Mobile Branding

Mobile is the big buzz today and it’s impacting more and more industries as we move into the post-PC era. Mobile adoption is skyrocketing and for many users — especially among lower income demographics and developing countries — mobile is their only internet-connected device. Our world is becoming increasingly connected, but is your company maximizing this brand opportunity and connecting with your customers at full strength?

Qualcomm’s Mobile Disconnect
If you aren’t there yet, don’t worry because apparently even mobile companies don’t quite get the mobile consumer. Qualcomm, a leading manufacturer of mobile processors, delivered a keynote at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show that was described as, “awkward, atrocious, and embarrassing.” If you haven’t seen it, check out this video by The Verge to see what I mean.

As a 24-year-old Gen-Y gamer and business professional, I am part of every target demographic they illustrated in the intro, and each one made me cringe. The actors are over dramatic and insultingly stereotypical. The “insanity” continues right up to the closing performance of Maroon 5, during which the home viewers got to watch Adam Levine sing while dubbed over by Dido, due to someone neglecting to acquire the proper music streaming rights. Not exactly the integrated experience expected by mobile generations. If you don’t have the heart to watch all 94 awkward minutes of the keynote, here’s a summary to get you caught up.

How did this happen?
The problem is that Qualcomm is a technology company and mobile is no longer a technology. Too many businesses see mobile as the next place things will happen; like the migration of information and entertainment from radio to TV to the internet. As a technology company, Qualcomm is in the right place for their customer (electronics manufacturers), but the reason their keynote was so poorly received is because they don’t really understand what mobile means to the end user. Mobile is a mindset.

Mobile is not about the device; it’s about the experience. Every consumer has different needs, but the freedom, usability, and seamless integration of technology with our lives are just some of the drivers of explosive mobile adoption. It’s a mindset that has created new consumer expectations; a mindset that will transcend technological as well as generational boundaries. Qualcomm focused on the current Gen Y (millennial) and what they dubbed the Gen M (“born mobile”) demographic. But Gen X is only trailing in mobile adoption by a few percentage points, and while only 40%* of the younger boomers use mobile, don’t forget that they are a larger population AND have the largest disposable income. As all generations adapt to the mobile lifestyle they are raising their expectations. Is your company prepared to meet them, or are you suffering from a brand disconnect?

Does this hurt the Qualcomm brand?
It’s hard to say. As a B2B hardware brand, Qualcomm doesn’t sell direct to consumer. As much as it bothered me, I’m not their target market, and they sure did generate a lot of buzz. The engineers who are their customers might not care if they are out of touch with consumer culture, as long as the chips they build offer top of the line performance. On the other hand, it can only be helpful to show you have an understanding of your customers’ customer and an appreciation for their business needs.

Where do they go from here?
The fact that Qualcomm decided to deliver this keynote hints to us that they have ambitions of appealing to a wider audience. There is an enormous amount of potential for Qualcomm to continue their efforts and make a grab at the B2B2C “Intel Inside” position, especially seeing as how Intel has failed to translate their consumer appeal to the mobile world. This B2B2C strategy is part of what has allowed Intel to capture a disproportionate amount of the profits in the commoditized pc hardware business. Intel achieved profit margins of over 20% through 2012 while Dell — who sells the final product to consumers — struggled to break 5%. As another comparison, rival chip manufacturer AMD saw negative profits through most of 2012, including a -37% in Q1. [Check out Alan's article on Intel's ingredient branding and mobile challenges]

With heightened consumer expectations and increasing competition, it’s more important than ever to have a focused brand strategy that connects you not only to your market, but to the interconnected markets within larger ecosystems. You need to be credible and relevant to your customers’ customer too. There is no more effective way you can appreciate your clients’ challenges (and solve them), while expanding your own brand awareness and equity.

Qualcomm took an ambitious stab at making that connection, and if they are willing to refine and focus their strategy, they could find themselves very well positioned for the future.

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