Is Mobile World Congress Still Relevant?


Key technology players are well into the midst of their annual pilgrimage to Barcelona, Spain for Mobile World Congress (MWC) that runs until 2nd March. While traditionally dominated by smartphone innovation, a combination of ongoing me-too innovations, a declining market and a very noisy event is leaving many to question the relevance of breaking news at MWC. 

Interestingly, a number of companies have chosen to bypass the event for important announcements – take Samsung, for example. The South Korean electronics company has put off the launch of its key mobile product range – the Galaxy S series – for the first time ever. While this could possibly signify a safe approach in light of its recent hardware issues, it did suggest that the next Galaxy S product launch will likely take place at the end of March. Google, a brand synonymous with mobile, is aiming for airtime much later this year with its next Pixel launch. Chinese manufacturers such as Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi do not even have MWC as a priority in their calendars, with no launches planned during the event. Is MWC still relevant?


In short – yes, I believe that MWC is still relevant if you look at it as part of your storytelling journey. While it has always been the place to unveil new smartphone innovations – and still is to some extent - there’s also been a shift. Some of this year’s keynote speakers include Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and VICE Media CEO Shane Smith, both content producers - a first in what used to be a mobile-telecoms only event. Additionally, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and the European Commission will be delivering keynotes on the 5G economy. How we regulate, consume and create content is opening up so many new opportunities in the world of mobile.  These are the game changers. What they do will alter how we use our phones in far bigger ways than a new device with extended battery life. MWC continues to provide a platform for the wider eco-system to come together and talk more about long-term future developments and less about new smartphones.  The question is how brands will evolve their storytelling to maximise this new and unchartered opportunity. 


What has also been interesting to watch in both the lead-up and with conversations to date is that not one brand focused on telling great stories. We continue to see the same old product push. With such a great platform for high visibility amongst relevant audiences, brands need to do more to tell stories and bring their brand purpose and narratives to life in a more meaningful and engaging way. Yes MWC is about the product, but if brands only focus on product they will not differentiate themselves from others who also talk about product. Those brands that can elevate their narrative to be about bigger shifts and trends in the industry and what that means for their customers to operate in a connected, content-rich world will be those that win in the long-term. Brands must connect with consumers across every touchpoint using a variety of relevant content that resonates (not purely ‘sell, sell, sell’) in order to build brand preference. In fact, Nokia’s announcement has resonated with so many people largely because the brand strategized on nostalgia. In a time where VR is becoming a normality, it’s heartening to see how everyone is excited at the good old Snake game making a comeback. Given the dependency and reliance on technology, technology brands have a bigger opportunity to evolve their narrative and highlight the human centric aspects that technology brings.

Over the years we’ve been monitoring MWC, we have seen many broader industry trends break before the technology vendors started selling solutions. So the opportunity is twofold: one, own the narrative before others do; two be part of the wider conversation through emotional and entertaining content, not product news alone.