Five-minute interview: Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman, Ogilvy Group

Every marketing agency needs people like Rory Sutherland – people at the very top who get mobile. The best thing is that until recently Sutherland was an outspoken cynic, but having witnessed the power of mobile both as a consumer and as a marketer, he is a true convert. This gives a certain religious fervor to his presentations, as he reels off endless stories of how everyday brands have transformed their customer relationship with the simplest of mobile innovations.
• See this Ogilvy profile of Ogilvy & Mather

Q1. What is your favorite mobile site, campaign or application?
My favorite examples of mobile marketing are also often the most simple. For instance, a service that texts you when your train or airplane is delayed, mobile ticketing for cinemas or the service that allows you to pay for parking by text message. I love it when delivery services – such as the UK Internet grocer Ocado – text you to remind you when your goods will arrive or when a taxi firm sends you the driver’s number. These services are wonderfully simple and yet completely transform the customer experience.

Q2. What can the rest of us learn from these examples?
I have nothing against mobile entertainment. But any brand where service is important should be using mobile to add utility to customer service. After all, the first job of marketing is to make your product easy to find, easy to use and easy to buy – and easier still to buy next time.

Q3. Who is the new kid on the block – the mobile site/application to watch for the future?
Fizzback is a wonderful idea. It helps service businesses solicit feedback from customers at the two vital extremes – the highly satisfied and the highly dissatisfied.

Q4. What sector would you say is furthest ahead in mobile Web/marketing?
Travel and transportation are probably furthest ahead for obvious reasons, but every business from packaged goods to charities can benefit from mobile marketing.

Q5. What can the rest of us learn from these sectors?
The key lesson is that you let customers use their preferred channel. We learnt this valuable lesson recently with one of our clients – a charity: young people have previously been considered very low donors to charities, but if you allow them to donate by mobile phone, they become quite generous.

Q6. What are the most exciting/inspirational places in the world for mobile Internet/mobile marketing?
I suggest keeping an eye on what’s happening at the two extremes: Japan and sub-Saharan Africa.

Q7. What can the rest of us learn from there?
In much of the world, mobile is a very attractive enhancement to other forms of communication. In large parts of the world, however, mobile is the only form of communication infrastructure – short of walking 10 miles and conversing face to face. We should never forget that there are also many millions in the developed world who do not have access to the internet except via their phone.

Q8. What’s the most exciting area of mobile Web/marketing?
Actually there are many great areas to explore. In general, though, two things interest me most: the immediacy of mobile and, of course, the social aspect.

Q9. What site use this to maximum effect?
You can’t help but admire the Obama iPhone App. This would prioritize your contacts according to whether they lived in a battleground state, so you knew which friends to persuade to vote for Obama.

Q10.What’s the biggest mistake in mobile Web/marketing?
Fear of failure. This leads to spending more time and money arguing over what to do than expenditure on actually doing something. The occasional failure is part of the price of success in mobile.

Q11. What is the most useful resource site and/or must-read book for mobile marketers?
I recommend Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. There isn’t much about mobile in the book, but it gives mobile marketers an invaluable insight into how to encourage behavioral change among consumers.

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

Other mobiThinking five-minute interviews:

  • Edward Kershaw, Nielsen Online
  • Juston Payne, Wiley
  • Tomi Ahonen (consultant, author)
  • Alexandre Mars, Phonevalley
  • Rob Lawson, Limbo
  • And don’t miss:

  • Do traditional creative agencies get mobile? Does it matter?
  • 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
  • The mobile Web is dead… Long live the mobile Internet
  • Conferences & awards for mobile marketers’ diaries with offers
  • The Starting 11 – the essential mobile-marketing guide for the 2010 FIFA World Cup
  • Mobile Web: latest mobile stats forecast a rosy outlook
  • The Top Ten mobiThinkers 2009 – each profiled in full
  • mobiThinking’s page of essential links
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