Exclusive to Paybefore. December 2012.
In the acclaimed television series Mad Men, an average copywriter named Harry Crane invents a role as his agency’s new Head of Television. In this fictional retro world, the old guard that runs the agency in the early 1960s has no idea of the importance of this new broadcast format or how it will completely change brands, marketing, or how we relate to our world. They give him the promotion without a second thought.
If Harry Crane was real and alive at a top agency on Madison Avenue today, he would ask to be the Head of Mobile. As 2012 comes to a close, even brands that we regard as ahead of the curve, enlightened, and leading the way into the new mobile age have serious bouts of confusion about what mobile can offer and how to capture this titanic shift in our culture.
One festive example to brighten the holidays is Starbucks’ new campaign The 12 Days of Gifting. Starbucks has been mentioned often in this blog as a leader in mobile payments. Their app was one of the first from a major retailer when the original iPhone launched and their partnership with Square this year shows they are serious about staying ahead in mobile user experience and data mining.
Upon opening the app to locate a Starbucks this weekend, the Messages tab indicated I had two new items to read. Because Starbucks has a long standing partnership with Apple to give away a free song download each week, I always read these messages. Generally this five second brand interaction results in free music, and pays off for the brand that I stay engaged and using the app.
The holiday message, however, was strange in that it expected me to create an entirely new communication channel with the brand. The 12 Days of Gifting offered two options - SMS updates and a URL that was not a hyperlink. This means, of course, that inside the current gold standard of global retail brand apps was a vague attempt to explain that unnamed holiday discounts were available through other channels, but not in the mobile app.
Why would I use text alerts when I already have an established, frequently used, and simple way to receive communications from the brand - the Messages tab in the app? Beyond that, the method of delivery would require I remember exactly what to type in to my SMS client when I leave the app. No button to tap to subscribe. No prewritten message so I just tap on Send. Just a cryptic instruction of “Text some word to some shortcode or remember this long URL and type it in to Mobile Safari” for the general promise that this effort will be worth my time.
In my mobile web browser, I checked out the promotion separately at rekindle.starbucks.com and it got worse. To join this promotion, I needed to connect to Facebook. For 30% off of a coffee mug (Day 10) I’m now expected to either subscribe to text messages or add Starbucks brand communications to my overvalued post-IPO Facebook news feed.
Clearly this is a promotion from the old, or at least aging, guard of social media marketing gurus that value obscure metrics like cross-channel conversions over the simple truth of mobile apps. I already have the brand, its messages and the ability to buy things from it in my hand. I don’t need a Facebook account for that or see any value in yet another text message. I have a mobile app and frequently use it.
If the brand simply offered 30% off of a product right in the app, I might have opened the app 12 days in a row. I might even have done something radical like bought an item right in the app to pick up the next time I grab a pound of Guatemala Antigua. Purchases of items featured by12 Days, despite being a Square partner and a leader in the space, was another option that was also nowhere to be found.
If Harry Crane started working on next year’s campaign, he would need to understand that the12 Days of Gifting must account for a world changed by mobile, just as television changed print advertising many holidays ago.