Some books capture the spirit of a marketing zeitgeist just as it begins to happen in full force. Seth Godin‘s Permission Marketing and Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff‘s Groundswell were two such books. Chuck Martin’s The Third Screen is arguably of the same caliber for the forthcoming mobile marketing revolution.
Centered around the Untethered Consumer — freed from the bondage of traditional marketing methods — the book helps marketers capture the true nature of mobile media. It serves as a solid primer, going into the history of wireless communications, and explaining why businesses have so little control over mobile stakeholders. Basically, anytime a customer interacts with a business it is strictly on their terms. It is completely an opt-in experience.
Martin’s strength lies in his discussion of mobile platforms. His knowledge of operating systems, application usage, international usage and different types of mobile media (web, apps, texting) is universal.
A pragmatic ongoing conversation in the book includes media usage patterns, and how people interact with their smartphones. Social media wonks maybe disappointed as interaction drops on the “third screen” (the first being TV, and the second is desktop computers). While interactions do occur on the phone, screen size and input methods change a person’s interaction with online media.
In addition, Martin uses significant case studies to illustrate his points, including a fantastic Cars.com case study. In the Cars.com case study, Martin details the thorough process the company went through to adapt mobile, including some a great research and listening phase. This case study alone is worth the price of the book, and could be run in Harvard Business Review (the magazine, not the blogs).
The book was written in 2010 so there is little discussion of the now growing tablet boom, though Martin does pick up the topic here and there. Martin does a fantastic job of using market statistics to back up his theories and observations.
Nitpicks include a slow start. The Third Screen‘s introduction and first chapter were repetitive, and could stand for some editorial cuts. In addition, the Pepsi Refresh case study was very questionable based on the actual business results.
However, don’t let these small items dissuade you. From the perspective of an online marketer and a former wireless reporter, this book was impressive. The Third Screen is a fantastic primer on mobile, and is a must read for any interactive professional.