Mobile Phone Addiction – Marketing Heaven or Social Irresponsibility

Smartphones are addictive. Just look around you during your commute. Virtually everyone on trains and buses have their necks bent, looking at their phones.

Picture taken from news article

The picture above is a very typical scene aboard the trains of Singapore. A 2017 article by the Straits Times reported that Singaporeans spend an average 3 hours and 12 minutes on their phones daily. This is great news to marketers and many companies are altering their marketing strategies to tap on this trend.

There are many techniques of mobile marketing. Some of the most common ones are:

In-app mobile marketing
This is common in mobile games where the user has to watch an advertisement before being allowed to proceed.

Push notifications
Push notifications are messages displayed on mobile devices by third-party apps that are not running on the phone.

Use of bright colours
Studies have shown that the human eye gravitates towards bright colours. Many well known companies have changed their app designs to be brighter to attract more attention.

QR codes
QR codes aim to bridge the virtual world with reality. Customers scan a QR code with their phones and the code redirects the user to the intended message or advertisement.

The rise in smartphone use looks promising for mobile marketers but one can argue about the ethical concerns of these strategies.

Image result for using phone while driving

Mobile apps are typically designed to be addictive, wrestling the control people have over their phone usage. A 2019 article reported that the risk of a fatal car crash was 66 % higher when the driver was using a phone. The article also mentioned that more than 800 crash deaths on United States roads in 2017 could be attributed to drivers texting or using their phones for things other than having phone calls.

Phone addiction in young people has even been reported to cause mental issues like depression. Correlations between suicidal thoughts and extended hours of phone use have also been observed.

Related image

These reports have opened my eyes to the dangers of incredibly successful mobile marketing strategies. In a perfect world, marketers would understand the ethical costs of their actions and adjust their strategies accordingly. We, however, do not live in such a world. In the meantime, I am going to download an app to curb my iPhone addiction, oh the irony.

Join the Conversation

8 Comments

  1. It was a good and easy read & I have gained many new insights from it 😊 Back in the Nokia, Blackberry, Sony Ericsson era, who would have known that mobile phones would evolve so much & made such a huge impact in our daily lives! – I didn’t know that there are so many fatal car crash when drivers are using their phone.
    I agree with your view that extensive use of mobile phone can lead to addiction & eventually, mental issues. Personally, I am an Android user and I use Android Pay almost every day – for food, shopping and transport as it is very convenient and do not have to worry about having not enough cash in the wallet. After reading your blog post, I realised I should limit my phone usage to prevent addiction from happening!
    If you have the time, do hop over to my blog (https://digitalmarketingwithmichelle.home.blog) as I discussed about the Classifications of Mobile Marketing Applications 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words Michelle! I, too use my phone everyday and find myself checking my phone even when there aren’t any notifications. I think that this habit can be socially damaging as nowadays, people check their phones even when they are in a social setting.

      I think that the first iPhone was the start of the smartphone craze (https://www.businessinsider.sg/smartphone-obsession-is-like-the-obesity-epidemic-psychologist-says-2017-11/?r=US&IR=T). People were in awe of its features and capabilities and it really, in the words of the late Steve Jobs, ‘reinvented the phone’.

      We should all make conscious efforts to cut back on our smartphone usage. I am a firm believer of “living in the moment” and smartphones are ironically disconnecting us with the real world.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. With the phone being so integrated into our life nowadays, do you think its addiction is inevitable? Is it ethical for marketers to leverage on such addiction, for example, in-game purchases on Candy Crush that raked millions of revenue?

    Check out my blog and let me know what do you think!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The addiction rates of smartphones are unbelievably high. Reports from “bank my cell” show that the average smartphone user checks their phone 63 times a day, and 86% of people check their phone when speaking with friends and family (https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/smartphone-addiction/#chapter1).

      I think that this addiction is not going away any time soon with the cultural emphasis of social media and connectivity. The only way “Problematic smartphone use” can be curbed globally is with massive cultural shifts and right education. Smart phone addiction should be treated seriously like any other forms of addiction.

      I do not agree with the way marketers leverage mobile addiction to obtain revenue. Tactics like push notifications and excessive dynamic pricing raise eyebrows and ethical debates (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-27/dynamic-pricing-retailers-using-artificial-intelligence/8638340). There are, however, little reasons for marketers to forgo potential profits for these subjective issues. I think that for now, these practices will continue until the general culture norms shift.

      Like

  3. This was a thought-provoking post! With smartphone addiction rates on the rise, I can see why people are starting to point fingers on who should be blamed. Who do you think should be held accountable for mobile phone addiction and to what extent is it the marketers’ responsibility?

    Like

    1. Thanks for your kind compliment! Indeed, no one wants to admit culpability for this awful phenomenon – yet this is an uncomfortable topic that we desperately need to address.

      I believe there isn’t a single entity that can be held solely accountable – the responsibility is shared amongst various stakeholders, including the government, the marketers, parents (in the case of smartphone addiction in adolescents), and most significantly the consumers themselves. There is only so much social responsibility that marketers can and will practise to avoid the ramifications of causing addiction amongst their users. Ultimately, we must understand that as a corporate entity, generating revenue will always be their priority and it is in their interests to increase consumer usage – discouraging addiction actually conflicts with their primary agenda.

      As such, the onus may be on the other stakeholders to bridge the gap. For instance, the government and relevant authorities can target mobile addiction at the population level via campaigns and public education. Did you know that the National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) at the Institute of Mental Health offers a ‘Day Group’ that helps teens wean off excessive mobile and internet usage via group counselling sessions (https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1037/help-your-child-untangle-from-the-web)? They also have a hotline for internet addiction!

      Of course, parents and guardians also play a crucial role as role models for their children. Nevertheless, my opinion is that it ultimate boils down to the individual to practise responsible mobile usage – after all, we live in a society that advocates and empowers us to take responsibility for our own health!

      Like

  4. I really enjoyed this read! Indeed, smartphone addiction and its inherent dangers are increasingly pertinent issues that we need to recognise and address. How can mobile marketers play their role in being socially responsible?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my content. Unfortunately, mobile marketers are often profit-driven and may not always observe social responsibility until mishaps happen.

      For instance, a study titled ‘Death by Pokémon Go’ conducted by two professors from Purdue University (https://www.nber.org/papers/w24308) estimated that the hit mobile phone game has caused more than 100,000 road traffic accidents. To mitigate this, the game’s developer, Niantic, decided to introduce a warning stating ‘Pokémon Go’ should not be played while driving’ that pops up whenever it detects players attempting to play while driving. They also introduced an update to the scanning technology that made it less likely for Pokémon to appear when players are driving.

      I think that such efforts and initiatives by the app developer should be commended. Although these features may not help to curb the gaming addiction, it does at least help to minimise adverse outcomes from playing the game. Perhaps this is where a reasonable compromise can be struck, and mobile marketers can look to Pokémon Go as a learning point. It will always be in the companies’ best interests to make their game addictive, but they can certainly play their part in creating a safe gaming environment for their players.

      Like

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: