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Having just wrapped up a very enjoyable three days at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it is a good time to reflect on what can make this show a success for marketers and companies.

Collide Industries to Create Big News. One of the big themes of the show is simply that mobile technology can and does affect every part of our lives. I joked that “m” was the new “i” in digital circles, as speakers and booth vendors showed off solutions for mHealth, mAgriculture, mCommerce, mEducation, mCetera (ok, the last one was just me).

Ford made some of the biggest news of the show by launching a car there, which was reportedly the first time they have ever launched a car at a non-auto industry trade show. I’d love to see more nontraditional mobile companies take similar risks. It will pay off, and most are likely already mobile even if they don’t realize it.

Make it Real. The difference between MWC and CES is that while CES has emerged as a device showcase and product launch stage, MWC tackles more of the advancements in infrastructure, network developments and industry collaborations that connect the devices and products. Unfortunately, a gadget is much easier for most people to understand, and it is fundamentally more memorable to hold a phone than to visualize a broadband network. It is a perennial challenge to make infrastructure news appealing and easily understood.

I’ve written before about Ericsson‘s “Social Web of Things,” in which the company actually put a face on connected devices by building a Facebook-like news stream for people to watch their interactions. As your home thermometer receives new information about how the temperature is dropping outside and needs to adjust the furnace to maintain a steady temperature inside, you can see the two talk like friends. That is far simpler to get what they mean by “networked homes” than the language and demos companies typically use.

Looks Matter. Again, with difficult topics to explain, visuals can be a powerful and simpler way to convey a message. Our client the GSMA, who hosts the show each year, created a Connected House that truly felt and looked like a home, just the most interconnected one you have ever set foot in. Guess where CNN and hordes of video and still photographers wanted to get their shots?

Start with a Local Connection. Working for a global firm, my colleagues and I had the advantage of being helped by Jordi, Marta and Judith of our Barcelona office, including finding us a killer dinner reservation at a restaurant hidden behind a laundromat facade. Yes it was as strange, and wonderful, as it sounds. Barcelona is still in many ways a city for locals, which imbues it with incredible charm yet doesn’t always mean that everyone speaks English.

Show Up. MWC isn’t the numbers game that CES is, thank god. There may not be as many press or attendees, but the people attending are the ones you truly want to meet. I used to also believe that the show was really a non-US showcase, and that in our US centric view of the world, little of the show’s news traveled back here. That is no longer the case. A US focused company still has a lot gain by participating in the global mobile discussion.

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