Imagine you are meeting a friend tomorrow in a different city and what that day would be like with a cutting-edge mobile phone.
You hold everything needed for the day literally in the palm of your hand — your alarm, phone directory, newspaper, train ticket, navigational device to stock charts, games, concierge service and more. Well, this is already an everyday reality for the millions currently using an Internet-enabled mobile phone.
From a marketer’s perspective, this is a scenario that demonstrates that mobile marketing can offer the same opportunities as online marketing and more, including audiences/environments for brand engagement, a mobile point of sale for transactions/revenue generation and platforms for services and entertainment that make brands become more and more indispensable.
Indeed, the combination of tried-and-tested online instruments with mobile technology creates an entirely new dimension for marketing communication and brand engagement.
But it is the special relationship mobile users have with their devices that is so powerful. People feel naked when they’ve left their mobile at home and hardly ever turn off their “link” to the outside world. No wonder that almost no other everyday object is personalized with so much enthusiasm, from decorative trinkets to ringtones and wallpaper.
From a pure media perspective, mobile is a mass medium with a rapidly growing audience and a wide variety of attractive brand engagement environments. The International Telecommunication Union estimates that 4 billion people had access to a mobile phone at the end of 2008 — that’s about two-thirds (61 percent) of the world’s population. At the millennium, penetration was only 12 percent. That’s an increase of more than 400 percent.
That growth rate will have an enormous impact on the overall landscape of communication. While smart phones have primarily targeted business users, devices like the iPhone or the G1 with their mobile Internet flat rates appeal to private users. Mobile Internet usage in the U.S. has more than doubled in barely two years.
For a brand that would like to learn more about what its customers and potential customers want, social networks via mobile are the perfect platform with massive scale. The Japanese mobile community “Mobage Town,” for example, includes 12 million people. Anyone who wants to can listen in or join discussions, and anyone who wants to sell a product or service is enabled to do so.
What’s attractive here is that mobile phones offer response and interaction potentials without media disruption. Rather than researching products or special offers in front of a computer at home, you can do it on the go via something that fits in the pocket of your jeans. McDonalds USA has created an iPhone application in which the user can select a restaurant and place an order, and then pick it up at the drive-through window. Computer manufacturer Dell now uses its Twitter account to boost sales. And on Lufthansa, passengers check in via their mobile phone and use a QR (quick response) code as boarding pass.
With built-in MP3 players, radio and TV plus the mobile Internet, the entertainment universe of the digital world is being made available to every user anytime they wish to tap into it.
Mobile phones enable their users to access services such as banking at any time; problem solving information and orientation is delivered immediately, no matter where you are. This is what makes it unique as a medium and creates indispensable value.
Location-based services (LBS) demonstrate how mobile technology can fully exploit its POS potential. An ambitious approach is the “SekaiCamera” from the Japanese company TouchiDot. SekaiCamera combines a cell phone camera with a GPS receiver. Users, through their devices, can identify and capture so-called “Air Tags” that are linked to real items in the physical environment and include all sorts of information about them.
In this environment, brands need to accommodate the audiences’ needs and expectations in order to play a role in their everyday lives. The consumer attitude, “If it’s not on Google, it’s nowhere,” has started to apply to the mobile environment too.
Mobile marketing has already become an ideal way for brands to engage with their target audiences in everyday situations and provide them with relevant offerings. Besides which, taking a first step into mobile marketing is simple if you can leverage your range of existing and relevant online services, remember mobile is also a POS, choose the right mix of partners and are an early responder.
Missing this means being left out of an ecosystem that will surpass the scale of the Internet at home and at work.
Mobile marketing specialist Jessica Birckner and consultant Finn Reddig work at Tribal DDB in Hamburg, Germany.