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Mobile World Congress: Who’s Not in the Mobile Business These Days?

Mobile World Congress: Who’s Not in the Mobile Business These Days?

Seven takeaways for event marketers from the mobile industry mega event

The Mobile World Congress tagline “Mobile is Everything” seemed a pretty accurate, if not boastful, claim about the mobile industry. As the mobile industry continues to expand, it will naturally involve a growing and increasingly diverse range of market participants from a growing and diverse range of market sectors. New mobile developments in connected cities, cars, health, entertainment and fashion-wearables are adding new audiences and industries to the mobile sector. This is good and bad news for Mobile World Congress. Good news in that there is demand for events focused on the mobile industry; bad news in that as the industry expands, so does the focus of the event and the diversity of its audience. Will the industry want to participate in an event that’s about “everything”? 

Here are some things to consider for experiential marketers:

Scale — How big can a great event be and still deliver a great attendee experience?

Mobile World Congress is obviously a very successful event. More than 2,100 exhibitors play host to more than 95,000 attendees and 3,800 press and analysts in what has become “the” event for the mobile industry. But how big is too big? News last year that CES in Las Vegas would cap its attendance at 176,000 to “ensure the highest quality experience for all” could be seen as a warning shot to the events industry and Mobile World Congress that big is not always better. Just ask anyone who waited in the taxi queues outside the Fira. It does not, however, have to be that way. Large, mega-events are rolling out more personalized tracks (as implemented at CES) to ensure a valuable experience can be had by all, even as they grow in size. 

Mobile platforms get tougher, stronger, faster and more powerful for longer

To me, all smartphones seem about the same — it all comes down to brand. But at MWC, there continues to be lots of announcements and demonstrations around how mobile devices are improving. Most of these seemed to focus on how devices are now waterproof and unbreakable, with lots of exhibitors submerging their devices in a fish tank and then throwing them against the wall. The new features that I thought were most interesting were longer battery life, always-on screens and gesture sensors where your devices respond to movement. But, in the end, it all seemed to be about add-on features to your basic device — nothing dramatically new. If you do have a breakthrough to show off at Mobile World Congress, make sure your brand and product are the very focused hero of your presence. 

Connecting the unconnected

Even as mobile devices continue to get stronger and faster, there is still a huge gap between the connected haves and “have-nots.” During his keynote, Mark Zuckerberg reminded us of what he calls the unconnected society and challenged the industry to “finish the job” of connecting the 4 billion people who still don’t have access to the Internet, rather than focusing on getting faster and stronger connectivity for those that already do. In our future, will connectivity be a basic human right? 

The mobile me and the importance of personalisation

It is becoming pretty clear that it’s not what my mobile device can do but rather what I want to do with it that matters. Our mobile devices are becoming an inseparable and impenetrable extension of who we are and how we live our lives — my device, my communications, my music, my photos, my videos, my social personality, my alarm clock, my pedometer, my health monitor, my garage opener, my whatever I want it to be. The relationship we have with our smartphone is becoming an important part of our private and public personality. And personalisation is not only what the mobile experience will be about in the future, but live event experiences like Mobile World Congress too.

Location based on objective

As an exhibition, Mobile World Congress is recognized for Hall 3. This is where the biggest brands take the biggest space and spend the biggest money — and so it’s where the biggest crowds gather. That's great if your objective is to attract a lot of attention without deep engagement... if you were launching a product, for example. Other major brand real estate in Halls 1 and 2 are primarily dedicated to meeting space for the invited and can be ideal for exhibitors looking to create a more curated or intimate experience. Mobile World Congress on the whole is really about pre-scheduled meetings. One Hall 1 exhibitor told me that they have 500 meetings over four days. If you are a Mobile World Congress exhibitor, its important to make sure your presence at the event is designed around very specific objectives so that no matter where you are in the event, you have the most successful experience possible.

Design Driven Experiences 

Somewhat like TV ads during the Super Bowl, part of the excitement of Mobile World Congress is exhibition stand design and experience. Fortunately, there were some amazing architectural wonders and exciting brand environments on show again this year. There is a big opportunity, however, for those marketers of every size and scale to utilize design thinking to up the game. As audiences change, and demographics dictate new ways of engagement, the most successful stands will be those who put the customer at the center and reinvent the experience. Innovative, engaging products should have equally as innovative and engaging stand experiences.

VR stand candy

If you’ve been to a trade show, then you’ve seen it before — the exhibitor whose proposition is so uninviting that they revert to attracting attendees with a bowl of candy on their stand. Unless they are attempting to attract people with a sweet tooth, most of the time the candy itself has very little to do with their proposition. At Mobile World Congress this year, VR experiences felt a bit like stand candy: No clear relationship to the brand proposition, but very popular with attendees queuing down the aisles for a chance to wear the sweet headset. VR isn’t going anywhere, and can be an incredibly engaging way to interact with your key audiences. Just make sure that it ladders up to your overall brand strategy. 

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