You’re never alone with a phone

Last month, the Catholic Church in Scotland launched a new kind of religious service – one which will allow Scotland’s 270,000 active Catholics to sign up to receive church news, requests for prayer and “heads-up” messages notifying them of op

You can be reached at any time of the day, wherever you are, and this makes the mobile phone the perfect marketing tool, but the medium needs to be used in the right way. By Martin Croft

Last month, the Catholic Church in Scotland launched a new kind of religious service – one which will allow Scotland’s 270,000 active Catholics to sign up to receive church news, requests for prayer and “heads-up” messages notifying them of opportunities to spread the message by contributing to radio talk shows, television phone-in programmes and the like.

The Church leadership estimates that around 20,000 regular subscribers will sign up to the service, which wags have already dubbed “pray as you go”.

Many readers will probably file this news under “amusing but irrelevant”, but actually it underlines just how much mobiles have become a part of our everyday lives – and just how powerful mobile marketing can be.

Young aren’t the only ones

Unfortunately, far too many marketers think that mobile is only valuable when reaching a young audience, primarily those aged between 14 and 24 who are obsessed with music, TV soaps, football and C-list celebrities, and who are only really likely to be excited by the next Crazy Frog record. So any marketers who are trying to reach a different target audience are in danger of losing out on the potential of mobiles without realising it.

In fact, the Office for National Statistics says that 83% of the UK population between the ages of 16 and 64 now have at least one mobile phone – and 23% of us have two active handsets, normally one for work and one for personal use.

A recent report from Continental Research on mobile phone ownership and usage during 2005 found that ownership was split equally between men and women; a quarter – 24% – of ABs had one, as did 34% of C1s and 21% of C2DEs. Despite what people may think, only 16% of 16- to 24-year-olds had one, rising to 19% of 25- to 34-year-olds and 21% of 35- to 44-year-olds. Ownership then tails off as ages rise, but it is significant that Continental found 15% of those over 65 had a mobile phone.

It is no wonder that mobile marketing is a hugely powerful way to get a message across – perhaps even the most powerful, some experts say. They argue that mobile phones have become so much a part of modern life that we are seldom without them, and they are seldom turned off.

But anyone planning a mobile campaign must also ensure that the strict rules governing consumer consent are adhered to. While voice calls are allowed unless the consumer has opted out – for example, by joining the Telephone Preference Service – other forms of electronic communication, such as SMS, MMS and Bluetooth, are only allowed if the consumer has given prior permission.

Chief executive officer of mobile technology provider Broadsystem, Caroline Worboys, says the mobile phone “is a highly personal device, and one of the few things people refuse to leave home without. We can be reached at any time of the day, wherever we may be, and this is what makes the mobile phone a perfect marketing tool”.

But she adds: “Communications must be targeted, permission-based and, above all, engaging in order to combat consumer aversion. Marketers need to take a mature, long-term approach that focuses on creating a dialogue with a customer, not just a monologue.”

Valerie Bozzetto, a director at Interactive Rights Management, the company founded by the team which created the interactive version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, says/ “Like any other media, mobile needs to be used in the right way, with the right campaign, the right message, and directed at the right person. The campaign also needs to sit comfortably with the overall marketing mix and cannot been seen as separate from the rest of the marketing strategy.”

Common currency

But in order for campaigns to be properly targeted and properly executed, media buyers need to have solid data to go on – a commonly accepted media “currency” which allows them to calculate and compare cost, reach and effectiveness both within the mobile marketing sector and across media sectors.

Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) UK chairman Nick Wiggin says that his organisation is currently working with the Mobile Data Association, which collects information on text messaging, and ABCElectronic, the specialist new media arm of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, on providing a regular survey into mobile usage patterns and attitudes. The MMA is also talking to the likes of Nielsen and Taylor Nelson Sofres about research into how to create a commonly accepted media currency. Wiggin says: “In the medium to long term, we will be providing information that will offer a currency so that the mobile medium will be measurable in the same way that TV and other media are.”

Stuart Maxwell, business development manager of ABCElectronic, says: “Every media market, in order to reach maturity and generate trust, must have some form of currency for media buyers to base decisions on.”

Armed with such a currency, it should become clear to all marketers that mobile marketing can work for every age group, social class and special interest group, if a campaign is properly planned, targeted and executed. At least, that is what many mobile marketing experts argue.

They point out that broadcast TV advertising used to be the dominant marketing communications medium because of its ability to reach out to millions of consumers in their own homes. Now, however, marketers can use mobile advertising to touch individual consumers wherever they may be – which frequently means at or close to the point-of-purchase – with tailored messages and bespoke content.

Avoid spamming

But those who think that mobile marketing means bombarding consumers with spam text messages inviting them to dial a premium-rate phone number should think again. That’s not mobile marketing at all, many in the industry claim categorically.

“The kids go for funky games and ringtones – most of the rest of us go for sensible things like paying our congestion charge by text or requesting a brochure online,” says Nick Fuller, an independent digital consultant and chairman of the Mobile Marketing Council of the Direct Marketing Association UK. Marketers who think mobile offers a real opportunity for outbound telemarketing are in for a rude awakening.

Where mobile marketing is really going to take off is in customer relationship management and in consumer-generated interactivity. Fuller cites a service developed by mobile marketing agency Incentivated which allows consumers to text requests for a local cab number: the service works out where the consumer is by tracking their phone and then texts them the number of the nearest cab firm. Of course, there is also the SMS version of Orange’s two-for-one film Orange Wednesdays promotion, developed by mobile agency Flytxt, where Fuller used to work.

Incentivated managing director Jonathan Bass says: “The selling of a ringtone is not really mobile marketing. Mobile marketing is something else altogether – it’s direct marketing, it’s customer service, it’s mobile search⦠forget ringtones, forget wallpapers.” Ringtones, wallpapers and text-to-win competitions – such as the Walker’s Win an iPod mini every five minutes competition – do have their place, but they won’t work for everyone.

Having said that, not all ringtone buyers are Crazy Frog fans. EMI Music UK digital media director Danny Van Emden admits it is not always easy to convince the mobile phone network operators that there is a market for ringtones based on classical music, classic rock and even punk. But EMI’s experience of selling ringtones direct via the mobile version of its Raft magazine website contradicts this. Van Emden says: “Sales [to older consumers] have been even better than with teenagers – probably because the older age ranges have not yet been over-exploited.”

So more than 30% of the people who bought EMI’s most recent Stranglers CD went on to buy a Stranglers ringtone, and Stranglers fans are unlikely to be teenagers.

Different strokes

As Worboys says: “Different groups of consumers use their phones in very different ways, so the trick for marketers is to understand exactly how each group behaves. For example, tech-savvy users – those that use all the functions on their phone, including Bluetooth and Web browsing – actively seek information from their mobile, so sending them targeted messages adds value to their relationship with their phone. However, light users with simple handsets – generally the over 60s – certainly don’t want to receive marketing communications this way.”

Despite all the media hysteria about downloading films and full-length TV programmes to mobiles, research suggests that consumers prefer mobile-specific content. The study, conducted by iBurbia on behalf of Red Bee Media – formerly BBC Broadcast – found that full-length programming on mobile is not as popular as made-for-mobile TV because screen sizes are too small, opportunities to watch full-length programmes on-the-go are rare and people prefer to watch full-length programming on a normal TV set. Participants in the study found that content over three minutes was too long, and anything costing over &£1 was too expensive.

“This research highlights how mobile TV is wildly different from the traditional TV. New rules for advertising, navigating and entertaining apply,” says Catriona Tate, business director for new creative content at Red Bee Media. She adds/ “The results point towards the mobile TV market being driven in the short term by advertiser-funded content and mobile video that complements or promotes TV programmes”

“Mobile marketing campaigns are hard to get right and are fragile,” says Bozzetto. They are particularly tricky because of the number of different parties who have to work together – the product, services or brands being marketed, the developers of the application or content, the network operators and whoever is providing the retail element or fulfilment.

He warns: “Each element must work, [and] marketers need to ensure the coherence of the overall marketing proposition.”

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