Five-minute interview: Lynne Gordon, Brandtone, South Africa

The key to targeting Africa’s growing mobile populous is to use innovative ways to tap into older ubiquitous mobile technologies such as SMS and USSD, argues Lynne Gordon, the general manager of award-wining mobile agency Brandtone South Africa. She highlights some fascinating examples of campaigns and services from across the continent that fit the bill. The problem comes with trying to explain the implications of this reality to the brand marketers who assume that everyone, like them, has a BlackBerry smartphone and an unlimited data plan.
In 2012 Brandtone picked up Best Mobile Marketing Campaign at the GSMA’s Mobile Global Awards for Carling: Be the Coach and three awards at the Mobile Marketing Association’s Smarties Awards for the OMO Mobile Loyalty Program. Both campaigns made extensive use of SMS.
You can catch Lynne Gordon at Mobile Web in Africa 2012, November 27-29, 2012 (mobiThinking readers can claim a 15 percent discount for this event with promotional code 1MWAMT).

1. What is the one thing that gets you most excited about mobile Web, mobile services and/or mobile marketing?
Mobile marketing is the magical intersection of reach and consumer engagement for brands. Mobile enables brands to reach millions of consumers and engage them by giving them the chance to win rewards and access relevant information, or by letting them have their say on the things that matter to the brand and its customers. It’s difficult to find another media capable of delivering both the high reach and deep engagement of the mobile channel!

2. What are your favorite (and least favorite) a) mobile Websites, b) mobile services c) mobile campaigns? What can the rest of us learn from these?
I’m personally addicted to WhatsApp (messaging) and Facetime (video calling) – these are both simple, smart services that make keeping in touch affordable and easy. Simfy – a mobile platform for streaming music in SA seems to have got off to a good start. And Bad Piggies – what would we do without mobile gaming? I’m biased about mobile campaigns – we’re very proud of Brandtone’s work on the award-winning Carling Black Label Cup, which engaged over a million consumers who logged over 20 million votes to Be the coach of South Africa’s top football/soccer clubs the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

3. Who is the new kid on the block – the mobile site/business to watch for the future?
I’m excited about local startups doing interesting stuff in Africa, including Bozza, which uses crowd sourcing to create and share African music, video and poetry, and IROKO partners, which is the world’s largest online distributor of African entertainment. I believe this continent is set to explode with local mobile content in the next two years.

4. What (vertical) sector would you say is furthest ahead in mobile?
The way consumer brands are starting to use and embrace mobile marketing in Africa is really exciting, creating plans that reach and engage consumers in new ways. More and more brands now approach mobile marketing with a willingness to spend and learn, a desire to measure, and a real interest in creating permission-based, innovative mobile engagements that build meaningful brand relationships. Companies such as Unilever, Kimberley Clarke, South African Breweries (SAB), and Old Mutual (clients of Brandtone) understand that mobile is a personal space that Spam is death for mobile marketing and that relevance is key to unlocking engagement.

5. What’s the most exciting/inspirational country/part of the world for mobile Internet/mobile marketing? What can the rest of us learn from there?
Africa is a continent where mobile plays such an exciting role in empowering and enabling consumers. Landline phones have never reached the masses, and PCs are few and far between – but more and more consumers have a mobile handset and are using it to connect to economic and social opportunities in ways they never experienced before. In Uganda, for example, there are now more mobile phones than lightbulbs. But the best way to reach and engage these consumers today isn’t via the mobile internet – it’s through innovative use of SMS, other text technologies and voice. I have great respect for the work being done by Text to Change in Africa to help bring healthcare services those who need it using mobile. Also check out the Nigeria government’s program to provide economic empowerment to rural farmers by sharing information and coupons for free seeds and fertilizer redeemable by mobile phone.

Q6. What technology or initiative is most likely to revolutionize mobile Web/marketing? What sites/brands use this to maximum effect?
I love seeing new use of familiar, accessible technologies. In a world where the average consumer still uses a basic Nokia 1000 series handset, such as the 1208 (still the best-selling handset in Kenya last year!), it’s less about working with the new technologies and more about innovating new ways to harness old and ubiquitous technologies. I love Orange’s work to bring Facebook to USSD – in Egypt 350,000 users registered within a month of launching the service.

7. If you could wave your magic wand and change one thing in the industry, what would it be?
With only one wish, I’d equip every marketer with a proper understanding of mobile marketing, with a good command of the facts, knowledge of the great mobile case studies and a reality check on the behavior of mobile consumers. Understanding of the mobile medium is still pretty limited and brand marketers are generally unaware of the gulf between their own use of mobile and the reality of how the populous uses mobile. It’s an uphill struggle to educate clients, and show them the true potential of adding mobile to their marketing mix.

8. What’s the biggest mistake in mobile Web/marketing?
Marketers tend to believe that our customers are just like us when it comes to mobile. We live in a world of BlackBerry smartphones and Facebook updates, and it’s easy to believe that our consumers are surrounded by the same. In Africa, this just isn’t the case – the Internet is in its infancy, feature phones dominate and affordability of mobile access is top of mind as consumers use their phones. Consumers love their mobiles, but brand managers need to get close to their consumers’ real daily lives and behavior to really transform the mobile into a channel that they can use effectively to deliver great, relevant, accessible mobile marketing.

9. What are the most useful resources – sites, must-read books, associations etc – for mobile marketers?
The Mobile Marketing Association is doing a great job providing resources, sharing best-in-class work, and supporting the ecosystem around mobile. Check out some great case studies from the recent MMA’s Smarties Awards.

Q10. Which mobile-marketing guru would you like to do our five-minute interview next?
I’d love to hear from the guys at Orange who are bringing Facebook to Africa via USSD. I’m sure they have rich learnings to share on their experience with this service in Egypt and Cote D’Ivoire.

Recent mobiThinking five-minute interviews:

James Connelly, FetchKerstin Trikalitis, Out There Media; MMAScott Seaborn, XS2Jay Emmet, OpenMarketChris Bourke, MobextDr KF Lai, CEO of BuzzCityCarsten Frien, MadvertisePam Horan, Online Publishers AssociationBarney Loehnis, OgilvyOne, Asia PacificTom Eslinger, Saatchi & Saatchi

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• Guide to mobile ad networks 2012 • with 5 new ad networks •
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• The big compendium of global mobile stats

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