Mobile: Now The New "First Screen"

Traditionally, there have been three screens that all of us have used and interacted with daily. They are the TV screen, the computer screen and the mobile screen, whether smart phone or tablet. 

Academics and market researchers have typically called the TV the “first screen,” the computer the “second screen” and the mobile device the “third screen.”  While this was historically true, and also reflects the timing of when each device was introduced to market sequentially, this categorization is now incorrect and needs to be changed permanently to reflect the new realities of the anytime, anywhere world that we are all currently living in.

If I asked you what the first and last screen that you look at each and every day as soon as you wake up and right before you go to bed, then you are likely to say that it’s your mobile device if you are like most others. Clearly there are age and demographic variables at play in terms of the answer likely to be heard by different groups of individuals, but this trend is clear and the transition of behaviour accompanying is very real and very powerful. 

Currently most people are even likely to say that it is an Apple iOS or Google Android powered mobile device as well, but we can leave that for another article at another time.  Not that many years ago, people would flip on the TV to watch the news or see their favourite show to kick off or close out their daily routines.  This rapidly progressed to booting up a laptop to check email or surf the web for similar information.  But now, more and more people simply reach for their mobile device and launch an app – whatever they want, whenever they want and wherever they want.

The “right here, right now” generation of instant gratification is upon us and marketers and businesses alike need to rethink everything about their approach to engaging these high value touch points between their consumers and their brands.  Budgets are not necessarily the issue. Rather, it’s the composition and allocation of the budget that needs to be revisited, especially between traditional print media, TV, radio, Internet, social and mobile.  Ultimately all budgets need to be reallocated, with anytime, anywhere user needs being the top priority for design, sales, marketing, promotion and advertising.  The harsh reality currently is that mobile devices have completely replaced TVs and computers as the “first screen” and this fact should be understood, internalized and accepted by anyone thinking about their brand.  Ultimately, these mobile devices are just like TVs and computers and anything and everything that you can accomplish with them has become core and primary to user behaviour.  Just because the screens are a fraction of the size of today’s TVs and computer monitors, it surely does not mean that the effort or budgets allocated to them should be a similar fraction.

This transition will be extremely painful for many companies and I have no doubt at all that many businesses will be left behind if they fail to get ahead of this curve. Most businesses execute annual planning and address change in 12 month intervals. Unfortunately, this strategy and approach will fail as mobile cycles occur every 2-3 months and there will be at least 4-6 mobile cycles during every 12 month budgeting exercise.  Uh oh.  While you may choose to disagree with me, I think that you do so at your own peril. Having lived through the technology cycles of the 90s and the Internet cycles of the 00s, the mobile cycles of the 10s will take your proverbial breath away. Clearly there is a lot of noise and clearly it is difficult to separate this noise from the reality underlying it, but mobile devices are now the “first screen” to your consumer, channel and employee base, rightly or wrongly.  Get used to it and embrace it as the anytime, anywhere world now awaits you.  The only question remaining at this point is whether you are actually on board the train … or if you are simply getting ready to be hit by it.  

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