Even with nearly 700 million mobile phone subscribers in China and 3G networks being offered nationwide by all the Chinese carriers, it's astonishing that most marketing professionals still carry a great deal of misconceptions about the mobile medium and how to use it to enhance their ad campaigns.
In my daily work helping marketing agencies with their mobile solutions, I hear the same four questions from most marketing professionals I talk with. Here's a quick reality check on these concerns to let you take better advantage of this effective new medium.
Myth 1: Mobile marketing is just SMS spam, right?
Reality: Wrong. Mobile marketing is not SMS spam. Unlike email marketing, the Chinese government has already officially banned spamming SMSes since March 2008, which means the companies who are now selling mobile phone numbers are not doing so legally unless in a co-promotion with another company. The response rate to a pure push campaign is also extremely low, less than 0.1 percent.
Mobile is very different from any other medium due to its personal nature. Marketers always need to bear this in mind when thinking about it as a media platform. I'm sure you don't want your brands to be associated with the word 'spam'.
However, push to a client's existing database is ok. The good news is that it is a great way to do CRM. The response rate is much higher in this case, usually more than 25 percent.
Also you can create an SMS opt-in campaign, by placing a call-to-action on your traditional media to let users interact with your brand by texting a pre-defined keyword to a short code, and get responses after.
Myth 2: ARE there enough mobile internet users in China to make an impact?
Reality: According to the latest survey from CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center), by June 2009, among the 340 million internet users in China, 40 percent of them will use mobile devices to access the internet -- about 155 million in total.
Many people think the mobile internet is merely about using a mobile phone to access 'www' sites. Yes, it is an option, but it is primarily about using mobile devices to access mobile sites -- the ones made specifically for the smaller mobile screen, and where the content is perfectly relevant for people on-the-go.
Today, China's 155 million mobile internet users already frequently use their phones to read news, check stocks, download ringtones, pictures, even watch TV, stream music, videos, even use mobile banking services for shopping. Ten percent of Kaixin's (a leading Chinese SNS site) users use mobile to access their personal homepage, update their status, entertain themselves by stealing their friends' vegetables, feeding their pets, etc.
Therefore, brands can reach this group of people via targeted banners, and engage them immediately while on the go.
Myth 3: There is not much to be done on mobile today because there is no 3G yet in China, right?
Reality: Wrong. Many people ask me what opportunities their brand will have when 3G is launched. They think they can't do mobile marketing with the current mobile network because 3G is still at an early stage in China today, and therefore the internet speed must be very slow.
Compared with the current widely deployed EDGE network, 3G will not be as fast as you expect. The most popular and successful mobile value added services in most countries, including Japan, US and Europe, where 3G was launched couple of years ago, are all non-3G related, while representative 3G services such as video calls have never been successful anywhere.
The current network already allows us to do most of the interactions on mobile, such as reading news, checking stocks, downloading games, etc. Same for brands -- most interactions that you want to engage your audience with are already 100 percent supported by the current network and can run very well, such as product intro, store locators on Google Maps with click-to-call functions, downloading wallpapers, uploading pictures, downloading games or applications, writing comments, voting, inviting friends, etc.
We believe the trend on mobile is the mobile internet, which you can start today, so why wait?
Myth 4: Why do I need to build a mobile internet site when I already have an internet site?
Reality: Because most www sites can't open correctly on mobile, especially the ones with Flash. Even if they do, the words will be extremely tiny and users will have to move from one side to another on the small screen. Mobile sites are more suitable for mobile screens, because they are specially designed and written for them and the content is also more suitable for people on the go.
The other reason that you should have a separate mobile site is that more and more people have started to step into the mobile space, using mobile for non-voice purposes. Mobile has also has become the second interactive screen after the PC.
Thanks to the mobile phone's attributes such as its personal nature, mobility, and being always online, it is actually a perfect platform for interaction, as well as a perfect new media channel to reach different target audiences that can't be covered by other media channels, especially those who are on the go, and engage them immediately by providing instant content and interaction.
To understand how to exactly to use mobile for interactions and targeted reach, please read my next article about '5 easy steps to make your brands 'mobile'.'