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Time To Re-think ‘Mobile’

There’s only two weeks until our second Fresh Thinking event and the anticipation is building! Today the countdown really starts as we publish the first guest blog from one of our speakers – Tomi Ahonen.

Having authored best-selling books on mobile, Tomi is a much sought after speaker on the subject, and we are delighted to have secured him for Fresh Thinking.

Here he sets the scene for his presentation.

“The tech industry is celebrating the launch of the iPhone 4S and in many countries like the USA, more than half of all new phones sold are now smartphones. Meanwhile we seem to see iPads and tablet PCs on every lap at every Starbucks. The world seems to be going very ‘mobile’. No doubt many an exec also in the recruiting field is also looking at mobile and pondering how will this technology change that industry.

Indeed, these are good trends in tech. But truth be told, while Apple’s iPhone is the world’s bestselling smartphone brand, out of global mobile phone handset sales, in the latest quarter we have data, Q2 of 2011, Apple’s iconic smartphone only had 6% of the worldwide mobile phone market share. Even after its best sales quarter to date, Apple sees mobile phone customers selecting rival phones in 94% of the time – and excepting for some advanced nations in the industrialized world, for most of the planet, that newest phone is still not even a smartphone.

That is why Kraft the US food giant has its mobile strategy built around the principle of ‘no phone left behind.’ It is why Coca Cola preaches of a “70:20:10″ rule, that 70% of its mobile marketing budget is spent on mobile messaging, 20% on the mobile web, and only 10% on the apps for smartphones. Smart executives in any area including recruiting should pay heed to that advice.

So yes, we can be amazed at the fact that there are 5.8 Billion mobile phone subscriptions for the planet of 7 Billion people. Mobile phone accounts outnumber television sets by more than 3 to 1; personal computers of any kind by 4 to 1; and mobile towers over its older fixed landline telecoms subscriber count by more than 5 to 1, worldwide. The only thing in the pocket of every economically viable person, be it a potential job hunter or a potential employer, is indeed a mobile phone.

Mobile phones today extend beyond the limits of age and affluence, of literacy and even beyond the limits of electricity. Yes, in many Emerging World countries mobile phones are charged by bicycle-powered and hand-cranked rechargers, by solar power, by diesel generators, from car batteries and phones may be sent to neighbouring villages to be charged.

I have been studying this opportunity for mobile services and apps for over a decade now and along the way I came to the conclusion that mobile is not just a new mass media channel, it has in fact unique abilities. Any of those unique abilities can be used to deliver end-user experiences that were not possible before. I have chronicled those unique abilities and found nine so far – as a mass medium – there would be different benefits if we consider mobile as a communication tool or payment mechanism, for example. Here are the nine:

  1. Mobile is the first truly personal mass medium
  2. Mobile is permanently connected
  3. Only mobile is always carried of any mass media
  4. Only mobile has a built-in payment mechanism
  5. Mobile is most accurate in measuring audiences
  6. Mobile is available at the creative impulse
  7. Only mobile captures the social context of our consumption
  8. Mobile enables Augmented Reality on a mass medium
  9. Mobile offers a digital interface to the real world


Most of the earlier unique benefits are pretty well known, so let me focus on this newest unique benefit.

So what if mobile can give us a digital interface to the real world? What does that mean? First think of the light switch at your home. Wherever you have a light switch, you can go and turn the lights on, or turn the lights off. All of us have been to that situation one time or another that we wanted to control the lights, and find that the light switch is not where we would want it to be. That ‘light switch interface’ was decided by the architect and had to have the electrical wiring installed into the wall and then connected to the ceiling where we have our lamps.

Now imagine a ‘magical’ light switch that worked from everywhere. And then think that it could be used to control not just our lights, but literally quite anything. So let’s start simple.

In India there are farmers who use mobile phones to control their irrigation systems. Pretty nifty!

What about public toilets? In Denmark you can use mobile phones to open the locks of the toilets.

Coca Cola has been installing vending machines that accept SMS based mobile payments – they invented this way to pay – for twelve years already and still find that enabling mobile phone payments will increase vending machine sales by 14% on average.

There are mobile phone services to let our plants tell us when they need to be watered. Mobile phones are being trialled for use in hotels as keys. Billboards, magazines, business cards can be made interactive for example using QR codes, read by mobile phone. A study by SITA just a few weeks ago found that a third of airline travellers worldwide had already used their mobile phone for check-in.

Maybe the cleverest service so far comes from the town of Lemgo in Germany where street lights on side streets are not kept on all night. If you are walking home late at night, just send an SMS and you’ll have your street lights on for 15 minutes. The town saves 50,000 Euros annually out of unnecessary electrical expenses.

Mobile is the widest-reaching technology but as a mass media channel it is the newest and thus also the least understood. Howard Rheingold wrote that mobile phones ‘amplify human talents for cooperation.’ In any situation or context where humans interact, mobile phones and mobile services can make that better. Now with the 9th unique benefit, mobiles are no longer limited to interpersonal communications.

How can recruiting needs be better met with mobile? I know that by using the nine unique abilities clever new services will be created, and I can’t wait to lead the discussion and debate around the power of mobile, and it’s potential for reaching tomorrow’s talent, at the forthcoming Fresh Thinking events”

Tomi will be speaking at our events on 1st November (London) and 2nd November (Manchester) and numbers are strictly limited. If you want to be a part of these inspiring and thought provoking conversations then register your interest now at our dedicated Fresh Thinking site.

Can you afford to miss out?









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