Ashwini Gangal

Sex versus cell phone: What's the marketing insight?

A survey by Ipsos indicates that 31 per cent of Indian mobile phone users would give up sex rather than part with their mobile phones. afaqs! finds out the implications of such findings.

When asked why the mobile media distribution and analytics platform Seventynine was so called, the founding authorities told afaqs! that it was because the mobile phone has become the 79th body part in the human body, that is otherwise known to have 78 body parts. A recent omnibus survey conducted by market research company Ipsos seconds this.

Sex versus cell phone: What's the marketing insight?
The study reveals that 31 per cent Indian mobile phone users are ready to give up sex for a mobile phone, and shows that the all-pervasive gadget is indeed analogous to a body part.

A total of 1,003 respondents across India were asked whether they'd rather give up sex or their mobile phones. Of these, 813 were male and 190 were female.

While 715 respondents were under 35 years of age, 249 fell within the 35 to 49 years age bracket, and 39 were between 50 and 64 years.

Overall, 69 per cent of the total respondents said that they'd give up their mobile phones, while 31 per cent admitted that they'd rather forfeit sex than part with their prized handsets.

afaqs! finds out the implications of these findings for brand marketers and advertising agencies alike.

Kiran Khalap, co-founder, chlorophyll

Besides a funny TV commercial that makes some self-referential mention or a reference to the finding in the form of a funny parody, I don't see how, as an insight, it will aid anything in marketing. This is because the finding is a fact, not an insight. This fact can be helpful for advertising (for instance, a one-off ad in the short run) but not from a long term brand perspective.

Sex versus cell phone: What's the marketing insight?
Sex versus cell phone: What's the marketing insight?
Sex versus cell phone: What's the marketing insight?
Sex versus cell phone: What's the marketing insight?
Sex versus cell phone: What's the marketing insight?
Today, with Google goggles and potential 'embedded mobile phones', yes, people want to be connected all the time. The mobile is a doorway to privacy and to a whole new world. It is a lifeline for many. In fact, 'Nomophobia' -- the fear of being without one's mobile phone or the fear of being out of mobile phone contact -- is an established phobia today.

But I don't see how this finding can help from a brand marketing point of view.

Priti Nair, co-founder, Curry-Nation

Besides the comparison to sex, mobile is the biggest boon that's happened to India. It is a huge tool for marketers; one that has not been used well yet, except in the case of Axe's Wake Up Call campaign, which was the first, biggest and last innovation in the mobile space.

We have not yet been able to use a mobile app on this medium in an engaging way. So there is a gap there. We keep thinking of digital as the internet but in India, digital is the mobile phone.

This finding underscores the importance of mobile as a medium for marketers. No one has, as yet, found a way to leverage mobile without being invasive (like the constant telemarketing text messages).

From a psychological perspective, this finding shows us that people are leading 'gadgeted lives' and individual privacy is gaining more importance than spending time with others. It reminds me of what Prasoon Joshi once said - 'Social networking is making us anti-social'.

Lloyd Mathias, marketing consultant and former CMO, Tata Teleservices and Motorola

I think the manner of using sex as a comparison is partially metaphorical. It serves to highlight the kind of importance people place on their mobile phones. It is the omnipresence and ubiquitous nature of the mobile phone -- especially the smartphone -- that has taken over people. Marketers need to look at how they can reach out to and influence consumers who are on-the-move, those who live their lives through their phones.

From a media spend perspective, I feel that while mobile advertising is definitely growing, many people still view the mobile as a medium that takes them to their favourite websites. So those who don't have access to a laptop or computer use mobile as a 'deport medium'.

Advertisers and brand marketers must consciously focus on reaching the consumer unobtrusively within that small screen space.

Gautam Talwar, chief strategy officer, Rediffusion-Y&R

People's social life is becoming more interesting to them than their personal sexual lives and hence the shift in behaviour. There is a clear indication of growth that people can see in their social barometer (via tweets, retweets, likes and dislikes) on social sites. No such barometer exists to indicate their progress on the personal and intimate front.

Sexual intimacy is not a big deal with today's youth as it is a lot more accessible than it was earlier. Hence the importance given to sexual intimacy is on a decline. The more sex becomes a non-taboo part of daily life, the more interested people will be in other media of engagement.

Today, the phone is not seen as a device for connectivity alone. It literally runs the lives of most people; it has become an appendage for them. Sometimes, because of its connectivity to the internet, the phone also plays the role of a surrogate sex provider as it links the consumer to sexual content on the internet.

Another interesting takeaway of this research is that people are a lot more indulgent about themselves today. How we feel about ourselves is becoming increasingly more important and one's connectivity via the mobile device keeps reinforcing one's own self image. Sex does not satisfy this particular need.

The largest implication for all advertising and marketing professionals is to observe and analyse these shifts in behaviour patterns and ensure that these shifts are taken on board while creating marketing and communication strategies for brands. Behaviour shifts such as leading double lives -- one in the physical world and the other in the digital world -- and having a completely different set of rules of social etiquette for the two worlds, will have implications on how we communicate with people in these media in the future.

Madan Sanglikar, CEO, ad2c

This finding is obviously more indicative than literal. It's a reflection of the extent to which people are willing to go for the sake of keeping their phones with them. The point we can take from the finding is that the mobile phone has become a very personal element today. Looking at one's partner's phone is considered an invasion of the person's privacy and a breach of trust.

From a media perspective, if a brand creates engagement-led models that engage the consumer through the phone, then it can stay connected to the consumer for the longest time period because consumers nowadays never stay away from their phones. So, brands should start looking at the mobile phone as a serious media touch-point. The mobile advertising market is less than 1 per cent of the total advertising market, so brands are clearly not doing enough on this platform.

We're at the initial stage of the mobile marketing evolution so this is a good time to realise the importance of all engagement-led messaging and voice efforts on the mobile medium. The app market is still small and is slated to grow.