Why brands need to adapt to fluid forms

Marketers need to look further ahead than Apple's latest launch to embrace fluid forms of frictionless communication, writes Nicola Kemp.

Why brands need to adapt to fluid forms

Talking on the phone is so 90s. The generation that has grown up with the smartphone has universally dismissed what was once a mobile's primary function: speech. Fundamentally it is consumer behaviour, rather than incremental improvements in technology, that drives real change.

SMS, which was so slow to take off, quickly became consumers' communication medium of choice; now there are signs younger users are abandoning texts in favour of messaging services such as WhatsApp or turning to social networks to send a quick snap or emoji.

While Apple's NPD has, predictably, been met with a flurry of excitement, smart marketers are keeping their eyes firmly on the consumer.

Keeping is simple

Although technology brands such as Apple show signs of bundling an ever-growing suite of products for their users, from payment tools to free music, many consumers are opting for simple, unbundled services.

Similarly, as communication has become more complex and demanding, people are retreating into simplistic platforms. Yo! the app, which people use simply to say Yo! to each other, was recently valued at £10m.

Patrick Albano, head of solutions, EMEA, at Yahoo!, says that while marketers need to keep abreast of the increments in tech developments and trends, such as the iPhone 6's increased screen size, they must always focus on broader shifts in the market. "It is the consumer behaviour that is changing; the device itself is becoming less important," he explains.

Certainly while some tech journalists have waxed lyrical about the advances in the iPhone's camera, the danger of getting lost in the minutiae of any given feature is all too clear.

Content is king

Andrew Morley, chief executive of Clear Channel UK and the former head of Motorola at Google in the UK and Ireland, says that, ultimately, consumers care about content and will choose the device that offers them the best way to access it.

In the future consumers will expect their technology not to add to the demands of their already cluttered day, but pre-empt their needs and interests

"For marketers, that means creating great content that works on as many devices as possible and is easy to share," he adds.

The big consumer shift that marketers need to be aware of is already taking place: the picture has become a unit of speech in its own right - and a phenomenal marketing tool in the process. Whatever the latest technological advances may be, it is how they will alter consumer behaviour that is the most important consideration for brands.

Marketers must beware of fixating on the rise of single piece of technology or believing in the dominance of any given screen or high-profile device.

As the hype about the iPhone 6 dissipates, brands would be wise to look beyond the smartphone screen to embrace new, fluid forms of communication. While the Apple brand has become ubiquitous, analysts believe that the hybrid technology of the future will be more frequently invisible.

Tessa Mansfield, content and creative director at trends group Stylus.com, says the next wave of tech products will recognise and adapt to human emotions in more ways.

"In the future consumers will expect their technology not to add to the demands of their already cluttered day, but pre-empt their needs and interests," she adds. "The aim for brands is to be the connective tissue between new technology and real people."

In this era of fluid technology, the opportunity to better connect with consumers is not confined to leading tech brands such as Apple. For example, in July, British Airways introduced a "Happiness Blanket". The airline asked passengers to use a cover woven with fibre optics that used neuro-sensors to measure their brain waves. This information was relayed to LED lights in the blanket, causing them to turn blue when a passenger was relaxed. A video of the experiment featured the strapline: "Never underestimate the power of a good flight's sleep."

Outside the marketing and technology echo chambers of social media, the jubilation over the latest iPhone may not be quite as loud.

While the fortunes of individual devices rise and fall, the power of fluid, often quiet technology, is only ever increasing.