Making People Cry Isn't a Good Nonprofit Mobile Strategy

I write a lot about the important role emotion plays in cause marketing. If you don't lead with emotion, you're toast. I also talk a lot about mobile technology, which will be a key driver of cause marketing in the years ahead. But here's the rub: emotion and smartphones may not be a good mix.

That's my conclusion after reading a post by Mediapost's Steve Smith on research by A .K. Pradeep, founder and CEO of Nielsen NeuroFocus, on the connection between brainwave analysis and ad response. I won't repeat what Steve has done a fine job of summarizing, but I will share what I like to call his Famous Last Words - that thing we should remember after all else is forgotten.

As screen size decreases so does the viewer's emotional response to what they are watching.

Think about the implications for nonprofit marketing. You've worked hard to create a strong emotional message with your nonprofit videos but on smartphones it will fall on blind eyes.

So, if you can't make people cry on their smartphones, what should your goals be?

Get their attention. Just because you can't engage people emotionally on smartphones, that doesn't mean you can't get their attention. You might need to grab them with something totally unexpected, or emphasize another component such as audio. The background music to a video, among other things, may play a bigger role in getting and keeping a user's attention.

Timing is everything. The impact of emotional messages depends on where and when it's viewed. This makes sense to me. When I had the chance to add a QR Code on a pinup sold at the register I didn't link it to a video on my nonprofit. Who has time to watch a video when you have to lug the groceries out to the car? Instead, I linked it to a question and answer page on the program so people could quickly find out to what they just gave a buck to - a common question/complaint after shoppers donate at the register. But you might be more successful with a video if the QR Code is on a cause product that people can scan after they get home and have the time and inclination for a good cry.

Focus on tablets. Nielson's research shows that some of the emotion lost with smartphones is restored on their big brother, tablets. Nonprofits may want two mobile strategies. One for tablets, the other for smartphones. That latter may require a more practical, utilitarian approach. If sales of Apple's iPad 3 are a good indicator (3 million sold in 3 days compared to the 80 days it took the first iPad to sell 3 million units) the word mobile, at least for nonprofits, should mean tablet.

Of course, Nielsen's research isn't the final word on emotion and mobile technology. A lot depends on what emotion is being engaged .

I'd love to talk about this more, but my 9-year old just sent a video to my phone that he says will make me LMAO. Gotta go.