I hate my phone and love it.

Check that; I love my phone and hate my kids’ phones.

Check that;  I love my phone and hate my kids’ phones except when I need to reach them but even then, I still kind of hate their phones because they insist on texting with initials and shorthand and emojis.

I always kind of figured the person “made” the phone but interesting research suggests Mark Twain’s antiquated proverb, “the clothes make the man” may have been more literal than he realized.

Researchers recruited students and pre-qualified them as having both a laptop and mobile phone that could be brought to the lab for the study.

Students were randomly assigned to use either their mobile or laptop during the experiment, which started by filling out a survey about their donation behavior – e.g. how often donate, what causes donate to, etc.

Then students were told the university was partnering with two local, children’s charities and they’d have a chance to show their support for one by liking their Facebook page.

Both charities were shown to each participant with the framing randomly being either,

  • individually customized (i.e., “Based on your unique values and preferences, we recommend _______ for you”)
  • or the popular option (i.e., “Based on what other participants chose, we recommend _______for you”)

Each person than chose their preferred charity.  When people were on their mobile devices they were much more likely to chose the individually customized charity.

What’s going on here?  The phone made people more self-focused, more attuned to their individuality and therefore, more interested in content aimed at them.   The researchers did many different manipulations of this with product choices and controlled for all manner of other explainers.

It does seem there is a device effect.  How does this bear on fundraising?  Well, not sure if you’ve checked out “device type” in your social analytics but damn few people use a laptop anymore. Usage is heavily, heavily weighted to mobile.

This means people seeing your charity ads should be more predisposed to tailored messaging that speaks to their values and sense of self.   On the flipside, folks looking at Facebook on their laptop may be more receptive to one-size-fits-all messaging.

We do a ton of online advertising and it’s always tailored and often against a one-size-fits all control.  I took a look at performance by device type to see if the control ads did better on desktop/laptop and if our tailored ones worked even better for mobile.

I didn’t see much there, it seems tailored usually beats one-size-fits-all and device type didn’t seem to matter.  But, worth looking at a bit more.