It took nearly half a century for traditional media like TV and radio to secure a prominent place among marketers for their brand strategies. It took two decades for the PC. And for mobile? Less than a decade. Today, there are four times as many cell phones as PCs, iPhone users spend 1.5 hours a day browsing the Internet and enjoying their apps, and the iPad is sure to open up new prospects of growth. It's estimated that mobile has the ability to reach 4 billion people worldwide.
As CEO of Paris-based Phonevalley, I work with both U.S. and European marketers to identify the best mobile marketing strategies. My pockets should be full of insights from the European market and, a year ago, I would have had lots to share. But things have dramatically changed.
Why? Because over the last 18 months the U.S. has become the top mobile market worldwide. Not only did the rate of 3G penetration grow exponentially and new rich-media devices sell out, but unlimited data plans became widely popular.
Those combined factors led mobile users to consume more data on their mobile screens. They watch the morning news and weather forecasts on their cell phones, check out their favorite recipes and chat with relatives on MSN mobile messenger.
Mobile applications also bloomed thanks to Apple's iPhone. Today, users spend hours each day browsing the mobile Web and accessing the different apps available to them for free.
U.S. players, from Google to Apple, have made major investments in the mobile market. Yahoo and Google, for instance, have created sophisticated mobile-search opportunities. They now lead the worldwide mobile market.
Still, there are lessons to be learned from Europe's mobile experiences.
I want, however, to start in the East, where, in 1999, Japan's NTT DoCoMo created i-mode to build sites that fit a mobile screen. I-mode shipped to Europe in the early 2000s, where carriers subsidized mobile subscriptions to rapidly improve their brand equity, customer loyalty and, consequently, their data ARPU.
While U.S. carriers mainly concentrated on call plans, European operators developed mobile marketing opportunities, launching attractive data offers (MMS in 2005, video MMS in 2006 and mobile Internet unlimited plans in 2007).
Big names like Coca-Cola, L'Oreal and Paramount tested mobile marketing plans in Europe that they hoped would engage consumers, launch new products, influence sales and create touch points for their brands 24/7.
But too many European advertisers built robust mobile strategies completely apart from their Web plans. Only later did they discover that they burned cash in vain and had poor ROIs.
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