Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Election 2012: Staying Informed via Mobile Apps

I guess you could say I love apps, well all things mobile. I'm fascinated by all the opportunities it brings to innovators, marketers, entrepreneurs and pretty much anyone who chooses to pick up a mobile device and have an idea. Some of these ideas come from great brands who already have an established fan and/or client base. But they're improving how they interact with consumers by leveraging mobile as a channel.

So today, let's talk about the New York Times. I have their mobile app, and I like it. I prefer the layout and design of Boston.com's app, but I'm not too picky about it - it fulfills it's main purpose by providing me with the top stories while I'm on the train or waiting in line somewhere. But what I am a fan of, however, is the NYTimes' Election 2012 app. It's an election year, and I've vowed to be more involved in the issues this year so that by the time November comes around, I'm not calling my best friend and asking her to tell me about all the candidates. This year, I'll make an informed decision. Sure, my best friend and I have similar political views, but we're not the same person and she shouldn't be my only source for the issues and candidates.

What's great about this app is that it aggregates the stories for the top six topics - not just the top six stories, but the top six topics and then the top issues for each topic. Unless you're a NYTimes digital subscriber, you can only access the top six stories in each topic, but to be honest - that's plenty of news for me. Admittedly, the flaw of this app is that the stories only come from one source - the NYTimes. An even cooler app would be an election 2012 app that aggregates all of the top stories, sorted by topic, from across a variety of sources. Still, I'm not complaining.

Here's why I think this is an app worthy of attention. Too often, many people that vote don't make informed decisions, and I'll lump myself into that at times. We focus on the party we identify with most, or the issues that are important to us. We don't pay attention to all the candidates and their stances on a variety of issues that affect Americans. This app is a way to get a high-level overview of all of the issues and each candidate's stance on them.

I try to stay away from my political opinions on this blog, so I'm not giving an opinion on the issues or the candidates, just that I think this is a great app that provides real value. I've checked it out and have been using it for a few weeks now, so I recommend it to anyone looking to make an informed decision this election year. That's my PR thought for the day.

Anyone else have any app recommendations, without party bias, that are useful for staying informed?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Another Blog About Super Bowl Commercials: Mobile Versus Social

Are you sick of hearing reviews and trends about Super Bowl commercials yet? Apparently not, because you're here, reading this blog even after you checked out the title. I felt it was time to add my two cents. Prior to the the big event, I had my own thoughts about mobile's play in the Super Bowl. I agreed with experts who said it would be a huge factor, and that brands would use TV commercials to drive awareness of both their mobile and social campaigns. I thought we'd see some "Download the App," or "Visit our website" to view more. I didn't see that. I saw a few short messages to send texts and even fewer QR codes. I thought these would have a bigger play, even though I wasn't sure how effective they would be. Don't get me wrong - as I stated in my last post, I think QR codes can be very effective. But maybe not so much during commercials. Consumers have approximately 30 seconds to reach for their smartphone, find the scanning app - likely one out of many apps - open the app and then scan the code. The timing just might not be ideal.

What we did see this year, however, was a lot of brands driving awareness of their social channels, often with the use of hashtags. Audi cleverly played on the hot topic of vampires to engage consumers. The commercial was alright to start, but not my favorite - and that's coming from a reluctantly self-proclaimed Twilight fan. But what drove it home for me and made me laugh was the ending, driving the message home with the hashtag, #SoLongVampires. It's quick, witty, relevant and most importantly, easy to remember. That's the key for using hashtags.

If mobile and social were in a fight over who would get more attention from brands this Super Bowl, I'd say social beat mobile out. In my opinion, the reason is that brands had to outwardly choose to promote one or the other. It's clear that brands see social as a bigger priority to mobile right now, though I don't see that being the case next year. Though these brands outwardly promoted social channels, the majority of these consumers likely accessed these social brands via their mobile devices - since they likely didn't race to a desktop to Tweet about cars and vampires.

Brands need to stop thinking about mobile or social, and combine the two. Of course, we're seeing this in different industries, but often times there's a larger focus on social. Here's what needs to happen - brands need to think about how consumers access their brands (mobile, desktop) just as much as they think about where consumers access the brands (Website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Integrating them will be key, of course, but don't leave mobile in the dark. Mobile creates an opportunity for brands that we've never had before - the ability to deliver timely, relevant messages. Next Super Bowl, I'd like to see two things, and I think we will see at least one of them:

1. Better integration of mobile and social campaigns.
2. The Patriots defense learning how to block and tackle, leading to a Patriots championship. Did I mention I'm based in Boston and a die-hard Pats fan?

Next Super Bowl and throughout the year, there needs to be better integration with mobile and social channels. There shouldn't be two separate campaigns for brands - one for mobile and one for social. Today's average consumer isn't choosing one of the other, so why should brands? That's my PR thought for the day.