Mobile Trailblazer: Ben Beyda, Morpheus Media

Mobile is the fastest growing, and most widely adopted media channel of all time. But it hasn’t always been perceived that way by agency suits, brand experts, and mass-media marketers. Just as brands were getting into a groove with digital, cellphones went from talk and text to pinch, snap, flick, and zoom. If the Internet revolutionized communications and media, mobile is fulfilling that promise by putting these tools and features into the hands of billions.

Today, mobile is so much more than a device or technology that makes this experience possible. It is a concept, a growing framework of always-connected things. Mobile increasingly drives changes in user experience and interfaces across the digital realm. While the industry at large pays lip service to the opportunities that mobile brings to the game, the channel remains woefully neglected and underserved.

Before the rise of smartphones, mobile marketing and advertising was way out on the fringes. That also holds true for the men and women who embraced mobile early. These trailblazers didn’t just cop out and check the box on mobile under their emerging or experimental budgets; they pushed toward mobility while most held back.

Here at ClickZ, we wonder where these Mobile Trailblazers are today. Was it worth the struggle? After going against the grain for so many years, are they finally beginning to see the world they always imagined? These are their stories about all things mobile.

benbeydaBen Beyda was pursuing a doctoral degree in clinical psychology when he first heard of search engine optimization. Soon enough, he was hooked, seeking how to apply his understanding of human behavior to SEO strategies and emerging technologies. Now, as the associate director of mobile strategies at Morpheus Media, Beyda is fusing his passion for neuropsychology and behavioral psychology with mobile marketing. “I think mobile has really connected the entire world in different ways than we’ve ever been connected before, and for me that’s what really excites me, just how accessible information is or can be to everyone around the world,” he says. “Everybody just wants whatever they’re looking for to be in the moment - however that moment may be defined.”

ClickZ: Your background is uniquely fascinating. How did you make the leap from a graduate degree in clinical psychology to SEO, and now mobile marketing strategy? How is psychology fusing with mobility today?

Ben Beyda: The transition definitely was gradual and unexpected at the same time, but has really been pretty amazing. When I was at grad school, my uncle actually sort of got me involved in all of this to begin with by asking me to help manage his paid search campaigns. He had an e-commerce site and just needed assistance there in understanding how it all works. I started doing that and eventually took on some other side clients to earn a little spending money while I was in school. Eventually I found about this organic search optimization aspect, not only doing pay-per-click, but doing SEO for, I guess, free if you will. That instantly interested me more because it seemed like a really challenging venture to identify the ranking factors for SEO. Just trying to figure out that black box of ranking factors was really interesting to me.

While I was taking classes, I was interested in neuropsychology and behavioral psychology, so trying to understand why people behave in certain ways and different triggers that could change behaviors. And so, I started actually applying that to search strategies, particularly what would get people to click through on a given ad. It was a really loose application, I admit, but I approached search marketing in almost a Pavlovian way. You can predict that if you do this, people will behave in that way. So, an ad copy of this will solicit a response or click-through rate of that…As my understanding of the full digital marketing mix expanded, with mobile it just became increasingly harder to ignore the impact smartphones were going to have on the industry…Psychology has fused really well with what I do today.

Everything I learned in graduate school I’ve been able to bring back to the work I do today. Specifically for mobile marketing, I think it’s important to understand how somebody’s mindset changes between devices and between different contexts…How are people going to behave differently with the same device if they’re on the go, versus if they’re watching let’s say the Super Bowl on their coach using Twitter on their phone? I wake up in the morning and I might check the weather versus afternoon or evening when I might be shopping. Those kinds of things really interest me and that’s how I guess I went from psychology to marketing, and used that foundation of neuropsychology and behavioral psychology to help the marketing strategies that I come up with now.

ClickZ: What are the psychological ramifications of mobile that you find most compelling today, and how does that contribute to your view of mobile?

Beyda: I think it’s actually prettying fascinating how the mobile industry has changed behaviors and the expectations that people have about the world around them, particularly in areas where smartphones are prevalent. Mobile is a really encompassing term and I think we often think about smartphones, but obviously it does tie into feature phones that might be prevalent elsewhere. If you just look at where smartphones are very prevalent, I think everybody now expects things to be immediately accessible whenever and wherever they want this. Just thinking back, it’s a really stark difference from the world that I remember growing up in, where there’s no TiVo to record live television - you actually had to be home at a particular time in front of the television to watch a show; high-speed Internet access wasn’t readily available…a lot has changed in terms of accessibility, and I think consumers’ expectations are very different now.

Everybody just wants whatever they’re looking for to be in the moment, however that moment may be defined. Some people in the mobile community have called it just-in-time interaction, where you need whatever you’re looking for at that moment and then move on. And I think businesses really need to recognize how rapidly these changes are happening and be agile in how they adapt to these changes…I think mobile has really connected the entire world in different ways than we’ve ever been connected before…I think there’s a compelling case for what mobile can do for the world outside of just marketing. Obviously that’s what I do on a day-to-day basis, but it’s so much more than that and ultimately that’s what I find fascinating.

ClickZ: Where does mobile sit in the general framework of Morpheus Media? Are you advising clients to adopt more integrated, cross-channel marketing or is mobile viewed as more of an innovative, emerging space that follows a different playbook?

Beyda: Is it something that is thought of throughout the entire marketing mix and really integrated, or is just sort of a stand-off separate vertical, if you will? At Morpheus we don’t necessarily treat it with an either-or approach, oftentimes there’s a lot of gray area. We do advocate that mobile be part of an integrated marketing strategy and try and promote a mobile-first mindset. So that way it’s not just an afterthought and you’re thinking how you can cram a desktop strategy or non-mobile strategy into a phone, but keeping that front of mind as you’re planning: how are we going to use mobile? Because in a lot of ways, it’s the medium that ties all the other channels together. You can do a lot with it and reach people in places that you haven’t been able to before. Smartphones and tablets are perfect to create exciting and innovative experiences to connect with consumers. We don’t necessarily silo it out in such, but we do at the same time recommend trying to pushing the boundaries whenever possible and leverage the latest technologies to create immersive experiences that haven’t been possible in the past.

You can do very cool things with rich-media units. We recommend that our clients look beyond just standard key performance indictors that I think the industry has been used to in the past. Click-through rate, for example, has been an important measure of success in the past, but we try and focus a little more beyond that and what the post-click behavior is going to be, particularly on mobile. When you have that in the back of your mind, just the simple marketing campaign that you’re going to be running on mobile devices is not where it stops, right? You need to think about what’s that experience going to be like for the person that clicks through, how are we going to receive them, and how are they going to interact with it?

That’s where mobile comes into play and we try to weave into the entire process, so don’t just think about creating a display ad that you can run in an application. How are we going to receive people after they click through to the App Store, what’s the marketing message there, or if you’re doing a web display campaign, what’s the website going to be like that people land on? At the end of the day, we work with our clients to use mobile to reach their goals in a way that stays true to the brand’s identity, but tries to push the boundaries given the resources that they have on hand…Sometimes it is challenging to highlight the differences between mobile and traditional desktop strategies.

ClickZ: What trends are driving growth in mobile as a channel today, and what are the most challenging obstacles that still stand in the way?

Beyda: One thing that we find exciting is how mobile can complement or extend offline marketing. For example, adding an augmented reality experience to a print ad is a great way to make a traditionally static and non-engaging ad unit that much more engaging. And also get an idea of how many readers are actually seeing the ad or interacting with it because you might know circulation numbers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that people are seeing it. A lot of money is still allocated to print advertising, but it’s almost impossible to understand what the value is of those ads outside of readership numbers. Another example that I think we’re going to start seeing a little bit more of is how mobile can extend the value of out-of-home advertisements with mobile technologies like NFC (near-field communications) or Bluetooth. So if you equip a kiosk that has an out-of-home messaging or a poster on it, brands can broadcast their advertisements to people that pass by. This is sort of thinking a little bit down the road and we’re going to need to be careful not to bother passersby in a similar way that pop-up ads used to.

Another hurdle the mobile industry needs to get over is accurate tracking of mobile traffic…Being able to determine how or when mobile campaigns lead to, let’s say an in-store purchase, is really difficult right now from an attribution modeling perspective. So tracking consumers as they’re online but then going offline is something we’re going to need to figure out as an industry so mobile is getting the proper credit in that consumer lifecycle. Right now, we’re not there yet. And I think that’s also a challenge from a business perspective for retailers because you might have teams that are at odds with each other. Even though everybody is rowing in the same direction, who do you credit a sale to? Is it the in-store team or is it the digital team, or the mobile team that helped get that person in the store to begin with? Or is it a combination of both and how do you then figure out what percentage of that sale gets attributed appropriately? These are the kinds of things that I think are another challenge that could almost shut down a conversation before it happens, because we’re not there yet as an industry.

ClickZ: Finally, we would like to close each of these features in our series with a simple question - what makes you a mobile trailblazer?

Beyda: I think mobile in itself is kind of trailblazing just by definition. As digital has moved forward in the last four or five years, I’ve always tried to gravitate to where the action is, sort of like a don’t-skate-to-where-the-puck-is-skate-to-where-it’s-going-to-be kind of mentality. And especially from a predictive behavior standpoint, that’s really something that I’ve personally have had my eye on: how is the general population’s behaviors or expectations of the world going to continue to evolve in different ways as all this post-PC technology really starts to become ubiquitous?

Urban Airship Repositions to Deliver Mobile Relationship Management for Brands

Mobile World Congress: Banjo and Twitter Define Boundaries of Location Within Context