NEW YORK: Unilever, the FMCG giant, believes mobile's main roles include everything from ads and apps to connecting the physical and digital worlds – all of which must be tied back to its wider marketing activity.

Babs Rangaiah, Unilever's vp/global media innovation and ventures, discussed this subject while speaking at the Mobile Media Upfront 2014, a conference held in New York during Internet Week.

"Basically, there are four key things that we look at with mobile: it is bridging the physical and digital; it is apps, it is advertising; and it is sites – making sites mobile-friendly and mobile-specific," he told delegates.

"We look at those four areas and think about the plan in terms of connecting those four pillars with the other aspects of the overall marketing mix.

"Because it's never about one thing anymore; it's really about integrating all that you're doing." (For more, including the three main qualities needed by mobile platforms, read Warc's exclusive report: Unilever's most valuable tips for mobile marketing.)

The significance of this channel for brands, he continued, is based partly around scale, with usage booming in mature markets, while many consumers in fast-growth economies rely on their phones to access the web.

"A third of the world is online today; the next two-thirds will get online, mostly via mobile, and mostly in the developing and emerging markets, which for us – and for most multinationals – is a huge area of importance for growth," he said.

Smartphones also now fulfil an extremely diverse range of functions, from making calls to instant messaging, watching video and listening to music.

"Besides scale, it's the interactivity; it's the connection; it's the communication; it's the geographic importance," said Rangaiah.

Nowhere is mobile's influence being felt to a greater extent than on social media, a shift impacting both the industry's major platforms and the brands currently leveraging them to reach shoppers.

"Anything that's happening online today, you have to be thinking about mobile. If you think about social media, it's almost all happening on mobile," said Rangaiah.

"You look at companies like Facebook that have completely rebuilt their company to be mobile-first," he added. "We're doing a lot of social with Facebook and Twitter and whatnot, and most of that is happening on mobile now."

Data sourced from Warc