Friday, January 19, 2007

Mobile Marketing 101 Permission Comes First

When Sprint announced they were laying off 5000 employees, and Apple unveiled their iPhone in the same week, it got me thinking.

I did a piece called We Interrupt This Broadcast a couple years ago that explained where mobile marketing would be going. These same issues exist today.

Are we seeing another industry, another commodity business, that can't change.
They, along with the other carriers are trying to find a way to tap into mobile advertising and increase ARPU.

Wireless carriers are in a sense, able to place their own "toolbar" or home page, on the mobile, why aren't they monetizing this?

What happens to wireless carriers when VOIP and WiMax aren't just concepts? What happens when voice is free?

With all of the upcoming mobile applications, shouldn't this be an exciting time for a mobile operator?

Advertising is about to encounter a significant obstacle with the mobile phone. Will mobile carriers be able to figure out how to get permission from consumers in order to reach them at anytime and anywhere?

It all boils down to permission and creativity.

Advertisers can't just slap a 30 second ad on the highest rated TV shows/channels anymore. The consumer has Tivo and DVRS which allow the consumer to retrieve, or be in control of "permission"

Satellite radio has taken the advertiser out of the picture.

Internet pop ups and banners didn't get permission from the consumer and that advertising method ultimately failed. That won't happen with mobile advertising, permission must be granted first.

When and how did Internet advertising take off? When a free application (search engine) was introduced that provided relevant information, advertisers could place advertising along side of that information. It's a give and take relationship. I will give you permission to advertise to me when I get/take relevant information from you.

If the latest text message campaigns from NBC's TV shows are any indication of how advertisers should implement mobile marketing, then there is HUGE opportunity for anybody with any creative thinking. Send a text (and get charged a fee) for a chance to win $10,000. They are building a huge database that can't be used because they are not getting permission.

This is the best they can do?

A company that seems to be doing everything right in mobile marketing is Qtags.

Qtags is doing a great job of landing big clients that are using their short code 78247 for various campaigns. Brands are using a keyword and the Qtag shortcode on various forms of medium to get interested consumers to initiate a relationship (ie permission). Take a look at some of the big brands they have landed and their latest campaigns

For now I see two methods or approaches to mobile marketing, direct and indirect. Each has their own method of gaining permission from the consumer.

Companies like 4INFO will provide ads along side of text message info queries (phone number listings, sports scores, stock quotes, weather etc). They are provided advertising next to info you are searching for (indirect mobile marketing)

The other method, like Qtags, is direct mobile marketing. A magazine ad, radio spot or TV commercial will invite people to send a text message to a specific shortcode for more info.

Eventually the shortcode will be replaced by a 2d code that users can click on with a camera phone for more info or to be directed to a specific website.

A common complaint I hear from mobile marketing guys is the length of time to get a short code. Imagine if it took close to two months to get a domain name.

Here are some of the variables I see for mobile marketing.

The amount of time to register a shortcode may force advertisers to use a shortcode "portal".

Major short code owners (Yahoo, Google 4INFO) offering LINK words, become SMS portals.

Percentage of mobile phones with cameras and increased resolution of the camera.

2d code generating sites...could replace the shortcode/keyword method when people can create their own physical world hyperlink .

4 comments: said...

Great post. Lot's of concerns worthy of discussion, so please excuse my lengthy response, but I felt I could add value given my insight as the founder of a growing mobile marketing company, OTAir.

It does seem the carriers are slowly backing up against a wall. Prices for their services will continue to drop due to competition & necessity to drive adoption of additional services by existing subscribers. So, where else can they turn? I believe they have three options: 1) Continue developing more advanced wireless infrastructure services; 2) Develop content and/or limit content flowing through their pipes to only that content they can make money on; 3) Advertise to their customers or sell advertising to marketers. In my opinion, option 1 is best for them and us. Their infrastructure is what they are good at and utilization of data services IS rapidly increasing as mobile device applications and benefits move from consumer-focused entertainment to consumer & business applications. The carriers have not done a great job with content. Case in point, Sprint advertised a text CTA (call to action) during this past week's season premier of 24 (text 24 to JACK) - only for Sprint customers. I did so and received a text message to a WAP page with only boring text and half the links to games and other info related to the show did NOT work. Being in the industry, I can tell you the carriers have barely enough staff assigned to provisioning short codes, let alone creating mobile content. I don't think I even need to touch on the reasons why a walled garden approach to limiting content to only that which directly provides them revenue is a bad idea - should be rather obvious. Finally, advertising to their customers is a viable option...problem there is that, to date, they don't seem to apply any intelligence to mobile advertising. With mobile phones, they have the benefit of knowing who the user is all the need to wait for them to log in, like on a web site. Therefore, they can and should provide advertising that is very pertinent and beneficial to each individual person. As much as the idea of commercials and ads gets raked over the coals, we in general, really don't have a problem with ads...we just have a problem with ads we don't care about. Millions of people will tune in to the Super Bowl in just a couple weeks specifically to see the ads. We learn about new products, services and specials from ads; but, if they can't be administered well, then they shouldn't be provided at all. I think carriers are just going to need to stick with what they do best and figure out how to continue to make money in the constantly changing wireless environment.

You're absolutely right about the need for permission and creativity regarding mobile marketing. The mobile device is NOT the same as every other medium and traditional ads should not simply be ported over to the mobile channel. The form factor, portability, interactivity, personal nature and power of the device are completely different and require new approaches in relevancy, usefulness, pricing, information gathering/sharing, and personalization.

Currently, I will contest that the most important requirement of mobile marketing besides getting permission is providing value. Though consumers don't really worry about the costs associated with being contacted on their mobile via voice, they do seem to be cognizant of the costs of texting...even if they have a text plan. That's very interesting and I think that concern will go away, but for now it's present and must be addressed. The challenge is getting retailers and other businesses to recognize that. We, at OTAir, as a mobile marketing company understand that, but we do have to challenge some of our clients to realize it, as well. Many just want to provide general, non-personalized info back to those that text their OTAir keywords...we have to guide them to do more than that, to provide valued prizes, specials, content and info. The QTags promo with Popeyes is a great example of providing a value to those that text in...a deal they wouldn't have received otherwise. I congratulate QTags on the campaign and I commend Popeyes for their willingness to utilize the mobile channel. Similarly, a client of OTAir is using the keyword FUSER that folks can text to 68247 as a means of distributing coupons for a free sample of an energy bar product they are in the process of launching; and, PIZZA can likewise be texted to get a special text deal valid at Papa John's locations throughout Central NC. It's all about value to both consumer and advertiser.

Some would argue that the value of advertising on mobile devices or even in general is questionable...and, I would have to agree with them in many instances. Therefore, it is important for businesses to not just look at mobile for marketing. I mentioned earlier the differences of the medium versus many others and those differences are advantages, not limitations if utilized creatively for business and consumer applications. We're working on a number of those at OTAir, I wish I could provide examples, but your post to which I'm responding came just a few weeks too early for me to do so. Though, I can say that all businesses have to do is just stop and think about every little piece of information that they need to convey to and receive from consumers and even internal employees. The opportunities for increased productivity are virtually endless and the usefulness of that information to both businesses and consumers is highly valued and, therefore, does not receive the same cold reception that advertising can receive.

I warned up front that I was going to be lengthy in my response, but hopefully this has been helpful to those considering a mobile strategy. To further add value, here's a list of do's and don'ts:

- DO consider mobile for marketing and applications, the power & capabilities are incredible while the cost is very low.
- DO partner with a company like OTAir or QTags, folks with experience and a mindset for mobile who can help make the best use of the channel.
- DO use a portal, as Scott suggests. Companies like OTAir and QTags have absorbed the setup costs and timely delays associated with short code provisioning and application development (it actually takes almost three months to establish short codes now). OTAir, for instance, has a very powerful, comprehensive web-based solution for mobile marketing and interactive applications that can be easily and quickly customized or integrated for a client. Our approach, similar to others', significantly reduces costs and risks while providing immediate entry to market.
- DO utilize a "full service" mobile marketing company. There's a lot you can do with mobile and you're going to need to utilize it differently for various media, audiences and campaigns. Make sure the company you go with has a comprehensive solution and an involved staff.
- DO offer value to mobile customers. Reward them for taking the time to actively engage your ad, to painstakingly type on their mobile device and "spend" a few text messages to your benefit.
- DO think beyond advertising...the world of creative, interactive, mobile applications is MUCH larger and MORE valuable to your audience while ALSO providing internal cost-saving benefits. Again, OTAir, Flytxt and others can help with that if you're not sure what the possibilities are.
- DO keep reading this blog as Scott provides awesome analysis and insight into the mobile industry.
- DON'T focus on revenue generation. Consumers will see right thru it and will reject your efforts. That doesn't mean you can't make money with mobile, just don't focus on it. Your ROI may not always be monetary - just look at the viral impact of the Popeyes campaign.
- DON'T believe mobile is only for're flat out wrong.
- DON'T believe mobile is a fad...again, you'd be flat out wrong.
- DON'T compromise on quality to save a few bucks. There may be do-it-yourself mobile marketing software, SMS gateways and services out there, but you risk the wrath of irritated mobile users and carriers. Trust me, mobile is's personal and it's closely monitored by the carriers. Be careful and employ the expertise and insight of an OTAir or QTags.
- DON'T bite off too much. Start with simple campaigns and apps to ease your audience into recognizing the value of your new form of communication with them - done well, they will respond positively.
- DON'T get discouraged when a particular mobile campaign doesn't get strong results or adoption is slow. The beauty of mobile is the speed at which it can be altered and the instant measurability. Utilization of these tools by a strong mobile marketing company will guide your efforts to success.
- DON'T get caught up in hype about new technologies with 2D codes, bluetooth broadcasting and object recognition. I know Scott loves these concepts, I do too, and their time will come, but premature implementation can result in consumer irritation. Your mobile marketing partner will make those services available when the time is right.

Well, Scott, that's probably enough for now. I certainly hope your readers find my comments helpful to their successful utilization of mobile as that's what is going to continue to drive uptake from both businesses and consumers.

Jim Washok
OTAir - im•pulse mobile solutions

mobile marketing software said...

There are other ways to get permission. For example bluetooth marketing is permission based marketing.

mobile marketing software

Rcalls Leaders Club said...

Naturally permission is Key to developing a good relationship with consumers.

Spam will one day be an issue with mobile advertising just as it is with email. Why not be one of the pioneers that does it right in the first place. Bluebook Advertising has aligned themselves with the right parters that already have permission mobile marketing in place.

Mike Thompson
Owner: Bluebook Advertising
mobile advertising said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing those points.