Mobile-First Marketing Tips for Asia’s Mobile-Only Consumers


by Reynold D’Silva

Asian consumers are not only mobile-first audiences, but in some cases are mobile-only. Here are five tips for getting mobile marketing in Asia’s emerging markets right.

Growing up in a typical Asian metropolis, television was a big part of my childhood. We had one national channel and every Sundays, when a blockbuster movie was screened, the entire neighborhood stayed at home to watch. There wasn’t a soul stirring on the street.

Fast-forward to today, and the situation is very different. In most Southeast Asian countries, people are spending less time watching television and more time looking at their mobile phone screens. A Facebook commissioned TNS study on the emergence of digital in Southeast Asia found that consumers spend more time online via their mobile devices than watching TV – even during primetime hours – in countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Ethnographic researchers have even observed soap opera watching housewives looking down at their mobile phones during TV ad breaks.

In Indonesia, advertising investment on mobile is expected to grow to 54.4 percent by 2019 according to eMarketer. This change is being driven by more affordable smartphones, improving mobile bandwidth and rapidly growing access to free Wi-Fi. Today, people can access games, entertainment, and videos from the palm of their hand – most of which are mobile-first if not mobile-only audiences. With this steady storm of data spotlighting the emergence of mobile-first audiences, it surprises me that more marketers in Southeast Asia don’t brief for mobile-first campaigns.

Mobile-First Not TV-First

Marketers are still very much TV-first. It’s still the norm to brief for a TV script or storyboard, because most marketers are trained to judge the quality of an idea through TV ads. Unfortunately, ads and ideas designed for TV aren’t always effective on mobile screens and with mobile audiences because they have a different set of rules.

For example, TV has a sound on as a default and mobile doesn’t. People’s attention spans are also a lot shorter on mobile. Marketers willing to change this approach and leverage the massive reach and time spent on mobiles to engage the hundreds of millions of mobile-first consumers, will gain a competitive edge for their brands.

Here are my five tips to what it takes to become a better mobile-first marketer:

1. Fresh Minds, Fresh Ideas

I’ve seen far too many young people who are themselves mobile-first join a company and get sucked into the TV-first machine. They are the best chance that companies and brands have to becoming mobile-first marketers. Give them that chance and let them bring fresh ideas to your brands.

2. Empathy

The mobile-first consumer is not your teenage daughter. Far too many marketers assume that young members of their own family are surrogates for mobile or digital consumers. This leaves out millions of older mobile-first consumers and misses out on the actual behavior of the younger ones too. For example, at Facebook we use low cost handsets and very, very slow choked bandwidth to better understand and empathize with the user experience (UX) of consumers in emerging markets like Indonesia. This helps our developers to design better experiences for people whose situation is very different from their own. Mobile-first marketers should do the same. Find ways to put yourself in the shoes of your consumers and develop consumer experiences around that.

3. Data-Based Decisions

Set up a panel of 50 people based on your target audience, and study their behavior for a few weeks. You’ll quickly learn how they spend their time on mobile.

4. Pretesting

Don’t just create a one-size-fits-all ad campaign. Come up with different ways to present your brand story, and then test which one delivers the best results.

5. Content

Immerse yourself in the world of mobile-first creative ideas. Absorb the lessons from successful campaigns – then work out a way to do it that is true to your brand.

As marketers, we find ourselves in the situation where consumers are spending time on both TV and mobile. Take this opportunity to experiment and learn. There will come a time when TV viewing will dwindle, especially among mobile-first and mobile-only audiences who are growing up to become the majority of consumers. This is why it’s important to start developing your marketing skills for mobile before that happens.