David Bowie takes inspiration wherever he finds it – rockabilly, krautrock, sci-fi, technology, class As, beautiful men and beautiful women. And as I listen to his records and wonder how different my life could have turned out if I’d been a bit more studious on the guitar and a bit more brave with the outfits, I also wonder what Bowie would think of the futuristic mobile world I find myself in. You may have guessed I’m something of a fan, so I hope one day I’ll get the chance to ask him for some pearls of wisdom myself. But for now I’m going to fire up Aladdin Sane on Spotify and wonder what insight I can glean from the music and the man.

“If it works, it’s out of date”

Dave said this in an interview in 1978. Of course, he was referring to his relentless pursuit of new sounds, but he could just have easily been talking in 2014 about mobile. Experimentation is part of the deal when you get into mobile marketing, because there are new technologies and ideas emerging all the time. The trick is to approach it strategically and analytically, just as our man Bowie approached his working with Brian Eno on his Berlin trilogy.

“Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming”

Of course, Dave coined this catchy little slogan to promote Heroes in 1977. But he could have been talking about mobile phones, right? With all the tech packed into our handsets, it’s easy to forget that the ringer is still the killer app. The ringer is the thing that always makes you sit up and take notice, no matter what you’re doing. Tapping into the consumer’s compulsion to answer the beep is the marketer’s greatest challenge and greatest opportunity.

“No more free steps to heaven”

Bowie scholars often say this line in 1980 protest song It’s No Game is a nod to rock legend Eddie Cochran’s Three Steps To Heaven by way of a little Bowie wordplay. But whether you’re making word games or branded apps, content is not free, and nor should it be. Consumers like the appeal of free apps, but the exchange needs to work both ways – whether that’s in terms of data (registering an email address, for example), or in terms of money through paying for ad-free content or other in-app upgrades. If the exchange works for both brand and customer then you’re in marketing heaven.

“I’m afraid of Americans”

Bowie was curious about America and the transatlantic relationship, flitting as he did between Europe and the US in search of specific creative juices. We should be fascinated with our transatlantic cousins too – the US big four (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) have pioneered everything from smartphones to online shopping to mobile advertising. The UK start-up culture isn’t devoid of creative juice, though – inspiration works both ways.

“You’re face to face / With the man who sold the world”

Covered so spookily by the ultimate non-sell out Kurt Cobain, this lament on misplaced aspiration and emptiness could be a nod to the countless businesses in the mobile marketing industry who are desperate to sell you something you don’t need. From NFC posters to QR codes and AR, mobile is awash with wool-over-eyes wow merchants. When it comes to the pursuit of meaning in life, take Dave’s advice – pursue creativity and lay off the heroin. When it comes to the pursuit of marketing objectives, take my advice – keep it simple and focus your strategy on the consumer. If you’d like to know more about your options for mobile marketing strategy – or if you’d like to discuss David Bowie or your own figures of inspiration, click on the ‘Contact Us’ page above.

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