Media is born from technology, and it's this media that interests audiences, not the technology iteself. Americans schedule their time to watch the television shows that were created to entertain them. They do not sit staring at the electrons, lights and sound coming out of the plastic box in their living rooms. The same basic construct holds true for other media. But with mobile marketing, it seems that many marketers are still fascinated by the pretty lights and sounds that the mobile phone can give, instead of focusing on how to creatively utilize the medium to achieve a brand's business goals.
The mobile industry is really quite evolved. There is a definable audience of over 240 million mobile U.S. consumers who actively exchange voice, text and data with each other. The consumer only cares about the content of those interactions -- not how they occur. However, brands continue to deliver campaigns that seem to be more focused on the functionality than content and purpose. Agencies have shown these clients that they can send text messages, but not how to effectively market themselves on a consumer's mobile phone. In this process, the brands are presenting bland or incomprehensible mobile marketing campaigns, robbing them of the possibilities and direct consumer reach that are available. They forgot to create the show for the consumer.
While there are plenty of articles that try to supply the philosophical or theoretical approach to mobile marketing, here are three real-life guidelines to avoid the pitfalls that have plagued brands, ad agencies and carriers since the inception of the mystical concept of mobile marketing.
Know your partner
Not all mobile marketing companies are created equal, regardless of the heavy technology jargon that their sales representatives use to make themselves sound like experts. Nowadays, seemingly anyone with one tech guy and a text message aggregator contract with companies such as SinglePoint or mBlox can call himself a mobile marketing agency. However, this does not enable these "agencies" to create mobile websites or interactive voice environments-- two of the other primary consumer uses of the mobile device. More importantly, the technological piece is merely one necessary component in mobile marketing. It is the ability to creatively wield it that sets one company apart from another. In choosing a partner, do your research on the company's capabilities, background and clients, and ensure that their approach is in line with your overall marketing needs.
Know the science, not the science fiction
It would be great to send and receive virtually anything from a phone with unending battery life, as Jack Bauer does on "24." Similarly, any sporting or concert arena would love to stream live video of their events to any handset on the planet. Of these fictional examples, one was portrayed on TV in primetime, and the other was told as fact to a media colleague recently by a vendor trying to make a sale.
In theory, a brand can use a Bluetooth tower to broadcast its media-rich message directly to consumers' handsets as they pass. However, the reality is that not all Bluetooth-enabled handsets can actually connect to this service, either by design or manufacturing limitation. Case in point is Verizon Wireless. Verizon has intentionally crippled the Bluetooth capabilities on its handsets so that they can primarily interact with a headset or a car audio system. So if a brand were trying to interact via a Bluetooth promotion, Verizon subscribers would see continuous attempts to connect to their phones with a clickable button that would lead nowhere. This is one of the many restrictions for Bluetooth campaigns. Still, virtually every brand manager who has entertained the idea of mobile marketing has heard at least one agency sing the naïve (or worse, deceptive) praises of using Bluetooth services.
Know your campaign, from start to finish
Thinking through the consumer's overall experience is imperative for an interactive mobile campaign to be successful. Reebok recently ran a campaign in New York City that forgot to do this. It asked consumers to text in their running stories, and promoted this campaign by saturating subway trains. Some brand manager made a name for himself by using popular catch phrases such as "mobile marketing" and "user-generated content." He missed that it is very difficult to tell a whole story in the160 characters allotted by text messaging. Worse, there is no mobile phone reception in the underground subway! Mobile marketing is about immediate response. It is about buying the candy bar in the check-out lane. Otherwise, the consumer could just use his PC when he gets home. Reebok seemed to be so enamored with just doing a mobile campaign that it forgot to consider the consumer's experience with the brand.
Mobile marketing opens such a wide gamut of opportunities, enabling brands to interact with consumers as consumers do with each other. Mobile marketing can let the consumer be part of a campaign or provide a highly-directed branding message. It can drive traffic or purchase or activity. The medium gives brands the consumer access they need, and not just functionality that so many have.
Jordan Greene is VP, head of mobile marketing at MindMatics. .