Jul 7th 2016

Preparing for Mobile World Congress (MWC) – what does Google Trends tell us?

Every January from about the second week, after we’ve all recovered from the Christmas and New Year festivities, the team at Babel receive a certain type of call from companies attending Mobile World Congress (MWC). More often than not we also get those calls in February and they go something like this:

“I understand Babel represents a number of companies in the mobile sector at MWC and we’d also like your support. We’ve invested in exhibition space, we’ve spent considerable sums of money on design and build, the flights for our top team are booked and we’ve put them up in hotels in Barcelona. Now we want to make the most of that investment by generating lots of attention amongst media, analysts and our target customers – what can you do for us?”

At the end of that sentence our collective hearts sink. It’s not that we can’t do anything – we can and do, but we could have done much more if we’d had the opportunity to start earlier. Let’s have a look at what Google Trends says about search interest in MWC over a full year. The chart below shows the trend in web searches on “Mobile World Congress” over a full year and it’s a good proxy for when those in the mobile sector are taking an interest in the event. The big spike is obvious but what is less obvious is when interest starts to lift. It isn’t in February when the event takes place and it isn’t even in January. It’s actually in November with a small but clear uplift that is repeated every year at the same time.

In reality, experienced MWC exhibitors will have started their PR, marketing and communications activity well before then. The ‘call for papers’ for instance, closes mid-September. The trick with MWC is to make sure everybody knows about your presence, and wants to meet with you, well before the event. Even the smallest companies exhibiting will have shelled out £100-150k and if you are running around immediately before (or even during) the event trying to organise meetings with media, analysts, customers and prospects, that investment is going to be wasted. Almost everyone of any importance has a full diary of meetings before they walk through the doors of the Fira on the first day.

Take a look at the chart below – the trend line is very similar to the first chart but this time it’s showing a news search rather than a web search. Once again, there’s a huge peak at the time of the event but, particularly for smaller and mid-sized companies, it’s the attention in January and early February that is going to spark interest amongst customers and prospects. Unfortunately, just because the media are publishing pieces in January and February, it doesn’t mean you can wait until then. The lead times for most of the major media titles extend on the run up to MWC and so a significant proportion of the coverage that appears – news, features, by-lines etc. – has actually been secured pre-Christmas.

The Babel team will be representing a wide range of clients at Mobile World Congress again in 2017 – we’ll produce results for them all but the earlier we start, the better the result. There can be nothing worse than walking away from MWC with the knowledge that you’ve just invested a big chunk of your budget and you aren’t going to get a sensible return.