Five-minute interview: Jonathan MacDonald, – entrepreneur, consultant, blogger, speaker

As an entrepreneur, consultant, blogger and all-round evangelist for mobile, it’s easy to see why Jonathan MacDonald is impressed by mobile services that help make the lives of busy people easier and more productive. With a background at Ogilvy, Blyk (a pioneer in permission-based mobile advertising), super-club Ministry of Sound and Sky TV, MacDonald is now currently involved in a wide range of mobile initiatives all coordinated through his company He blogs at and regularly speaks at mobile events.

Jonathan MacDonald was recommended for the five-minute interview by Edward Kershaw, Nielsen Online.

Q1. What is the one thing that gets you most excited about mobile Web, mobile services and/or mobile marketing?

I think it has to be the potential to provide utility and convenience for citizens. I am a big fan of things that increase productivity and make our lives easier. I am also excited about ways in which we can express and interact more instantly. All in all, it’s the mobile facilitation of more valuable experiences.
[mT note: MacDonald uses ‘citizen’ where others might use ‘consumer’ or ‘end-user’, two terms he considers patronising and presumptive and that, he believes, have helped to destroy trust for suppliers among citizens.]

Q2. What is your favourite mobile Website, service or campaign? What can the rest of us learn from it?

My absolute favourite mobile service (it’s also Web- and desktop-based), is Evernote. This service allows you to record thoughts, content, lists, URLs, whatever, in a tag-based filing system. It synchronizes with any machine and screen you are using. The Evernote iPhone app is amongst the simplest user interfaces of all. I have started to depend on Evernote as a secondary brain, it allows me to be far more productive than ever before. The sheer simplicity, ease and usefulness of Evernote is something many of us can learn from.
* Evernote: more details;; and see video demo below:

Q3. Who is the new kid on the block – the mobile site/business to watch for the future?

Keep a close eye on Tungle. This is a fairly new service that allows you to book meetings with people without constant back and forth emails. You simply indicate which times you are free and anyone else, regardless of whether they have a Tungle account, can pick times that also work for them. This, like Evernote, is multi platform, but the mobile app is particularly easy to use and synchronizes with any calendar platform you use. This type of business is facilitating convenience and it’s free, currently – though if Tungle started to charge, I’d be happy to pay as the value it has brought me (in terms of time saved), is immense.
* Tungle: more details; video demo.

Q4. What (vertical) sector would you say is furthest ahead in mobile Web/mobile marketing?

My version of exceptional mobile Web and mobile marketing is the provision of outstandingly useful information or content. The sectors that nail this, in my opinion, are navigation and travel.
In travel, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines are great examples, having trumped bigger operators with their mobile executions. With these, checking in takes just a few clicks and your boarding pass is actually a barcode on your screen, readily accepted by airport staff. As handset capability improves, you should expect to see this type of utility re-defining transport logistics.
When it comes to navigation, companies like TomTom charge a fair whack for the service, but deliver excellent extreme value, so there’s good ROI. Take the TomTom app, it links to your address book and provides the ability to plan routes when not in your car – attractive options, if you can afford the premium price.
* Lufthansa: more details; mobile site.
* TomTom: more details; App (video).
* Austrian Airlines: more details; mobile site; and see video demo below:

Q5. What’s the most exciting/inspirational country/part of the world for mobile Internet/mobile marketing?

Generally I find countries that have skipped evolutionary technology and gone straight to mobile the most exciting. In these developing countries the usage and concepts for mobile are far more utilitarian and increasingly ubiquitous.
Citizen acceptance and adoption is not necessarily based on persuasion, or even seduction, but by basic need. The developed world would do well to learn that successful mobile services are rooted in meeting the needs of the citizens.

Q6. What technology or initiative is most likely to revolutionize mobile Web/marketing? What sites/brands use this to maximum effect?

I am absolutely convinced that the ability to have two-way interaction in contextual real-time will revolutionize mobile Web/marketing. For this to happen though, we must learn how to communicate with citizens in a non-patronizing and non-intrusive way. Brands that empower and earn trust from customers are first reap the rewards from mobile. Campaigns from Nike, BMW and Kraft Foods, for example, prove that turning selfish advertising priorities in favour of outward value creation gets results.
* BMW:; Winter tires campaign.
* Kraft: mobile recipe site/; presentation by Kraft’s head of media (video).
* Nike:; and see NikeiD video demo below:

Q7. If you could wave your magic wand and change one thing what would it be?

Without a doubt I would change the mindset amongst corporations that the modern mobile world in which we now live is just a re-hash of the old world [of traditional media and Web banner advertising]. They need to recognize that change doesn’t happen slowly, that status quo isn’t constant and that new techniques can’t just be learned/bolted on just like that.

Q8. What are the biggest mistakes in mobile Web/marketing?

Funnily enough that relates to the previous question. The biggest mistake is that some view mobile as ‘just another screen’ to fill with ads. Another mistake is thinking that you can make your mobile service relevant simply by interpreting citizen behavior. Some companies also run a high risk through duplication of other companies’ tried and tested mobile strategies. Reading analyst reports, or quick coffee chats with people who have ‘been there’, is no substitute for the learning and experience from years of trial and error. You can read more about this in The Fascinating Unknown.

Q9. What are the most useful resources for mobile marketers?

Assuming you buy my theory of personal interaction and utility being at the heart of mobility, for a start I would recommend resources that are less to do with technology (including mobile), and more to do with psychology. Listening too much to people ‘inside’ the industry risks a mass circle-jerk of justification rather than increased understanding of how people interact.

Q12. Which mobile-marketing guru would you like to do our five-minute interview next?

Russell Buckley, VP Global Alliances at AdMob, Global Chairman at Mobile Marketing Association. He has a track record in proving he knows what he is talking about. Unlike many other (mostly self-titled) ‘gurus’, Russell actually does it. I prefer those that do, hence my recommendation of one of the best.

Which mobi guru would you like see interviewed next? Comment below or email editor (at)

Other mobiThinking five-minute interviews:

  • Pam Horan, Online Publishers Association
  • Barney Loehnis, OgilvyOne, Asia Pacific
  • Tom Eslinger, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide
  • Edward Kershaw, Nielsen Online
  • Rory Sutherland, Ogilvy
  • Juston Payne, Wiley
  • Tomi Ahonen (consultant, author)
  • Alexandre Mars, Phonevalley
  • Rob Lawson, Limbo
  • And don’t miss:

  • Ad networks’ mobile metrics reports: how they stack up
  • Carnival of the Mobilists #206: mobiThinking hosts the weekly round-up of the best of mobile blogs
  • The mobiThinking guide to mobile ad networks
  • 10 tips: Using location to know and serve your mobile customer better
  • How to create an award-winning mobile campaign
  • Events for mobile marketers’ diaries – with offers
  • The Top Ten mobiThinkers 2009 – each profiled in full
  • mobiThinking’s page of essential links
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