Instead of launching their new flagship device at a separate event like last year, Samsung decided to leverage Mobile World Congress to cast a shadow on some other devices’ announcements. Expectations have been high in the past two weeks about what Samsung could announce. And while the atmosphere was not as crazy and irrational as for an Apple announcement, you could still feel today in Barcelona that expectations have been raised for the new smartphone sales leader.
As I pointed out in my post two weeks ago on what to expect at MWC, the Barcelona trade show is strongly biased on hardware specs. No exception to the rule here. The Samsung Galaxy S5 looks very promising on that front: faster, thinner, better battery and camera, etc. What’s more differentiating here is the positioning of the S5 as a fitness phone. It comes with a growing range of smart wearables, such as the Gear Fit – a fitness wristband with a curved screen – with a nice design. This is a way for Samsung to better engage users, especially when used in conjunction with new services like the enhanced S Health 3.0. It offers more tools to help people stay fit and well – providing a comprehensive personal fitness tracker to help users monitor and manage their behavior, along with additional tools including a pedometer, diet and exercise records, and a new, built-in heart rate monitor. Galaxy S5 users can further customize their experience with an enriched third-party app ecosystem and the ability to pair with next-generation Gear products for real-time fitness coaching.
Together with Nokia X announcement this morning and Samsung Galaxy S5 later today, one of the most expected events of Day 1 at Mobile World Congress was Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote. He did not announce anything new and mostly shared his vision of the Internet.org coalition. Facebook wants to connect up to 3 billion people in the next five years.
Facebook already has numerous agreements with telecom operators worldwide – especially in emerging countries where the social media giant can be used to generate acquisitions of new customers. On the contrary, operators are a key distribution platform to help Facebook acquire its next billion customers.
This morning at MWC, WhatsApp’s CEO announced that the messaging app will enable voice within its app starting from Q2 2014. Services like WhatsApp are already cannibalizing SMS among smartphone owners as highlighted here by colleague Dan Bieler. What if WhatsApp does the same thing, further cannibalizing operators’ core voice revenues? This will for sure force operators to reinvent their business models and to embrace agile innovation and partnerships with OTT players. For example, Reliance in India and Mobily in Saudi Arabia have existing partnerships with WhatsApp.
However, Facebook’s CEO first keynote at MWC goes beyond the love-hate relationship with telcos.
Last year, when attending my tenth Congress in a row, I wrote that MWC 2013 would be more global and more disruptive than ever before. I believe the same will be true this year, with 2014 bringing a very important milestone in the shift to mobile: an install base of more than 2 billion smartphones globally. Mobile is transforming every industry by offering global reach and the ability to offer contextual services. That’s why we'll see many more marketers, agencies, business executives, and strategists attend the traditional telecom show.
Gone are the days when MWC was about operators' supremacy. As my colleague Dan Bieler summed it up in this blog post, telcos are increasingly being backed into a corner. I still remember this quote from Arun Sarin, the former CEO of Vodafone, in the Financial Times in November 2007: “Just the simple fact we have the customer and billing relationship is a hugely powerful thing that nobody can take away from us.” Really? Well, in the meantime, Apple and Google have created two powerful mobile platforms that have disrupted entire industries and enabled new entrants to connect directly to customers.
From a marketing and strategy perspective, I'd categorize the likely announcements in three main areas:
1) The Asian Device Spec Fashion Week: Getting Lost In Device Translation
Seventy-six percent of marketers think that marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the past 50 years!*
Mobile is a significant contributing factor to this rapid pace of change. For example, between 2011 and 2013, Google’s YouTube share of mobile traffic has increased from 6% to 40%! Facebook’s mobile monthly active users have more than doubled from 432 to 945 million!
My colleague Craig Le Clair recently explained why business agility is a key competitive advantage. I just revisited his framework analysis to explain how marketers must adopt the principles of business agility to survive in the mobile era.
For mobile marketing to succeed, you must deliver your brand as a service, implementing more-personalized and more-contextualized brand experiences on mobile phones — but you can’t do it alone. These differentiated experiences require revamped back-end systems, which requires marketers to take an interest in the software, architecture, and processes handled by business technology (BT) teams. You must work closely with your BT counterparts to innovate new capabilities and deploy them with modern process methodologies and tools. Marketers have a lot to learn from the values underlying the notion of agile IT development.
As mobile matures as a marketing outlet, and as consumers around the world continue to embrace it as their primary Internet touchpoint, mobile’s volatility and velocity of change will instill the need to constantly iterate your entire marketing approach. It will become increasingly imperative for marketing leaders to embrace agile marketing.