Mountain Dew’s new mobile-first campaign is only effective if it can facilitate offline conversation.

Ah, the smell of a fresh and clean new year. There is nothing more inspiring than shaking off last year’s blues and scribbling down some new resolutions. While most of us only think of New Year’s resolutions on January 1st, marketing departments and agencies have been thinking about them since the previous third quarter. The discussion of what works, what will be new, and the planning around it is extensive — and there is no better example of this than Mountain Dew’s new mobile-first global campaign.

The fizzing citrus drink announced their global ad initiative earlier this month, and it will bring significant changes to the brand including a revised slogan, a refreshed visual identity, and most importantly a strategy shift. The millennial generation is at the heart of the update. Like many other brands targeting current 20 – 36 year olds, Mountain Dew is shifting its strategy to meet the younger generations at the cool hangout spot, their mobile phone.

Greg Lyons, senior vice president of marketing at Mountain Dew, North America stated, “Knowing that millennial consumers see messages first in the palm of their hands, it’s no longer about figuring out how creative can be optimized for mobile at the end of production, but now how it can be designed to thrive in mobile from the outset.”

To promote their creative theme, “the feeling of doing”, they teamed up with pro skateboarder Sean Malto. The video spot showed the skateboarder jumping over the hood of a car and then afterwards taking gulps of Mountain Dew. While the creative concept isn’t a standout one (from my POV), what is outstanding is how they distributed it to their target consumers. The ad initially appeared on the pro skateboarder’s Facebook Page in vertical format.

Sean Malto Facebook Page Video Screenshot

If you look closely, you can see that the video views count is at 3 million! (As of January 24, 2017.) The video also received 926 comments. In addition to this post, Mountain Dew plans to utilize Snapchat, Facebook Live, Facebook Video, Instagram Stories and Twitter to encourage further engagement with the brand.

Right now you might be thinking, “These tactics aren’t outside the norm of a standard marketing plan. What makes this so different?” The difference, and maybe why the post received so much engagement, is because mobile phone usage is at the center of the strategy. Think of it like a solar system, the mobile phone is the sun and the tactics and creative revolve around that. To give you a more definitive understanding, here is a definition:

According to Aaron Strout, the term mobile first “is intended to mean that as a company thinks about its website or its other digital means of communications, it should be thinking critically about the mobile experience and how customers and employees will interact with it from their many devices.”

So, creating a mobile-first strategy is about considering in every aspect of planning and execution how your target consumer will interact with your content via a mobile phone. Understanding millennials’ phone usage and adapting to it is vital in getting your message in front of their eyes; however, does this approach affect sales and purchase intent?

I recently read The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace by Ed Keller and Brad Fay. (A recommended read for anyone in the marketing field.) The book explores the new realm of social media marketing concluding that although this new digital world plays a part in our lives, focusing solely on this medium to drive conversation and sales – like PepsiCo did in 2010 – is not a smart marketing move.

What the authors do conclude is that online and offline conversation are vastly different, and word of mouth or face-to-face conversation is much more potent than online social media interaction. To quote from the book, “brands shouldn’t begin with social media engagement as their primary goal, but with an idea that, as Singh wrote, can live in a number of different channels. The strategy should be about engaging people with ideas they will want to share with others, and using all appropriate vehicles that will encourage them to do so.”

And I repeat, “… strategy should be about engaging people with ideas they will want to share with others, and using all appropriate vehicles that will encourage them to do so.”

Now this doesn’t mean to discard engagement goals if you are using social media as a vehicle to promote your brand and message, but what it does mean is that you need to make sure the content you are distributing via those channels is disrupting your consumers ordinary expectations, or “schema”. Disrupting someone’s schema makes a person stop and think, and if you have disrupted their schema the person tends to want to talk about what happened with others to rationalize the situation. In marketing terms it means your ad message must work to disrupt a target consumer’s world so they will then feel compelled to talk about the brand message.

In respect to Mountain Dew’s campaign strategy, they believe a mobile-first campaign is the best way to engage millennials with the idea of “There’s no feeling like doing.” If that idea breaks through millennials’ schemas, causing them to stop and talk about the “feeling” they have when skateboarding or drinking a Mountain Dew, then the campaign will prove to be successful.

What do you think about mobile-first campaigns? Will it prove to be a successful strategy for the millennial audience? Place your thoughts below.

-Caroline Robinson

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