Feed the beast that is our mobile addiction

A number of stories recently have detailed how NFL quarterback prospect Geno Smith cost himself millions by texting and tweeting during pre-draft meetings. While some might see that behavior as typical of a self-indulgent, spoiled star athlete, I don’t think it is that far outside the norm.

In fact, I can’t count how many meetings I’ve attended in which someone spent at least half of the discussion staring down at their smartphone, absorbed by something else. This behavior isn’t just limited to diva-esque football stars or multi-tasking agency strivers, though. A few days ago, I saw a local TV news interview in which the man-in-the-street accident witness twice halted his on-air comments to check his smart phone. He was unemployed.

Examples of smart phone addiction are everywhere. From teenagers who can’t go to bed without their iPhone, to customers who can’t purchase anything without vetting the price online, to social media fanatics who incessantly capture and post their every move, thought and expression, we are surrounded by mobile media interaction. For better or worse, it is the definitive technology of 2013.

So is this a bad thing? Yes! Well, probably. Certainly, there are aspects of it that drive me crazy. As a society, we seem to be getting less courteous, less focused and markedly more self-absorbed. And our writing is atrocious. (Yes, I blame texting. And Twitter.)

However, sociological arguments aside, as a marketer I’d be insane to ignore the mobile tsunami and all its related ripples.

Every day, new research documents how the mobile monster is devouring the media world. For instance, were you aware that smart phone use grew 81 percent in 2012? Or that more than 84 percent of smart phone owners use their phones in-store while shopping? Or that almost every study predicts that mobile Internet use will overtake fixed Internet access by 2014?

I think it is incumbent on anyone who is in a parenting or mentoring role to try to tame this monster, and instill some basic mobile etiquette (like remembering to look someone in the eye and ignore the phone when they are talking to you.) However, it is also incumbent on upon marketing professionals like myself to harness this monster.

We should never again let a client (or employer) create a website, microsite, e-newsletter, e-release or digital anything that isn’t mobile-optimized. Of course, the inevitable “limited budget” argument against mobile optimization will still come up. But we should turn that on its ear; if you can’t afford to optimize, you can’t afford to do it, period.

So does that make us enablers of addiction? On a personal level, no; we can and should fight against it. Teach your kids, employees and anyone else you are mentoring how to use mobile media in an appropriate, non-addictive way.

On a professional level… well, that’s harder. As marketers we would be doing our companies and clients a disservice if we did not embrace the mobile reality. Feed the beast.

Andy Larsen is a partner and vice president at Boelter + Lincoln in Milwaukee.

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