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Mobile Marketing: The Big Picture

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Years from now, when the mobile phone really is the remote control for life, historians will best be in position to gauge the 2007-09 contributions of Steve Jobs and Apple's iPhone.

One may argue that the iPhone did more for the advancement of mobile marketing than any other piece of hardware.

According to a recent survey from Crowd Science, 38 percent of smart phone owners who don't own an Apple iPhone would "probably" or "definitely" switch when making their next purchase. That article isn't looking to demystify the iPhone, but it does aim to highlight an important point: Despite the unbounded enthusiasm for the device and the mania surrounding its mobile applications, the iPhone represents only a small fraction of today's opportunity for marketers. 

As of the end of second-quarter 2009, Apple had sold "only" 26 million iPhones, according to Apple (I agree the number is incredibly impressive, but let me finish). What this means is that there are approximately 244 million mobile phone subscribers in the U.S. who are not using the iPhone, according to statistics provided by CTIA.

Translation: If you are dedicating a significant amount of your marketing budget and effort to targeting just 9 percent of your potential audience, you're selling yourself short. 

The reality is that mobile marketing is not a one-hit wonder, but rather a robust pyramid comprised of several layers that individually and collectively can elevate a brand's awareness and drive positive consumer action. At the bottom is SMS. According to CTIA, more than 160 million people in the U.S. are on a text plan and the average age of a "texter" is 38. Taking these numbers into account it should surprise no one to discover that SMS gives brands the greatest reach and taps into the behaviors and interests of hundreds of millions, all through a simple 160-character message. SMS is a proven mobile-marketing weapon that is driving brand awareness right now.

As you move up the pyramid, the next layer introduces mobile Web/WAP sites. According to the Kelsey Group, there are 54.5 million mobile Internet users on a regular basis. Add to that the fact that more than 172 million phones are capable of browsing the Web and it's easy to the see the value these sites can bring to a brand.

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