What Recent Hacking Incidents Can Teach Us About Mobile Marketing

What Recent Hacking Incidents Can Teach Us About Mobile MarketingThe following is a guest contributed post to MMW from Amir Shoval, Director of Product at Perion LightSpeed.

Everyone knows what it’s like to spend too much time on their smartphone. In the past few years, it’s already become a cliché: friends, family, dates, or coworkers planting their faces inside their phones when they should be paying attention to you.

Facebook came under scrutiny for this very problem in 2013 with its “Dinner” ad. This ad depicts a girl ignoring her boring relatives at the dinner table, just so she can use Facebook Home. Facebook received some criticism for this ad, partly because it hits home…no pun intended.
This tendency to ignore the world around us in favor of smartphone diving is ostensibly what led up to the Lizard Squad hacking incident.

On December 25th, the hacking group known as the Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for taking down the Xbox Live and PlayStation gaming networks. Though the reported hacks cannot be confirmed, this hacking group has claimed responsibility for other high-profile hacks, including the take-down of the Vatican website and Battle.net.

According to the author Cole Stryker, the group is “trollish” and “prankstery.” They don’t care about their motives, but instead “is just having a laugh.”

Regardless of the Lizard Squad’s motives, the Christmas incident does uncover an elephant in the room. Namely, it reveals what everyone knows: people spend lots and lots of time on their devices during these commercialized holidays.

The takeaway?

The TV was replaced by the fireplace, and mobile devices are worming their way into the living room and dining room. Mobile marketers who want to gain an edge will take advantage of the ubiquity of the mobile device, whether it’s at the dinner table, on the living room sofa, or in the bedroom.

If you want to exploit the omnipresence of the smartphone:

  • Market heavily on the holidays. Though many people lament and criticize the commercialization of holidays, that doesn’t stop holiday-shopping from becoming one of the busiest times of the year. App downloads spike and people spend the day playing new games on new devices.
  • Pay attention to what consumers do, not what they say. As mentioned, people complain a lot about the smartphone’s intrusion into daily life. But that doesn’t stop everyone from spending too much time inside their screens. Mobile marketers who get ahead will be those who, like Playstation and Xbox, focus on what people want.

The Sony Pictures Incident

At the end of November, a group calling themselves the Guardians of Peace hacked Sony Pictures. Over the next several weeks, the group released troves of data, including internal emails, salary information, and private details about celebrities.

The incident gained more notoriety when the hackers began demanding the studio pull the movie The Interview. This movie had already been denounced by the North Korean government, since the film heavily satirizes the country and its leader.

Though the movie went on to break records and earn money after its online-only release, Sony Pictures wasn’t so lucky. According to Business Insider, losses could reach $100 million. These losses, though, don’t include the loss of trade secrets, marketing strategies, contracts, and the career damage caused by the outing of email content.

North Korea has denied involvement.

So what’s the mobile marketing takeaway?

There are at least three:

  • All publicity is good publicity.The hackers’ demand that The Interview be pulled resulted in sky-high online sales. Hundreds of thousands of pirates had seen the movie within a day of its release, and many speculate that revenues were much higher than they would have been otherwise.
  • On the other hand…just make sure your company can withstand the PR impact. Have you ever noticed how Facebook keeps coming back from bad press? A little bit of bad publicity can actually bring a company or marketing campaign more business than it would otherwise get. Time will tell, however, if the Sony Pictures hack will have a negative impact in the long run.
  • Innovators define the curve. In the tech and mobile marketing worlds, everyone wants to stay ahead of the curve. And those that define that curve are the innovators. In this case, Sony Pictures inadvertently helped push the movie distribution model forward by releasing the movie through online outlets such as Google Play. Mobile marketers who wish to stay ahead will likewise experiment with new distribution rather than “safer” traditional methods.

Though, at first glance, hacking and marketing have little in common, marketers can learn a thing or two from these and other incidents. Most hacking incidents bring up uncomfortable details, bad press, and often cause financial damage.

But the issues that are brought up – either intentionally or accidentally – often expose market forces and behavioral tendencies that can teach us marketing lessons. And since mobile is the present and the future, marketers would be wise to apply those lessons to their mobile marketing efforts.