and it’s easy to see how true this is, because the content is desktop optimized, not mobile designed. It’s time that companies start to recognize the differences and revise their thinking, strategies, products, services, apps, etc., and that’s what Ms. Terry’s company, and the Mobile Relevance Project, hopes to achieve.

In addition to helping companies view mobile (the channel, platform, medium, etc.) in this manner, the findings of the Mobile Relevance Project also help companies realize how mobile can be thought of and used by consumers from an interactive and experiential perspective. Instead of focusing on the search and/or social aspects of mobile, companies should consider how mobile can and should be used to deliver truly one-to-one branded experiences, engagements and interactions. Many companies talk about this as being an advantage and feature of mobile, but few, if any, are really making it happen. And, why not? The tools and technology are there for the taking.

Going forward, the thought of developing a HTML5 website and believing that your company is truly competing in the mobile landscape will be viewed as placing a television camera in front of a radio program. It’s the visionaries, those companies that look beyond the simple mobile website and embrace real one-on-one consumer, fan and user interactions and experiences, and build a strategy to that end, that will win the day.


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