Advertisers recognize the value of orchestrating their marketing efforts across an array of channels, leveraging strengths and compensating for limitations which emerge from how audiences of each channel behave. By utilizing a range of media formats, they amplify the reach and impact of their communications above what could be achieved using a single channel.
Though common in the world of marketing communications, such a “portfolio approach” is not a rule of thumb for mobile computing products. Manufacturers of personal devices have often chased the dream of designing a single product to satisfy an array of ultimately incompatible consumer needs—consider the failed efforts of Microsoft, LG, and Samsung to launch smart-watches that combined the features of phones, PDAs, and watches.
Of late, hardware manufacturers seem keenly aware of the limitations of an “all-in-one” approach. They are increasingly offering consumers an array of personal devices, each designed to serve a specific set of needs: tablets, phablets, smartwatches, fitness tracking devices, smartphones, and soon, heads-up-displays like Google Glass. Many individuals already carry a number of these devices with them throughout their days.
Wireless standards, such as Bluetooth, allow these personal devices to exchange information and form what some technologists refer to as a personal-area network or PAN. This, in turn, enables a division of labor across devices, such that each device takes on a specialized role in serving its user’s needs.
Consumers value the immediacy of information delivered through smartwatches, for instance, and accept their severe limitations only because most also carry phones or tablets with which they can accomplish tasks that are impossible on a tiny, wrist-worn display.
This symbiosis of devices within a PAN is not dissimilar to that which occurs between media in multichannel campaign. Though marketers sometimes regard “mobile” as a monolith, the proliferation of PANs suggests that we must attend to the heterogeneity of formats within the channel. It demands that we consider how to harness the value of specialization and orchestration not only across channels, but within them.
Such an orientation would be advantageous if brought to bear in any channel encompassing a diversity of media formats, including out-of-home. With media ranging from wheat-paste posters on street corners to digital screens in physician waiting rooms, out-of-home is an expansive and heterogeneous channel. To fully capture its value, marketers must appreciate and leverage its diversity just as they acknowledge the diversity that exists across channels.