The heartbreaking images from Japan are difficult to view even if you don’t have friends or family in the region. We experienced a similar anguish when we saw the destruction following the earthquake in Haiti. It prompted us to use our mobile phones to donate more than $43 million for relief efforts and marked a milestone in mobile giving.
For many, it was the first donation to a cause — ever. In fact, the American Red Cross reports that more than 90 percent of the donors for Haiti were new to the organization, showing how mobile can extend the reach of giving.
This week we again saw the power of the movement. It took mere hours for organizations to set up Japan text-to-give programs. In the U.S., mobile subscribers were able to text into short codes to donate amounts of $5 or $10. More importantly, all of the money goes to organizations (such as the American Red Cross) with the charges appearing on the giver’s monthly mobile phone bill.
As of Wednesday, more than $2.6 million had been raised by the American Red Cross. However, the effort surely gained momentum last night when American Idol, the popular talent show and contest, requested mobile donations from its tens of millions of viewers.
Mobile giving in reaction to natural disasters and tragedies such as the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan is expanding to encompass more mobile formats. The Mobile Giving Foundation, one of the leaders in this category, recently told reporters that programs will likely move beyond text messaging to embrace all the ways we interact with our mobile phones.
“We’re looking at new price points, such as $20 and $25, currently in trial,” Jim Manis, Chairman and CEO of the Mobile Giving Foundation, told USA Today. ““You will see use of different message formats including MMS and mobile video, mobile barcodes and smartphone apps as the technology of mobile giving evolves.”
HOW I SEE IT: Every giving situation is different. It would be wrong to judge the level of mobile giving (and people’s willingness to use mobile to make cause donations) based purely on the dollar amount raised for Japan versus Haiti. Besides, the real outpour of support is just beginning. Keep in mind that the demographic of many mobile givers is that of a digital native, making American Idol an ideal vehicle to motivate and raise funds. We can expect intensive and extensive mobile efforts to continue for weeks if not months. And we can expect causes to harness a variety of formats to deliver their message.
* * *
Many of us in the industry are gearing up to attend the CTIA Wireless Show in Orlando, Florida. But there is ample reason to believe there will be little — if any — major news announced during the show.
It seems as if this show has been eclipsed by the amount of breaking news that marked both the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. As a result, product introductions at CTIA are likely to be in the “interesting,” but not “ground-breaking” category.
All this lends strength to the arguments (and discussions) in favor of spreading the shows out more. Thankfully, this will happen in 2012, when CTIA’s spring show moves to May. It will take place in New Orleans.
But don’t write off next week’s CTIA just because we’re unlikely to hear a lot from industry giants such as Apple and Google. There’s lots of innovation happening under the radar and even more developments pushing mobile out into new verticals such as health and education.
Through a Wireless Week event preview, we know from a CTIA senior executive that we can expect a few surprises.
Top of the list is the keynote address (Wednesday, March 23) by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a central figure in global healthcare. He is chairman of the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation, chairman and CEO of the Institute for Advanced Health, and chairman and CEO of the Healthcare Transformation Institute.
CTIA Vice President of Operations Rob Mesirow told Wireless Week that Soon-Shiong will make an announcement that will shock people. “It’s a game changer,” he said.
HOW I SEE IT: I have no idea what Soon-Shiong will reveal, but I will be in Orlando to hear it first-hand. Another hot topic is sure to be U.S. mobile operator Sprint, which is expected to finally detail its new product offerings. However, I don’t think we’ll get the answers to all the questions (and rumors) surrounding the possible merger of Sprint and T-Mobile. Even if a merger is in the cards, it would most assuredly take more time to get shareholder approval and pass initial regulatory tests.
* * *
While the iPad is regarded as innovative connected device, it’s interesting to see that consumers are using it to do fairly ordinary tasks. According to new Forrester research, checking email leads all activities performed on the iPad.
Among the findings:
- 73 percent use the iPad for e-mail
- 72 percent look up information
- 66 percent play games
- 55 percent connect with social networks
The analyst firm also reports that 49 percent read books, newspapers and magazines; 27 percent use their desktop less (because they use their iPads more); and 23 percent use their laptop or netbook less.
Marketers take note: in the battle of the mobile web vs. apps, 45 percent of respondents spend equal time with each. Also, Forrester reports that the average iPad user has 17 apps and has paid $34 dollars for them.
HOW I SEE IT: iPad dominance in the tablet space has become a kind of given. But change is the only constant — and that goes double for the fast-paced mobile industry. Apple does indeed dominate (at least in the U.S.) and that will likely be the case for a while to come. However, Forrester’s findings indicate there might be an opening for other OEMs to play in this game. For example: Forrester reports that 46 percent of respondents prefer to run Windows on a tablet, easily outdistancing Apple’s operating system. As marketers, we need to be open and always alert to consumer insights (such as the Forrester research) that go beyond hype. We must also be prepared to adapt when we see the signals. Competition in the tablet space is just starting, so it may be best not to bet everything on Apple and iPad just yet.
* * *
A career author and sought-after speaker, Jeff Hasen builds, strengthens and protects brands. Companies benefiting from his talents have landed on Wired’s list of most innovative entities on Earth and been named pioneers and the early leader in the burgeoning mobile marketing category. Jeff co-created the certification program for the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA). He is one of only two individuals certified by the MMA to train professionals and students on mobile marketing definitions, techniques and benefits. At Hipcricket, he conceived and led the execution of an accelerated rebranding effort in advance of the mobile marketing software and services company being named “the early leader in the mobile marketing space in the U.S.” by Frost and Sullivan. Hipcricket also won consecutive annual pioneer awards from CTIA — The Wireless Association. Follow Jeff on Twitter (@jeffhasen).