As someone who has been in the mobile technology space for several years, I’ve seen a good amount of change. It’s often said that change is the one constant in life; well – picture the mobile space as a concentrated microcosm of that reality. In this blog post, we’ll talk about a new breed of mobile provider that has recently emerged: the platform/agency hybrid model. Before we start, let’s recap some technologies and different approaches to mobile we’ve seen to date.
First, there was SMS. Next, there was WAP. Then came early apps on Brew and Java. Once upon a time the Motorola Razr was the slickest device out there. Then Palm Treo popped up and everyone had to have one. A touch screen on a mobile phone in 2005? Amazing. In mid-2007, Steve Jobs released the iPhone and turned the mobile world on its ear, (pun intended). You see where I’m going with this. We’ve come a long way in terms of technology. In 24 months, things will no doubt look very different.
The IT Services Vendor
In addition to rapidly evolving mobile technology, we’ve seen a variation in the types of partners brands leverage to enable their mobile initiatives. Early on, many brands engaged IT Services vendorsto build out their mobile sites, apps and programs. Whether onshore or offshore, there were pros and cons associated with this services-based approach. I’ll put it this way: brands learned a lot. Some lessons were more expensive than others.
The Mobile Platform Provider
Next, was the rise of the mobile platform providers. Many technologists began to recognize the inherent challenges involved with managing mobile app/site updates, back-end data integration, scalability and security. So, they built start-ups and brought mobile platform software to market. These technology platforms helped many brands streamline their delivery and partially reduce costs. Problem solved, right? The challenge was many of these platform providers had little to offer in the way of mobile marketing strategy or ensuring these mobile apps and sites produced actual business results. These vendors essentially say: “Here’s your mobile experience. Good luck with that!” In addition, many of these technology platforms restrict customization from a UI/UX perspective. This made brand-differentiation difficult. Many brand mobile websites and apps began to look identical. This wasn’t ideal.
The Creative Agency
Around the time these platform players emerged, many Creative Agencies decided to put their stake in mobile. This made sense from some standpoints. The Agencies had pre-existing relationships with the brands, some that had been in place for years. They understood their clients “Brand-DNA” and how to express that. Additionally, they had the ability to leverage their creative and design resources to differentiate brands through mobile. A number of very cool apps and mobile sites were released. While these agencies drove some innovative mobile apps and sites, much of the work was 100% custom. Costs were egregious, as bread and butter mobile functionalities like Product Catalog or Mobile Store Locators had to be developed from scratch, per project. Talk about re-inventing the wheel. There was no platform these agencies deployed from, no mobile tools or software that could enable brands to manage their mobile content or properties. A lot of money was spent on beautiful apps that were a nightmare to manage. People lost jobs. Yes, it got that bad. Thankfully, some mobile players have realized this approach was broken.
The New Breed: Technology Platform/Agency Hybrid
Recently, a new type of provider has emerged with a new approach. This approach would best be described as a platform/agency hybrid, a blend of the two. Through years of experience, trial and error, these providers have realized that in order to truly provide value to brands via mobile you must offer both:
1. A technology platform to enable scalability, speed-to-market and cost savings to brands, and
2. An experienced creative and strategic team to guide these mobile programs and ensure both brand differentiation and outstanding results across the business.
In short, technology alone is not enough, and by itself, neither is awesome creative. For success in mobile, there must be a marriage of the two disciplines.
Many brands have learned through experience as well and have begun to seek out these kinds of partners. They understand that simply having a mobile presence is not enough. Mobile programs, properties and experiences are increasingly being thought of in the context of a broader Marketing, Loyalty and Product Strategy. As it should be.
Oh – and yes, 5th Finger is a technology platform/agency hybrid.
Business Development Director and Proud Finger