Going modular

Smart technology has had an incredible impact on marketing and advertising, but as strategies become modular, the message should remain aligned.

This is the era of customisation. From the sneakers on our feet to the interior of our cars. Apps have transformed our telephones into indispensable tools that facilitate (and some would possibly argue even control) our lives. One of the effects of this is that products, processes, even the way we sometimes think has become fragmented – modular.

Google Ara – work smart, play smart

Tapping into this zeitgeist, Google recently announced the 2017 launch of its new modular phone concept Google Ara. Incorporating the concept of Dutch design graduate Dave Hakkens’ 2013 Phonebloks concept, Google Ara is a smartphone built around a central module board. Separate modules offer a wide range of capabilities, from high quality video or audio recording, to scanners, etc., allowing users to fully customize their smartphone. However, unlike the original concept, which offered removable basic components, such as battery, screen and microphone aimed at reducing electronic waste, these elements are incorporated into Google’s device.


Fairphone – the ethical choice

Meanwhile, during this year’s London Design Week, held in June, the Dutch company Fairphone, presented its second generation modular smartphone, Fairphone 2. Fairphone is credited with launching the world’s first modular phone as far back as 2013. Although technology wise, it is doubtful that it will be any match for Google’s new baby, Fairphone’s USP is sustainability. Unlike Google Ara, almost all of the Fairphone 2 components are removable, including battery, screen, camera, etc., allowing users to replace broken parts and upgrade easily. Fairphone also focuses on ethical production, including sourcing minerals for production from mines that support local economies, rather than armed militias.


Media’s changing landscape

Modular communication has even impacted media strategies. Print, television, web and radio used to be the simple and clearly defined mediums for advertising and marketing, but the crossover between each area (interactive TV, on-demand TV, podcasts, streaming and social media, etc.) have made strategies a lot more complicated. No longer confined to four simple categories, they have become an intricate web of channels and options all interlinked. They have become modular. Never before has marketing been so refined or so precise as it allows brands to define and reach their target customers like never before.

However, like the aforementioned modular devices, the most vital thing for success is a strong, solid framework upon which to build. The lesson to be learned is that no matter how smart the technology, or how sustainable the device, just like the modular smartphone concept, modular communication must be synced to one clear message if it is to succeed.

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