Mission possible: how mobile helps companies deliver strategic objectives

As witnessed by the mountain of entries for the inaugural Cannes Mobile Lions, brands have made mobile their mission. Indeed, with 6 billion mobile subscribers worldwide (source: ITU), every company should aim to engage with customers via mobile Web, SMS, apps and ads. But mobile per se shouldn’t be the mission, it should be the vehicle (or one of the vehicles) by which the brand fulfils predefined strategic goals.
This article analyses eight diverse mobile initiatives – suggested by mobile experts (see below). In each case the creative idea marries the needs of both customer and brand; and uses mobile as part of the execution. Depending on your viewpoint, the creative idea may be inspired or mainstream, the use of mobile cutting edge or passé, but the mission is clear to see and in every case is more than just “We’ve got to be mobile”.
Set realist business objectives. Execute using the most appropriate channel to reach the target audience. Deliver long-term customer engagement. Mission complete.

Heineken Star Player (Europe 2011-12)

Mission: (for consumer) make sport on TV more fun; (for brand) deliver pro-longed brand engagement, capitalise on event sponsorship.

Beer-brand Heineken is a sponsor of the UEFA Champions League. Heineken Star Player is aimed at the 72 percent of the billion football fans who watch the Champions League alone at home. It enables football fans to play along – in multiple languages – with Champions League matches on the Web or via a mobile application. To score points, players anticipate events that will happen live on the pitch, such as whether a goal is about to be scored. Players share scores via Facebook and compete with others in a global league. Star Player launched during the 2010/11 season and continued during the 2011/12 season. On average, brand engagement is 59 minutes per user, according to AKQA, the agency behind Star Player. To date, it has generated 370 news and blog articles, 24,000 tweets and has won 25 awards including Gold Cyber Lion at Cannes 2011.

Homeplus (Tesco) Virtual Store (South Korea, 2011-12)

Mission: more convenient shopping; increase market share.

Homeplus, the second largest retailer in South Korea, wanted to increase sales without needing to build more stores. The answer was a billboard campaign in a busy Seoul subway station, displaying supermarket shelves of products, which commuters could browse and purchase using their smartphone as they waited for a train. Each product had a quick-response (QR) code, which, when snapped using the phone’s camera, would drop the product into the customer’s online shopping basket. Upon payment, goods are delivered to the shopper’s home at their convenience.
The campaign, devised by Cheil Worldwide, helped to drive 10,000 smartphone shoppers to the online store, increased sales by 130 percent, pushing Homeplus to the top spot in online grocery sales and proving the concept of the virtual store.
In August 2011, Homeplus officially launched the virtual store in Seoul’s Seonreung subway station and has plans for 20 similar stores at bus stops. The smartphone app has been downloaded 900,000 times. Reportedly the virtual store delivers sales of 30 million Won (US $25,740) per week. International acclaim (helped by winning Media Lions Grand Prix at Cannes 2011) has led to retailers elsewhere copying the virtual store concept.

Lego Life of George (US, 2011-12)

Mission: entertain and challenge; make Lego relevant to the digital audience, expand the customer base.

Danish toy manufacturer Lego combines the digital and physical worlds as it challenges people in a race to build models against the clock. Launched in September 2011, The Life of George mobile app (free download, Android and iOS devices), sets building tasks based on images from George’s scrapbook of travel pictures. The competitor uses a special box of Lego bricks and building board (cost: US$29.99) to recreate the image, then takes a picture with the smartphone, triggering the “brick-recognition software”, which stops the clock. Points are awarded according to accuracy and time taken. The mix of digital and physical makes Lego more relevant to bigger kids – it’s marketed at anyone 8 years upwards – particularly those with a penchant for computer games. The concept incorporates a narrative, based on George a software engineer and would-be adventurer, which offers plenty of opportunity for new storylines – since launch Lego has introduced two digital updates with 45 new challenges. Sales statistics are unavailable, but to date Life of George has generated 165 news articles and 294 million page impressions and was a winner at the SXSW Awards 2012.

McDonald’s Pick’n’Play (Sweden, 2011)

Mission: entertain and reward; drive footfall in store, reinforce brand loyalty.

An interactive billboard campaign in Stockholm challenged passers-by to a game of table tennis (think back to the classic 2D arcade game “Pong”). To take part, the competitor goes to the mobile site, which uses the phone’s GPS to determine if they are in the game zone, and selects the McDonald’s goodie they wish to win. Then they play the computer at table tennis, live on the digital billboard, using their phone’s touch screen to control the bat. If they last 30 seconds they win the selected prize – a mobile coupon is sent to their phone with directions to the nearest McDonald’s outlet. All this is completed without needing to download any app (it uses an HTML5-based Web app). According to DDB, on the first weekend 460 people played in just 5 hours, resulting in 400 cashed-in coupons and the busiest Saturday of the year at the closest McDonald’s. The promotion is part of an ongoing outdoor media campaign crafted by DDB.

Nike+ (Global, 2006-12)

Mission: track, improve and share athletic performance; build customer loyalty.

Since Nike+ was launched in May 2006, it has grown to become a social network of 6 million runners. It has undergone gradual reinvention as mobile technology has improved. It started with a motion sensor placed into a specially designed Nike running shoe, which enabled runners to track their performance using an Apple iPod music player. On completion the data was uploaded to the Nike+ Website, where all previous runs were recorded, performance analyzed and the experiences shared with friends.
In 2010, Nike launched a mobile app that uses GPS and the device’s accelerometer to track running performance, offers motivation en route and broadcasts progress to the Nike+ website. The multi-language app went on to become the second-best all-time best seller on Apple’s App Store (US$1.99), according to R/GA, the agency that created the app, and has added nine awards to the brimming Nike+ cabinet.
This year, Nike+ is expanding with smartphone apps to track basketball and training performance, using a motion sensor in the relevant shoes. Also launched this year, the Nike+ FuelBand, worn as a bracelet, tracks daily activity.
Nike doesn’t disclose the exact contribution of Nike+ to annual sales or its marketing efforts, but Fortune magazine points out that Nike spends 40 percent less on TV and print advertising in the U.S. than it did three years ago.
• Watch the video case study.

Safaricom M-PESA (Kenya, 2007-12)

Mission: provide essential financial services; reduce customer churn, deliver revenue.

Launched in March 2007, Safaricom’s M-PESA enables Kenyans to use their mobile phone to transfer money, perhaps to a family member’s phone back home, for a small fee. Five years on, the service is used by 14.91 million people – 37 percent of the Kenyan population. Customers can reload their m-wallet or withdraw cash at a network of 39,400 agents. Financial services now include paying utility bills or school fees, in store purchases, m-tickets, phone top-ups, paying wages, cash withdrawal from ATMs and sending money from 45 countries overseas – all without needing a bank account or card. M-PESA doesn’t need a smartphone or an app and works on the lowliest of handsets.
To use M-PESA in Kenya you must be a Safaricom customer. But this isn’t just a value-added service, the Safaricom annual accounts (March 2012) show M-PESA generated 16 percent of the operator’s annual revenue in 2011/12. The service has won numerous awards and international recognition for Safaricom. M-PESA is widely heralded as the prototype for bringing financial inclusion to the vast numbers of unbanked people around the world.
Safaricom parent Vodafone has subsequently launched M-PESA in Afghanistan, Tanzania, Fiji and South Africa.

Starbucks Mobile Payment (US, Canada, UK 2011-12)

Mission: make paying easier, reward loyalty; streamline payment, engender loyalty.

Coffee-shop chain Starbucks is one of the first retailers outside Japan to embrace tap-and-go mobile payments. Since the rollout began in January 2011 customers have paid 45 million times, simply by touching their smartphone to a contactless terminal. These terminals have now been introduced to 9,000 outlets (including Safeway and Target stores) across the US. The rollout has now extended to Canada and the UK.
To pay this way requires the download of a mobile app (free download, Android, iOS devices). The app is an extension of Starbuck’s popular loyalty card and enables customers to recharge the card, check their balance or loyalty points and find the nearest store, but paying is the most popular use. The company believes the mobile apps have attracted new customers, as well as existing reward-card holders. Never shy of milking marketing collateral from its innovations, one year after launch, CEO Howard Schultz was claiming in a shareholder briefing that Starbucks was the world number one in mobile payments.

Text4baby (US, Russia, 2010-12)

Mission: useful information for mothers; improve health through education, CSR credibility for sponsors.

Each year in the US, more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely and an estimated 28,000 children die before their first birthday. The Text4baby campaign was launched in February 2010 to help combat this issue through education of expectant and new mothers. To date, 347,000 women have signed up to receive three free prenatal and postnatal health-related tips and alerts per week – timed to suit the baby’s birthday – in English or Spanish. Messages are delivered via SMS, which means they work on all phones, and messages are guaranteed to be free, regardless of operator price plan. The program is backed by an array of governmental, charitable and commercial organizations including The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, Johnson & Johnson (founding sponsor), Voxiva and CTIA, and is promoted by 790 different organizations. The mother registers for the service by texting the word BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to the number 511411. She is then asked to enter the baby’s due date or birthday and zip code.
A Russian version of Text4baby was launched in 2011, and there are plans to expand to other countries.


Thanks to the mobile experts who suggested mobile campaigns and services that inspired them. These included: Ana Paola Teixeira, AndinaTech; Peter Sells, BBH; Leo Xavier, Grupo.Mobi; Per Holmkvist, Mobiento; Salvador Carillo Bardo, Mobile Dreams Factory; Barney Loehnis, Ogilvy & Mather; Tom Eslinger, Saatchi & Saatchi, who are all members of the Cannes Mobile Lions jury.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of those who contributed.

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