Mobiles, Beer and Segmentation – Approaching Dynamic Segments

January 6, 2010

in Mobility, research

How do mobiles and beer go together? Or not? This is the second post building on earlier reflections and considering how they apply to “segmenting the mobile market”.  For my beer and mobile question I may get a range of answers. From arranging a meetup to feeling good showing off my new phone. Someone else may share their latest game or a funny pictures. In fact mobiles and beer drinking go together today in ways that were impossible just a few years ago. Add in the usual Tweets, FourSquare, Facebooking, maps, video, and much more.

So think about it. What’s the safest phone to go to a bar with today? Or maybe put another way. What’s the safest phone to participate with, share, be seen with? Mobiles are social objects and they have never been more powerful.

Now drop back a few years. What was status in the bar? The latest thin handset or the best camera and flash. Maybe even a Blackberry although email tends to anti-social. Who had the best stories? Who had the latest sports scores? And the raunchiest jokes? Often the quaff-able quotes had been caught on the radio in the car or some hours before.

Now the interesting thing about beer and mobiles is that what you drink in one bar and on one occasion is not the same as on another. It depends on who you are with, meeting, time of day, type of establishment, length of time you will be there, and many more things. Like will you drink from a bottle (long neck please) or just be having a pint? Of course you may not even like beer. In fact the dynamics of what you drink may change as the evening goes on…

With all this subtle decision-making going on around beer where does your mobile fit in? I’d like to establish that — we use phones to get out of situations, grow the group, entertain etc. We may even use it to pass time. At one time a school of thought was “mobiles were fashion” and you’d pull out one for the evening, another for the office. Much like we might use a watch. Yet SIM’s were too hard to change and it never really happened. Remember when “lifeblogging” (was a Nokia program) became an “occasion”. It was dumbed down later by programs like Shozu.

So now think about the same user that went to the pub last night – now traveling to work on Bart or the Tube. Depending on the state of their head they may be listening to “white noise”, music, watching a movie, reading a book or taking in a newspaper. Perhaps they are idly playing a game, checking email, or many other things they could be doing of course dependent on their mobile.

Let’s go back to our pub crawler or was that a restaurant drinking beer drinker? Fact is it matters very little. The use of the mobile and it’s relationship as a social object associated with the occasion was based on the user’s customization and occasion not on how it came from the handset factory. Of course making this statement we’re more likely to be assuming the user had an iPhone and yet in three years we’ll have other devices that enable similar levels of customization.

Let’s take the same user into a visit with the neighbor. Perhaps the young child sees the phone. The same person uses the mobile to engage the child, whether with game, camera etc. In fact another user may do the same thing somewhere else and may never go to a bar. This second person may not be the tech geek, they could just as easily be the grandmother and yet both are engaging in “entertaining a child” perhaps with slightly different motives. Yet this visiting occasion like the pub, or simply riding the train or going to work makes a joke out of traditional static segmentation analysis that was applied to mobile markets when a mobile was just a phone.

Why? Because the number of occasions where mobiles interact is no longer bound by “who” rather they are defined by “occasions” and how the device performs when exposed is crucial to the success of the device and the brand.

Let’s go back to beer. Some companies will need a drink anyways. Mobiles are aggregating occasions. Or is that infiltrating. No matter. The supermobile today presents new occasions. Example physical and life care/health. Ask yourself. If you are going to purchase a mobile today, which device for the next 2 to 3 years is MOST likely to provide a solution or opportunity related to helping you with your health needs? While also helping you manage your drinking occasions?

Still this also impacts at a simpler level. Two years ago, in a series of posts out of India on my observations of the Indian mobile phone market,  I wrote about China Phones in India and how “loud sound” from multiple speakers was very compelling. While the Nokia’s and Samsungs have made small adaptions they don’t yet have phones that compete satisfactorily in the occasion spaces created by these devices. (An iPhone doesn’t either for that matter). China Phones are hurting major handset providers in India for multiple reasons. Yet while the signals were there I’d suggest that the segmentation studies and (brand hoopla) that exists won’t and can’t adapt to the rapid explosion in usage occasions. The China Phone originally appealed to the young poorer youth yet today it is reaching a much broader audience and the “occasions” and the understanding around them have expanded. For example, the need for a second line or “landline” replacement. Using the “sound” while working in the field. Or watching illicit videos on the small color screen.

So if you have a “segmentation” that informs your marketing and product decision-making today then ask yourself if it will…

  • provides a dynamic framework for understanding the mobile market, and the various need segments within it.
  • determine the relative strengths of the various brands, how they are positioned within the market, and how they are positioned to satisfy the needs
  • identify what opportunities exist in the mobile market for new brands / products
  • Stuart,

    I want my mobile to tell me which bar is happening, has specials, and if we can ever unify on a LBS, or an aggregator, which bar my friend are at. Once I am in the bar, I just want to catch up and have a nice pint…..

    ok and maybe check in via foursquare and rate the specials on Yelp….lol

    *my social hub powered by GizaPage

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