The rise of the tablet has caught some marketers off guard - many are still just coming to terms with social marketing and smartphones, having only recently developed the necessary skills to seamlessly manage the addition of digital to the mix of print and broadcast.
Technology’s incredible pace means that we are hardly au fait with one new platform before another one comes out of the blue.
With industry forecasts of 750,000,000 tablet devices globally by 2016, it’s time for marketers to understand this platform and seize the opportunity, before it fundamentally changes again.
Tablets are rapidly becoming the new mobile phone - going from the preserve of the few, to the many, to the most.
It was not so long ago that tablets were purely a device for reading; now they provide huge opportunities for content consumption and interaction with web and gaming.
Again, like mobiles in their infancy, tablets are seen to be aimed at young, sophisticated business/media types who are gadget/fashion conscious, with money to spend.
As ownership spreads, the applications and other technologies advance, the target market will expand, and therefore the opportunities for marketers will increase enormously.
Tablets offer unprecedented and increasing access to consumers, a direct, always-on portal to potential customers.
The typical tablet user treats the device much like their phone - they have it with them all the time at work, rest and play. Therefore, content needs to step up to the plate; it must be rich, integrated and compelling. You want your content enjoyed, recommended and shared.
A simple enough ambition you might think, but the tablet has brought with it a new era of complexity. Brands are still juggling a huge mix of platforms and opportunities from print, online and broadcast to events, ecommerce and earned media, and everything else in between.
Brands already have to contend with multiple platform obligations and shrinking media spend. Plus, the variety of devices doesn’t allow for a single execution - again, this presents a potential financial strain.
Furthermore, managing the ever-evolving software and internet community requirements takes a lot of effort to keep current, upgrade and implement changes.
Added to this, each provider from Apple to Amazon has a process for app creation, approval processes and certification.
What about the content itself, will it be free or paid for? Will it be hosted by a provider or by the brand itself, and what are the download, hosting and licence costs?
The list of considerations, financial implications are lengthy and complicated, even before you factor in the creative and interaction processes.
So, why bother? Is the tablet a device too far, are we rushing to populate every new platform too quickly? Will brands’ increasingly trimmed budgets allow for such an investment anyway?
The fact is, tablets are no longer a niche product, they are everywhere and the appetite for them is ever-increasing. Their rise really heralds the post-PC era.
The tablet, and its increasingly updated, smarter incarnations, presents a powerful, dynamic new medium that can handle all-channel communications.
For the first time we have a marketing tool that allows for broadcast, print, digital, web, social and mobile messaging on one, sleek, sought after channel. It’s nothing short of a creative nirvana.
However, brands should not be snatching this opportunity in a ‘me too’ approach.
Getting marketing right on tablets is complicated. It needs careful consideration, must be integrated into the overall mix, mean something to your consumers and be a rich, rewarding experience.
It should be given the same consideration as a TV commercial, press ad or piece of merchandise, with most brands needing production and technical expertise to guide them through the process of creation and implementation.
Brands must also be wary of platform fatigue - yes there will be another sea change in technology, and yes, more platforms are likely to present themselves in the coming years.
However, for complicated social, cultural and economic reasons, we are now all hooked on tablets, and we’re not ready to come off them just yet. In fact, it has just begun.