WIN Chief executive officer
2002 Director, Business Development and Strategy, T-Mobile UK
1995 Vice-president, Worldwide Marketing, Intermec Corporation
1990 Managing director, EMEA, NovAtel
1981 UK Marketing director, Harris Corporation
The rise of mobile as a credible part of the marketing mix is extremely well documented, and few would now argue with its status as a key tool for branding. Many of the world’s largest names are now putting mobile at the heart of their strategies, and as more see the huge benefits that it brings, this will continue to grow exponentially.
Mobile’s time is now. Not only has consumer awareness and receptiveness of mobile communication with brands increased significantly, but several other factors have come together to pave the way further. The arrival of bundled data tariffs, for instance, means that the cost of sending and receiving continues to become less of an issue.
Handsets are becoming much more capable of handling many more formats, particularly video, and consumers are increasingly adopting such services. While consumer trust remains an issue for the industry, the introduction of such schemes as Payforit make mobile content much more transparent, seamless and convenient. The rise of mobile search engines make the mobile content environment much easier to navigate, and are therefore encouraging users to step out of the “walled garden” of their operator.
The figures speak for themselves. A typical piece of direct marketing generates an average response rate of less than 2%. Recent figures from M/Metrics put SMS advertising returns at anything between 6% and more than 20%. It’s not just confined to the teen market or those in their 20s – again recent figures show the highest volume of messaging is in the 35 to 44 and 55-plus age groups. Awareness and usage of multimedia messaging is also fast on the rise.
So how best to harness this huge potential? What are the benefits and what are the pitfalls? How should you approach it?
Key to the growth of mobile as a marketing tool is thinking beyond the humble SMS. In the “participation society” in which we now live, mobile has become a powerful medium for engaging consumers on a new level through the added dimension of interactivity.
Historically, this was limited to simple text competitions and voting. Now, with the explosion of online social communities and the popularity of user-generated content, there is a growing opportunity for brands to engage by getting their consumers involved, using video, voice, or picture messages.
We need to get creative. MMS messaging is truly mainstream now, and this added dimension of images is proving massively popular. Beyond that, we are well and truly at the point of making video a viable format on mobile; while vouchers, portals, advertising and search are well on their way to becoming ever-present in a brand’s strategy.
Mobile should never be an afterthought, tagged on at the end of the campaign to use up that last bit of budget and to tick the multimedia box. It needs to be an integrated part of the mix from the very beginning, like any other channel.
There’s no need to get confused, it isn’t complicated. Look past the technology. As with print, television, online, outdoor or direct marketing, the key lies in effective and accurate targeting, and making all parts of the mix complement each other.
Mobile is a double-edged sword. While its beauty lies in its personal nature – delivering direct access in real time to a captive audience – if used in an untargeted, contextually irrelevant manner, then not only is it ineffective, but it becomes intrusive and can have a negative effect on the audience and the brand.
On the flip side, where it is used correctly, sensitively and sensibly, the benefits of mobile as part of an integrated brand, direct response campaign or ongoing customer dialogue are hugely impressive. Despite the universality of mobile being its true unique selling point, it should not be thought of as a mass-market tool. It’s about quality, relevance and targeting, not sheer volume.
Mobile is about permission – if you get that permission to access your consumer’s handset, you can build considerable brand awareness and loyalty. The mobile is the perfect channel once you get that permission – it’s an extension of the user’s personality, part of a two-way process that works in real time. Vitally, getting that permission has to be part of a long-term strategy to build trust and add value. Understand your user-base in order to hold onto them, and use technology to build ever more compelling services that appeal to them.
Bringing in a specialist
Where I recommended earlier that you look past the technology, my point was that mobile should be seen for the benefits it can deliver, not the means to delivering those benefits. Technology does remain at the heart of the process, however, and while the intricacies of implementing and maintaining a mobile strategy are simplifying all the time, it is still a specialist discipline requiring a specialist partner.
Mobile should be treated as any other channel, but there are some rules – albeit seemingly fundamental ones – which must apply. Targeting, personalisation and relevance are the most fundamental of these – although, arguably, these apply to any means of marketing – and I’ve given considerable discussion on these above. All I will add is that a specialist partner has the experience and in-depth knowledge on what demographics to target through mobile and how to reach them.
The more often overlooked factors include simplicity and convenience of communication and delivery – but still delivering something compelling and appealing. There’s a fine line between grabbing their attention and getting a response, and turning them off with something overly complicated or clever.
What good is any form of content or communication if it’s not accessible? There are hundreds of handsets out there with different capabilities. Specialist third parties can identify the model number of the recipient’s handset and optimise against each. Furthermore, as the mobile and Web worlds increasingly converge, it is key that mobile and Web communications and content work cross-platform, so integration between the two is vital.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the measurement and demonstration of ROI has to sit at the heart of any campaign if mobile is to maintain its seat at the marketing table. A specialist partner can provide such evaluation down to the minute detail – which not only helps to justify spend, but also allows the campaign to be tweaked accordingly at any time.
Mobile’s time is now, and if we keep in mind all of the above, it should be well on the way to fulfilling its ever-growing potential.