Don’t Break Up With My Brand!

Guest post from Mark Jaffe

Back when I was dating, the cardinal rule was to never phone after the first date until at least three days had passed. The phone was too personal for such a quick contact and you could be seen as too aggressive or worse, too desperate.

Times have changed. Now it is OK to use your phone for contact immediately after the first date, provided you don’t speak into it. Texting something pithy or witty that night, or the following day, can often be viewed as a positive addition to the dating experience.

Now let’s move to the end of the relationship. Breaking up over the phone is not as good as breaking up in person, but not nearly as bad as – OMG! – breaking up via text. Same phone. Same message. Completely different level of cultural acceptability.

We respond to text messages faster than emails, and BBMs faster than texts. Same Phone. Same message. Same textual appearance. Different accepted practice.

It is OK to whip out the phone (among some dining parties) at a restaurant to perform certain tasks – like looking up a sticking point in the conversation – but not others, like answering an email or playing a game. Same phone. Same amount of time “away” from the conversation. Different effect on your friends.

The list goes on and on. What is it about the mobile phone that generates this long list of rules and practices that is not present on our other media?

The mobile phone is not “the third screen.” It is a very personal, interactive, communication ecosystem of which the screen is just one visual component. The mobile phone has developed, and is continually developing, behavioral mores and cultural norms that have very serious implications for marketers. Violate one of those norms, and the consequences can be severe.

Marketers who continue to treat the mobile phone as yet another screen to “repurpose content” or as a quick campaign add-on to “target a hard to reach audience”, do so at their peril. It will be the brands that actively leverage the behavioral use patterns of the mobile phone and their attendant cultural norms that will succeed.

Marshall McLuhan said “The medium is the message” and he couldn’t be more right as it pertains to the mobile phone. The emerging customs, lifestyle behaviors and prevailing standards associated with the use of the mobile phone are unique, real and significant.

When mobile-specific behavior and culture is taken into account, the mobile phone shines as a brilliant addition to a well crafted overall brand marketing strategy – witness AT&T and American Idol.

When ignored, it can have the potential to undo the hard earned trust of the very same brand. AT&T found that out when it violated customer privacy expectations by using the American Idol list. And worst of all, most of the customers who chose to break up with the AT&T brand as a result, didn’t even bother to inform them by sending a text.

This post is one of the ten reasons why mobile advertising has not reached its potential.  You can access the other nine at



Leave A Comment...