Mobile Marketing is at a standstill

A shortened english version of my recent column on the Danish marketing site 

Mobile Marketing is at a standstill

As mobile phones become ever-more advanced, their potential for reaching out to consumers is growing rapidly, yet very few companies have exploited this potential. 

One of the most influential and widely used inventions of our time, the mobile phone has become an essential part of everyday life. Arguably, it has become part of our anatomy: 67% of Danes polled say that they wouldn’t leave home without their mobile phone (source: Google Mobile Planet), and there will be an estimated six billion mobile phones worldwide by 2012. This is equivalent to around 86% of the world’s population. Yet advertisers and agencies seem oblivious to the clear-cut opportunity this presents to both communicate more effectively with consumers and generate substantial revenues.

The mobile phone market has been revolutionised by smartphones, and – led by Apple’s iPhone – the smartphone market is booming, now accounting for 44% of the entire mobile phone market. In Europe alone, smartphones sales doubled in the past year (source: comScore). The numbers speak for themselves. The potential is huge, but where are the advertisers? Have they exploited the potential?

I went to the annual Mobile Marketing Forum (MMF) in London looking for some inspiration and the answers to these questions, but I was disappointed. Babs Rangaiah (Vice President of Media Innovation at Unilever), who spoke at the conference, summed up the problem: “The internet is still in kindergarten, mobile is in its infancy”.

Despite the presence of some of the world’s most influential advertisers, few of the cases shown featured the kind of creative and innovative solutions needed to tap into mobile media’s huge potential. Even companies like Unilever and Coca-Cola seem to be spending an almost imperceptible part of their large advertising budgets on mobile marketing. And these funds are often allocated to traditional ‘text to win’ campaigns or simple stand-alone solutions such as apps.

Coca-Cola generally applies a 70-20-10 model, where 70 % of marketing resources fund existing and previously proven solutions.  In the mobile marketing context this means that 70% of their budget is spent on SMS services, 20% is spent on mobile web, and only 10% on mobile apps.

Coca-Cola exemplifies the general approach to mobile media. Like most businesses, the company is content to transfer existing web, TV and print solutions to mobile platforms, rather than developing content to match the medium’s functionality. Essentially, they’re treating mobile platforms as an afterthought. This approach usually leads to low quality content, poor user experience, and misses opportunities for cross-platform integration. Quality mobile content adds value to consumers’ lives – everything else is irrelevant – and good user experience is crucial to delivering this content.

At Hello Group, we call this ‘de-junking advertising’, and – by putting the aim of adding value to consumers’ lives ahead of adding value to the advertiser’s brand and message –

it’s an approach that turns the traditional advertising process on its head.

A good example of this approach, and a highlight of the MMF conference, came from the American airline company JetBlue. Their mobile marketing fully exploits the medium’s potential, because it’s based on essential consumer insights.  A thorough analysis of passengers’ journeys – from ticket booking to final destination – allowed the company to identify crucial touch points where user experience could be improved by mobile solutions.  These include mobile check-in, text messages with targeted offers in the airport, QR codes with travel offers and music apps for the flight. TrueBlue, the customer loyalty program, is fully integrated via the Go Places Facebook app, so customers can earn extra frequent flyer points by ‘checking in’ to destinations and airports with their mobile phones.

Source: Google

Why are so few advertisers this consistent and thorough in their use of mobile marketing? As the only medium that users are in almost 24/7 contact with, and given its enormous potential for delivering targeted messaging, mobile marketing should clearly be integral to any marketing and media plan. The number of people using mobiles for primary access to the internet and social media channels is increasing, their interaction with games, videos, and other multimedia content via mobile is growing, and the range of advertising platforms and formats is multiplying. Facebook and Google, for example, have realised mobile’s potential, and are working continuously to keep up with its progress. Erick Tseng, Head of Mobile at Facebook asserts: “Within a year or two we’ll be a mobile company”.

With this much potential, why is mobile marketing still so widely viewed as an add-on to media strategy?

The most obvious answer is advertisers’ lack of awareness, and we – the media and advertising agencies who advise them – have to take responsibility for this. The advent of social media showed a weakness in our industry: often, we’ve been too slow to develop and integrate the skills necessary to deliver innovative solutions that can cut through the clutter.

As an industry, we need to give mobile marketing the attention it deserves, or risk missing out on its potential. Consumers have long since boarded the train – we need to join them, before we get left behind.

Read it in Danish:


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