Mobile World Congress 2015: Don't Flat Pack your PR

Mobile World Congress is the biggest mobile conference in the world with stands from Samsung, HTC and Sony, and keynotes from Facebook. Here are some tales from the event so far.

Tales from MWC with Peter Bowles
Tales from MWC with Peter Bowles
1. Super Sunday
With launches from Samsung, HTC, Huawei and LG on the Sunday, the day before the event was busy for PR teams and journalists slicing up which event to go to. You have to feel a bit sorry for Qualcomm’s PR team – it must have seemed a great idea to bus journalists to the last day of F1 testing. But with so many launches on the Sunday, most journos stayed with the big events. Sad really, as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor was, arguably, the one big advancement of mobile devices under the hood (read: better battery life).

2. Expect the unexpected
Planning for MWC for stand-builders starts as soon as this year’s show has ended, and for PRs many months later. However good your planning, this year showed many new entrants raising their head and getting coverage. While the acceleration of car tech was no surprise, Ikea opening its warehouses to wireless charging was a superb way for a lifestyle brand to make a mark in what is essentially a trade show, providing a base for further comms activity later in the year. 
The best PR will be able to react to developments during the show, not just what’s planned to happen.

3. Imitation is the sincerest form
The Samsung and HTC events talked a lot about ‘Utopia’ with massive IMAX-sized screens playing orchestral music set to visuals of melted gold. A lot of the launch events were very slightly pretentious. The phones looked, well, pretty similar to last year’s with incremental physical changes - with a notable move to metal. HTC argued it had gone for classic design (wanting to create an icon like Porsche), while Samsung added not only a curved edge, but included a unibody metal design copying HTC’s innovation in this area.

4. Urban… so ‘mainstream’
In the past we’ve seen a lot of focus on people and case studies, reaching its pinnacle with Samsung’s Unpacked S4 launch held on the broadway stage. This year's aesthetic was all about gadget porn, with video not far off an M&S food advert. I missed seeing young people with tattoos, piercings and ZZ top beards being all ‘millennial’ and acting like Jesse from Breaking Bad. Judging by the focus on luxurious pontification, they’ve probably all gone into banking now. As ever Apple eschewed the show, so brands appeared to be pre-empting its luxury Apple Watch push later this year.

5. Mobile with a small ‘m’
The show charts the continuation of mobile’s evolution. It’s no longer just about the handsets, but about everything that’s attached to create product differentiation. IoT (Internet of things) was the big buzzword with food 3D printers, VR headsets and connected cars all making headlines. The social media win of launch day goes to Huawei, which got nearly as many tweets as #TheDress for having a decent, round smartwatch and trending worldwide.

As the industry soaks up sangria in the Spanish sun, it’s no place to be relaxed about your brand's place in mobile. Google, coming from a service background, is now competing not only with handsets but also with carriers. 

Ikea and other brands will continue to muscle into future shows. 

All of this, however, shows that MWC is the platform to make statements about your intentions in the mobile industry.

Peter Bowles is the Co-chief executive of Dynamo PR

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