Multi-Screen Means the Right Screens—Not EVERY Screen

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At the risk of sounding like Yoda: Technology may dazzle, but mobile strategy does not it make.



It's a cliché by now to talk about “shiny objects.” The rate of technological change and tech adoption is exhilarating—but it can also be bewildering. It seems like there's a new tool on the scene nearly every day, and there's no shame in admitting to feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing.

The problem comes when marketers get so hypnotized by the tech that they don't put the consumer first.

“We live in a creative, innovative time, but sometimes we get so focused on the technology that we forget we're supposed to be marketing to people—not these devices,” says Natasha Hritzuk, global senior insights director at Microsoft Advertising. “And some marketers seem to have lost their way, not sure of how to effectively market in this technology-rich and complex world.”

But part of the point is that it's not so complex. Smart marketing strategy is the same as it's always been—solid content, intelligent placement, engagement—it's just taking a new form.

Hritzuk advises doing it old school before jumping into a multi-screen campaign. First, think about what you're trying to accomplish from a brand perspective and then consider how that will dovetail with consumer need. You don't have to be everywhere to make an impact.

“A mobile campaign doesn't mean you need something on every device; multi-screen means being on the right screen, not every screen,” she says. “Pick the devices that help you deploy your brand strategy, and create genuinely immersive content for them.”

By concentrating on consumer behavior and understanding how consumers act differently on different devices, brands will be able to deliver content based on audience insights to address their needs in a way that aligns with the brand's objectives. “The multi-screen stuff will flow naturally out of that.”

In other words, don't sweat it. Look at the ‘why' (as in why people do what they do) and you'll know the ‘what' (as in what the heck you should do about it).

“People are using these devices—and switch between them—for specific reasons,” Hritzuk says. “They want to get something done or investigate something or learn something. When you focus more on that, patterns of simplicity start to emerge.”

In Hritzuk's recently published book Multi-Screen Marketing, she and coauthor Kelly Jones, head of thought leadership at Microsoft Advertising, delve into what they refer to as the “multi-screen pathways,” meaning the various paths to engagement.

Getting a handle on why consumers do what they do and where they do it is the first step in building a data-driven cross-screen brand strategy:

1) Content grazing — I can relate to this one. Basically, this is what happens when you have a few minutes during a commercial break to do a little research on your phone or tablet. You might be doing it to be efficient, but more likely you're just watching a cat video or checking your email or Facebook while you're waiting for your show to come back on.

2) Investigative spider-webbing — (This is not, by the way, a synonym for Peter Parker's day job, which is the first thing that occurred to me, I must admit.) A bit more serious than your grazers, consumers engaged in investigative spider-webbing are usually doing research after being triggered by a specific piece of content. It's about finding deeper information to complement your primary screen experience; for example, when you're watching a movie and something on screen makes you whip out your phone to corroborate a detail and suddenly you're sucked into an IMDB wormhole.

3) Social spider-webbing — The social spider-webber is like an extroverted version of our investigative spider-webber above. Social spiders feel compelled to share something they've just seen through their social channels. In fact, according to research from Microsoft Advertising, one in five consumers will engage in this particular pathway while watching live events on TV. The upcoming World Cup is sure to be a prime example.

4) Quantum journey — This one's the big one. Consumers on a quantum journey mean business. They have a goal in mind—say, booking a restaurant or researching a vacation—and they're taking action using multiple devices. The hope is for their experience to be seamless, although we all know it's usually pretty disjointed. Consumers will use whatever screen is easiest to accomplish each task; for example, a laptop to explore flights, a tablet to look at hotels, and then, maybe, a smartphone to check out an app with sightseeing tips. It's one journey, but the consumer is using various screens to get to their end point.

Once brands know why people do what they do, they can start to consider how that behavior fits into the mobile experience. Get that cart after the horse and you'll be fine, Hritzuk says.

“Stop worrying about the actual screens,” she says. “If you don't focus on the screen first, you'll probably have the best multi-screen strategy you've ever had.”

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