Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mobile is the new cigarette

I’ve long held a theory that the mobile phone is the new cigarette.

I mean, think about it.  Other than the harmful effects to one’s health and the horrible smell, cigarettes could be considered a useful too.  They provide something to do when a person is bored, or needs a break, or fels uncomfortable in a situation and needed something to do. They also provide an excuse to strike up a conversation with a fellow smoker.

That is so often how we use mobile phones. They are a remedy for boredom, stress, awkwardness and loneliness. They are perfect for waiting in line, looking busy at a party where you don’t know anyone or taking a mental break from whatever you are doing.  And they’re even better than smoking because no one knows what you are doing on your phone—you could be checking an important email or you could be playing Angry Birds, who’s to say?

From a brand and marketing standpoint, mobile provides a wonderful opportunity in this way because the goal, when looked at from this standpoint, is to provide someone with a welcome distraction. 

We know that successful apps (and sites) tend to be useful or entertaining.  But they are also often simple.  It’s a different way to think about mobile.  What if you didn’t need to cram every piece of our company’s website into a handheld device, but rather all you needed to do was engage someone on the simplest of terms?  What if you could give them something to help entertain them just for a moment, or feel less alone?

Mobile isn’t easy by any means but when we approach it from this standpoint the challenge may be a bit less daunting.  So how will you provide your users with a welcome distraction?  It’s something to think about.


  1. A good mobile experience addresses boredom, stress, loneliness or awkwardness. A great mobile experience addresses more than one of those issues - or ideally all of them.

    That's because the biggest challenge in designing a mobile experience is competing with all the other applications and mobile sites out there that let the user play, be creative, and connect with others in one simple use case.

    My favorite mobile "welcome distraction" is a LOLCat maker for Android. I take a photo of something silly, put in LOL-style captions, and then MMS it to my 13 year-old sister. It's a light touch way of saying, "I'm here."

    A great mobile extension of your campaign or brand gives users a way to connect - with friends or with strangers - around something that all participants can relate to in the moment.

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