I was asked recently about how I thought technological convergence was affecting marketing. I'm really quite astounded that people still use the 'C' word really... anyway I thought I'd share...
Technological Convergence was heralded as the holy grail in the late nineties giving rise to multipurpose devices which purported to be the solution to that problem you didn't know you had, the only thing you need to carry - the sonic screwdriver if you will. Much time and money was spent and is still being spent trying to convince us that 1 + 1 = 3. Remember when they started making 'Media Centers' which were telly's with a VHS recorder bolted on?
The 'modern' mobile phone which 'replaces' the camera, mp3 player, radio, PDA, movie player etc. would be an ideal platform for integrated contextual communication were it not for the face that there is currently no real 'platform' - beyond the internet.
In fact the only thing that is changing is that we now have actual web access wherever you go. The hardware is kind of irrelevant.
So what does this 'convergence' actually look like - you watch your telly through a media server, which will share with all the other computers /console you've got around, when you want to head out simply 'dump' whatever you need onto your 'phone' and away you go.
It isn't about convergence at all really - it's about continuity. Wherever you go, there you are!
The issues or opportunities all revolve around the motivation behind the integrated use of the channels. 'Me Too' has a tendency to lead to contrived, expensive and ineffective assaults on our senses. 'Nokia Game' / 'Nike Run London'-alikes abound!
Always accessible services are great when they add or extend the usefulness to the consumer. Even simple things like web to mobile bookmarking can significantly enhance the retail experience - but for most traditional 'campaigning' marketeers it isn't 'sexy' enough. Simple and useful is so often more welcome than complex bling.
Evolved 'Just for fun' is a fair enough reason too - if you know what your doing and have a decent understanding of the consumers motivations to participate (and do a soft sell) you can end up with some OK results. There are decent examples in the Branded ARG space, however the numbers of participants tend to be very low and the ROI
produced through PR.
The trick is knowing how all the pieces fit together and avoiding novelty for the sake of it.
The renewed interest in all things converged is undoubtedly the rise of the iPhone. It's the cool, sexy agency creative must-have of the year... and for good reason, the browser alone almost makes it worth the cash. Ironically you could potentially argue that the divide between those who live the integrated digital lifestyle and those who don't is the difference between Apple & Microsoft. This of course means that Microsoft are still owning 'work', everybody is trying to own 'home' and Apple are vying for 'street'.
There is no inherent complexity in developing contextually driven programmes - assuming your aim isn't mass market and you are happy to use the mobile web as the engagement platform. The big question really... is should you?