The wait is finally over for Apple's iPhone 3G and, once again, all of the hype surrounding its arrival has generated significant interest among both consumers (who can't wait to get their hands on it) and marketers (who want their brands on it). Along with building demand for the device, the latest round of buzz trumpeting the new iPhone has also reinvigorated the debate amongst marketers about the role that mobile should be playing in their media plans, as Apple has again demonstrated that mobile is evolving into a powerful personal media platform.
For brands faced with the challenges of increased competition, fragmentation of audiences and intensifying pressure to deliver quantifiable results, it is getting harder and harder to ignore the case for mobile as a viable marketing channel. Even so, there remains confusion among marketers as to how to most effectively execute mobile campaigns.
As with any new media channel, it is inevitable that some first-time mobile marketers will be left feeling underwhelmed by their initial campaign results. Such disappointments could be due to poor execution, missteps or simply bad marketing. However, given the relative newness of the mobile channel, much of the heartburn associated with the execution of campaigns is likely due to the marketers' lack of familiarity with established industry best practices, as well as overexposure to industry hype.
Fortunately, now that thousands of mobile campaigns have been executed, we have the benefit of experience as our guide. And in my experience, many of the frustrations and hiccups that occur in mobile campaign execution could be avoided if marketers adhered to a few simple guidelines when executing their campaigns. They are as follows:
1. Avoid sexy for the sake of sexy. When it comes to new media channels, many marketers tend to fixate on being the first to develop the most innovative use of a new technology, rather than focusing on creatively leveraging it to solve an existing marketing problem or to meet a campaign's business objectives. This often leads to attempts to leapfrog proven approaches and solutions in favor of fringe solutions that someone recently heard or read about -- often to the detriment of campaign objectives.
Presently in the mobile marketing world, there are few applications as sexy as location-based Bluetooth campaigns that capture consumers as they walk by and deliver a branded message to their phones. However, in the U.S., the reality is that most Bluetooth campaigns just don't live up to their promise. This is not because the technology can't function as intended; rather, most consumers simply are not well versed in configuring and synching their phones with Bluetooth appliances. To make matters worse, in some cases the carriers simply disable Bluetooth functions on some of their most attractive phones. Just try to synch your iPhone with any Bluetooth device other than your hands- free earpiece.
Although other options are catching on, SMS text messaging remains the most widely used mobile marketing tool in the U.S. among both consumers and marketers. According to the Nielsen Company, 77 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers used SMS by the end of 2007. And despite the fact that the technology is sometimes dismissed by marketers because messages are text-only and have a 160-character limitation, SMS can be used as a powerful tool for creative engagement. Further, although an SMS interaction starts with a text exchange, where it goes from there is up to you. Within a text message, you can start a web rich media experience, offer video or other multimedia content, or even initiate a phone call.
2. Remember: Consumers can't respond if they don't get your call to action. Recent studies indicate that one in three U.S. consumers have seen mobile advertising on their phones. However, even though mobile marketing is gaining awareness among consumers, the channel is not yet at the point where marketers can simply tag their media campaigns with a keyword and short code and expect a significant amount of consumers to opt in. Given the extremely personal nature of mobile phones, consumers still need to feel that there is a compelling reason for them to share their phone number with a brand. Additionally, most consumers are still concerned about the potential for spam and other abuses by unscrupulous marketers.
To get the best results from mobile investments, marketers must use the channel in ways that take advantage of its unique capabilities to motivate consumers to participate in their campaigns. Such campaigns don't always have to be focused on sweepstakes and freebies. However, mobile should play a prominent and creative role in campaigns. So instead of simply displaying short codes or domain names at the bottom of screens or print ads, make them part of a clear call to action that engages the consumer in a worthwhile interaction. In addition to getting real-time feedback on the performance of your campaigns, you might also be surprised by how many consumers are really interested in your brand.
3. Develop mobile content for mobile consumers. Consumers who are on the go and accessing a brand from their mobile devices typically do not want to download an entire corporate website to get the information they are seeking. More often, they're looking for relevant information packaged for mobile consumption to aid in making a decision, buying a product or finding your brand's nearest location. Further, most mobile phones simply are not designed to navigate the complex and often graphics-intensive websites built for a PC user experience. Their screen and keypad sizes are limited, and they lack a mouse for easy navigation through content-heavy websites. Moreover, even the most web-friendly devices, such as Apple's iPhone, still can be frustrating for consumers trying to get quick access to information that is buried deep within the site.
To execute a successful campaign that includes rich media such as web pages, the content should be designed with the needs of the mobile user in mind. Mobile web development often means developing WAP sites or mobile landing pages capable of recognizing a consumer's phone type and pushing back content that is optimized for the best possible experience.
4. Targeting and relevancy of messaging are requirements. In terms of consumer usage habits, mobile is no different than other media in the respect that different consumer groups consume and utilize the medium differently. However, due to the extremely personal nature of mobile phones and the fact that the channel is completely opt-in, targeting your message to your audience and their mobile behaviors is crucial for campaign success.
Most major brands have already recognized mobile's potential as a cost-effective platform for engaging the coveted 18-34 age demographic. After all, these consumers are tech-savvy, have money to burn and rely heavily on their mobile devices to keep in touch, stay informed and, increasingly, to access entertainment sources. But the mobile channel can do much more than reach the youth demographic. In fact, there is growing evidence that -- if positioned properly -- mobile can also be an extremely useful vehicle for connecting with other audiences. For example:
- A recent study from Insight Express demonstrates that baby boomers are not far behind their younger counterparts when it comes to purchasing and using new mobile features and functionalities, including the latest high-tech devices and data services. Thus, baby boomers are excellent targets for brand engagements.
- According to Nielsen Mobile, Hispanics now represent the fastest-growing and youngest-skewing U.S. mobile segment -- with a higher average revenue per user (ARPU) than any other demographic group. Also, English-speaking Hispanics reportedly are the most tech-savvy mobile demographic, sporting the most sophisticated devices for rich mobile media interactions.
- African-American mobile subscribers are the largest purchasers of premium content services such as ringtones, wallpapers and games. Additionally, a recent study by GfK NOP says that African-American consumers also have the highest levels of mobile advertising recall of all demographic groups, which suggests that they might be more receptive to mobile advertising messages.
Regardless of your target demographic, the key for mobile campaign success is to engage consumers with creative messaging that is relevant to their lives while taking into account their mobile lifestyles.
If recent trends persist and the shift toward smarter mobile devices continues -- as is expected -- the role of mobile within the greater media mix will continue to expand in the foreseeable future. As adoption of this new channel grows, the principles that set great mobile marketing campaigns apart from good ones will be the same as in every other media channel. So remember: Ignore the technology hype, understand your audience, tailor your message to that audience and make it easy for your audience to receive your message.