Mobile will be the next difference-maker
What if there was a device that allowed a 2008 presidential candidate to speak directly with a vast audience anywhere in order to mobilize them toward polls or instantly create opportunities for fund raising? Now, what if this futuristic device was already carried by more than 230 million Americans and was an everyday necessity? This is not tomorrow's technology. This is today's cell phone. While corporate America has already recognized the power of utilizing the mobile channel to achieve its marketing goals, political campaigns have still yet to discover the many capabilities currently available from this medium. This story sounds familiar, so the ending can be foreseen: The new mobile media environment will play a critical role in the 2008 presidential election, just as the internet and email influenced the outcome of the 2000 and 2004 elections. Further, the first campaign to effectively employ a mobile marketing program will have a distinctive advantage over its competitors.
There were more than 18.7 billion text messages sent in December 2006, according to the CTIA, showing that consumers are using their phones for more than just calling friends and family. They continue to embrace the many functions such as text messaging and the mobile internet that are available through the phones they already own.
Applying these behaviors to political campaigns, every "Rudy for President" poster at an appearance should have a call-to-action to enable thousands of voters to pull out their phones, join the candidate's crusade, and easily invite their own friends to support the cause. Each "John Edwards for America" TV commercial should supply simple directions to allow viewers to use their phone to instantly hear the speech the candidate gave in New Hampshire yesterday, and donate money with the touch of a key. Not having these elements in effect translates into missed opportunities for the candidates. Instead, the campaigns can maximize the value of their marketing and continue to build the candidate's base by leveraging their existing media buys to trigger direct response from the voter. Mobile marketing for candidates is about more than just sending blast text messages. It is about bringing the candidate closer to voters and putting unparalleled access to information, literally, into voters' hands.
And the winner is...
The technologies to deliver mobile messages are widely available, but it is the understanding of how to use the individual services to ellicit a reaction from the consumer that determines the effectiveness of any campaign. Just as the candidates carefully craft their public messages to set themselves apart, those same principles need to apply in the mobile medium as well. Candidates are competing for the attention of a consumer in a very crowded, media-rich world. Providing the right mobile elements, to complement other media, allows the voter direct contact to the candidate and their platform. This means instant access to a candidate's full point of view on health care reform, for example. It does not mean using placid text message reminders to visit a PC website later. Good mobile campaigns are about capturing the attention of the consumer in the moment and letting each user easily navigate to the information they need.
Effective mobile marketing can offer such a rich, personalized experience for voters and reach such a large audience that omitting it from a political media strategy shows an over-reliance on campaign tactics of the past. The mobile phone has the audio, imagery and video of TV. It has the access to the on-demand content and interactivity of the internet, and is available in the U.S. voters' pockets. 230 million potential mini-billboards seem awfully attractive. These are not concepts of the future. They are the opportunities that are waiting for the resourceful candidate today.
Jordan Greene is VP, head of mobile marketing at MindMatics. .