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Join the "Mobile-ution"

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By Ed Martin* 

The first time I saw a mobile phone it was a “shoe phone”. I was about 12 years old and watching the show Get Smart, where the main character took his shoe off and used it as a phone, and it was awesome!

The second time I saw one was in my mid 20’s in LA, driving in a rental car as I passed this gent who looked like a “Ken Doll” (from Ken and Barbie doll fame) in his convertible Mercedes with a “car phone”, and I had to look twice. Ridiculous I thought. This guy is on some contraption the size of a toaster in his car when there are literally pay phones at every gas station he can use. I shook my head and laughed and went on my way.

I thought the shoe phone would take off, but what this guy was using – no way.  I was clearly not a mobile visionary I’m afraid to admit. But I have learned a thing or two along the way

Now some 20-plus years later, I run mobile marketing at The Hershey Company. And with nearly 6 billion mobile handsets covering the vast majority of the world’s population, always with them, always on, the ability to connect with another human being immediately anywhere in the world is simply unprecedented, and creating a “mobile-ution”, a mobile revolution.

So what do we do now with all this mobile? Business looks at connecting the right message to the right person at the right time to make a sale and to make it easier for consumers to share their great experiences. With smartphones and all the sophisticated applications, companies can more easily engage their consumers with the right deal at the right time to maximize their value and the companies’ value.

Mobile data being collected adds to the already growing “big data” pool – data about what we search for, what we are posting in social media, what we have purchased and where, when, how and who with – all growing exponentially with mobile

It is critically important, however, that business and all organizations are completely transparent with consumers allowing them to “opt in” and “opt out” of engagement with business and other groups, based on the consumers’ value perception of what they receive from the relationship. In theory, to understand a consumer’s needs deeply and offer a product or service to them at the exact right moment, is beneficial for everyone. But it is the consumer that is ultimately in charge of that relationship – and can start one and end one at any time.

The marketing implications of mobile are virtually limitless and continue to change nearly every week. Equally as exciting is the ability for mobile to have a massive positive impact in the world.

Whether it be through leveraging mobile platforms, like Hershey is doing in West Africa with Cocoa-Link, engaging farmers to optimize areas such as crop productivity, or for health care providers to provide rural communities with cell phones so they can stay connected to medical professionals during the course of a pregnancy as one example, the applications are limitless.

If I take the above example a little farther – being able to engage with a nurse or doctor throughout a pregnancy and dealing with issues early vs going through a complicated delivery – can literally save millions of children and moms while saving potentially billions of dollars by properly managing the health and wellness of mother and child prior to the birth.

Mobile has also helped to start and fuel revolutions in a blink of an eye as we saw in the last few years in the Middle East, done through social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, people can communicate with each other via mobile in ways that change countries, markets and lives.

Mobile has even recently been used to help crowdsource funds for the victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky are a young couple who were both injured at the marathon bombing. Crowdfunding has raised $700,000 just for them. Sites like GiveForward, and GoFundMe are helping deliver much needed financial support from not just friends and family, but complete strangers, to these victims.

More often than ever we have the people to people communications channel that is growing, and institutions and corporations need to participate in the conversation. If we add value, we remain relevant. If not, we get ignored, and that’s a fair deal.

It seems we now have even a larger opportunity and responsibility with mobile that is so pervasive in the world.
Mobile is a tool that can help transform education in developing markets or provide remote communities with medical information to health workers in time to save billions of dollars and millions of lives.

All the above examples have the ability to in some way leverage mobile for financial gain, while enhancing the overall quality of life and well-being of the people we are intending to interact with.

When you look to deliver something through this platform and device that is now ubiquitous, always start with the same question. Is what I’m doing adding value to who I’m trying to reach in any meaningful way? If you can answer yes to this, you are on your way to results much more likely to help achieve your financial goals as they will be meeting real and critical needs. If you answer no, go back until you come up with something where you can answer yes.

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*Ed Martin is Global Social Enterprise Initiative Executive-in-Residence and Director of Mobile Marketing at The Hershey Company