Another day another fanfare, as Australians finally have the chance to get their hands on Apple’s latest piece of kit, the iPad mini.
Whilst the mini is packed full of impressive features, from a hardware perspective it’s more of an evolution rather than a revolution in Apple’s impressive product range. It's actually a cheaper, smaller and beautifully constructed addition to the revolution that began with the iPhone and sealed its place in the nation’s consciousness with the iPad.
For marketers the mini will of course throw up some amazing creative opportunities. A genuinely mobile tablet offers a huge amount of scope for augmented reality, gamification and other cool technologies that will make your apps, retail experiences or venues just that little bit more interesting.
But behind the hype there is something subtler and potentially far more disruptive showing itself here. Just as all the greatest technological innovations of our time create not just excitement but cultural shifts, the iPad mini may well turn out to be the missing link in the blurring of mobile and fixed web.
We know that consumers now work, play and share, moving seamlessly between formats and devices across the day. As marketers it’s easy to base our creative solutions on simplified truths. A mobile app needs to be engineered for use on the go; a web solution must play to the strengths of in-home consumption.
But with a nation of iPhone users live tweeting the X Factor from their couches, carrying geo-located enabled laptops and now a tablet compact enough to slip into a jacket pocket or handbag, the game is wide open.
So technology has made our customers always contactable? Great, we’ll build another app right?
Not quite. This is a bigger shift than CMO’s expanding their online strategy to another new and shiny device or digital media buyers thinking harder about what ad to serve, to what person, on what device.
This kind of constant connectivity requires us to think and plan at a bigger scale. The customer has always been king, but now they want to reach us at any time, on any device. But as we become less sure of how we’ll make contact, how do we keep designing the best user experiences across all platforms?
By now you’ll probably have heard of responsive design, either in an agency presentation or form an extremely geeky friend who gets excited about these kinds of things. Essentially it’s a site design approach that reformats your content based on the size of the web browser you’re looking at it on. One site that looks slightly different across mobile tablet and desktop screen sizes. Essentially allowing consumers to navigate and engage your website in an optimized way, regardless of their device or location.
And while Responsive design is going to be the right solution to many platform problems in the future, it’s just addressing the symptom of the bigger problem for brands.
Thinking of the iPad mini as a new channel just highlights that we as digital marketers have until now used channels as a crutch. By doing so we’ve pigeon holed what each device experience should offer, creating different experiences across devices, using different technologies and creating different entry points for consumers.
However increasingly it’s becoming obvious that people don’t think this way and shouldn’t have to. They think about and expect a consistent brand experience across platforms, and regardless of device the entry point into that experience should be consistent. You don’t think of Facebook on your phone as different to Facebook on your pc, just different ways of looking at the important stuff, the content.
Redefining your apps for each new device that hits the market is both expensive and difficult to manage, but working from a platform centric point of view that not only considers web, mobile and tablet in its construction but is optimised for an unknown (but very close) future will set brands up for success.
Offering a fun, familiar and productive experience at all times is part of this new world and relying less on the latest and greatest new device (however great it is), and thinking more about your underlying platform strategy is the real future of digital.
David Bentley is MD for Profero Australia.