The world of advertising is going through some challenging yet exciting changes. Budgets may be limited but everyone would agree that there are huge opportunities to reach customers in mobile.
While it is no secret that mobile is important, brand managers and advertising agencies often lack experience in the mobile channel and are scrambling to understand this evolving and growing opportunity.
Let’s take a look at the opportunities that mobile has to offer.
What kind of reach does mobile have?
What are some mobile marketing best practices?
What are some examples of success in mobile marketing?
Specifically, how can a push to mobile give back a lift in brand awareness and sales?
Reach and engagement
Although mobile is widely adopted at about 90 percent penetration in the United States, this does not mean that every mobile user is a prime advertising target.
The first question, is how many users are really reachable?
Mobile services adoption statistics appear low at first glance.
Only 25 percent of U.S. subscribers use SMS, 18 percent use the mobile Web, and approximately 8 percent are on social networking sites and regularly watch mobile video.
Although the potential for mass marketing reach sounds relatively limited, it is important to remember that mobile is the most engaging, personal and interactive media device.
You won’t reach every customer, but you will have the opportunity to create an compelling experience for specific target customers.
SMS has gone mainstream with 1 trillion messages sent in the U.S. in 2008. And MMS has finally seen significant growth due to better bundled data plans with 15 billion MMS sent in 2008, up from 6 billion in 2007, according to the CTIA: The Wireless Association.
A well-designed SMS or MMS direct marketing campaign could potentially be an elegant fit for your brand.
Beyond messaging campaigns, mobile has proven to be a powerful way to engage users, create interactive brand experiences, and reach users on their device of choice.
With the rapid improvement in mobile devices, improved data plan prices and adoption of mobile social networking, mobile has proven to be a powerful way to involve customers beyond traditional channels.
At the same time, the mobile ecosystem remains fragmented and extremely messy. Mobile marketers quickly find that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reaching their mobile audience.
There are hundreds of device types, limited data plan adoption, and spotty network conditions. The reality of a fragmented mobile ecosystem requires a well planned, targeted approach that may include SMS, WAP, applications and video.
Common first steps in mobile include experimentation with SMS marketing and WAP banner ads.
Although these models may prove to be worthwhile for customer acquisition, top brands have found that mobile creates an even richer opportunity to offer new brand experiences beyond customer acquisition initiatives.
SMS is great for voting and interaction. Some brands report that voting response rates are 10 times better than online voting.
As a rule of thumb, SMS marketing needs to be treated with care due to sensitivy around spam, over-charging users and complicated opt-in steps.
In general, don’t expect a high rate of customer conversion via mobile since there are very few elegant click-to-buy models in mobile.
Mobile Web sites (WAP) are a great start for a catch-all approach. But the user experience is problematic with awkward search, discovery and usability.
Top mobile brands like MySpace have found that the mobile Internet can be the best way to let users with common feature phones access a portal.
Applications are great for creating custom user experiences. But they can have limited reach. Not everyone has an iPhone. And, how do you measure the success of an application?
Counting application downloads is a useful metric but how can you drive repeated usage and stickiness?
Many brands have found success in iPhone application development by targeting iPhone customers that overlap their own target customer demographic, as well as by creating buzz in the market.
Mobile video has been growing in popularity with better content, higher quality and newer video-friendly devices like the Blackberry Storm, Apple iPhone and T-Mobile G1.
Nielsen reports that as many as 11.3 million Americans watched mobile video in the fourth quarter of last year.
In a Nielsen study, mobile video viewers said they were three times as likely to trust and respond to a mobile ad than regular mobile users.
If you have any doubt that mobile video is becoming a reality, consider that MTV delivered 100 million mobile videos in 2008.
Leverage mobile to improve your brand
If we look at successful brands that have already pushed to mobile, it is clear that mobile should not just treated as an additional revenue stream.
Mobile provides new and exciting ways to interact with brands. Mobile lets users connect with their favorite content on their terms.
Brands have the opportunity to create new interactive experiences that leverage the power of mobile environments such as address book, camera, GPS and the accelerometer.
Advertisers should not make the mistake of trying to recreate classic Web advertising models that gather metrics like impressions and click-throughs.
A better strategy is to create great branded mobile experiences that drive interactive usage and brand awareness. Successful brands have leveraged mobile to extend their overall brand equity, not necessarily to turn on a new revenue stream in the mobile channel.
Brands often struggle with the question of “fit” for their brand. Successful brands such as the Mini Cooper car that appear to have no obvious mobile fit have had success developing iPhone applications that associate their brand with positive attributes like fun and coolness.
Every brand can benefit from a mobile presence. The trick is determining how mobile can embrace and extend your brand.
Kraft, for example, offers an iFood iPhone application that targets key demographics, improves the lifetime value of a customer, drives innovation and increases brand awareness.
By now, the mobile marketing era is well underway. There are plenty of examples of first-movers and fast followers who have already invested and succeeded in the mobile channel. We can all learn from these early successes.
MTV’s goal is to drive revenue and create ubiquitous access to their content. As it launches in mobile, it must be able to track metrics and show value to advertisers.
For many of MTV’s brands, top mobile growth areas are mobile video, mobile Web and iPhone. MTV observed early on that its users are already on mobile. The cable network has found that SMS increases engagement.
Text messaging is the best way to get votes – 10 times better than online. Mobile allows MTV to offer multi-platform access and drive additional revenue streams through mobile video advertising. MTV streamed 100 million mobile videos in 2008.
BMW Germany saw a 30 percent conversion rate with a mobile video campaign. What’s interesting is that all the information was in the video.
There was no need to click-through to a link, which is typical of most mobile advertising campaigns across categories and markets.
AdMob cited the results of a recent campaign for the Land Rover automobile brand: In addition to 45,000 mobile video downloads and 7,400 wallpaper downloads, the mobile effort inspired 1,100 mobile subscribers to contact their local Land Rover dealership.
All advertising and outbound marketing efforts need to show a strong ROI.
This is a great time to innovate, add new value to the brand and find new revenue streams.
Many brands are finding that mobile is a great vehicle to extend their reach, increase engagement and drive customer loyalty.
ROI in mobile should be a top goal, but this is an opportunity to raise the bar. The winners will be creative with the user experience design and great at execution. Mobile should not be treated as a standalone marketing channel.
Instead, mobile should be approached as an advanced tool for brand relationships that improve the end-users’ experience and likelihood to stay loyal, recommend the brand and generate more activity with the brand.
By Dave Sloan
Dave Sloan is director of marketing at Avot Media, Sunnyvale, CA. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.