Mobile marketing presents a dizzying array of opportunities for brands to invest in, but as any marketer will tell you, the hardest part isn't deciding whether to do mobile, but what kind of mobile marketing to do. Here's a cheat sheet on some of the mobile marketing tactics that are available to marketers today. These are the tactics that we get asked about most often lately.
SMS (define), also known as text messaging, is an excellent way to generate a response from a consumer. Tag your other media with a short code and a keyword, provide a clear message of purpose that motivates the consumer to act, and you've got a response, a contest entry, and a name in a database in a just a couple of easy steps. SMS interactions are in real time, at the relevant location, and in context with the message.
And no, SMS isn't "old technology" in light of all the new mobile technologies that seemingly launch every week. SMS can reach nearly every mobile device user worldwide. With that ubiquity, along with the fact that most people text every day with friends and colleagues, you've got a proven, easy-to-use channel that produces interactions and valuable user data with every program.
Mobile Web Sites
Mobile Web sites are essential to using mobile for brand marketing. Your customers need some place to land after you've engaged them with your message. A well-optimized mobile Web site efficiently moves consumers to the content or functionality that pays off the campaign messaging and allows marketers to complete the loop on the engagement, including sales, leads, a phone call, and with rich data about each action.
Most importantly, brand marketers shouldn't just rely on their online site serving the needs of their mobile interactions with consumers. Most online sites look and operate terribly on a mobile browser and can either kill or impede the intended marketing experience for consumers. Unless your site is optimized for the unique dimensions and uses of mobile, it's generally going to look cluttered, the buttons will be tiny, the pages too long and wide, and applications such as Flash won't work most of the time.
Even if it's just a mobile landing page that handles consumer traffic driven by your mobile advertising, it's a worthy investment for the benefit of consumer experience, completing the program, and generating valuable user data.
Augmented reality is one of the newer technology applications that marketers are being pitched more and more. But it actually isn't that new. On TV, augmented reality is used for the first down markers that you see overlaid on the screen during football games, for example. It's not really there on the field, but it enhances the experience for the viewers by mixing real life and computer generated or applied information.
In mobile, augmented reality is used to overlay information (e.g., data and advertising on top of real-life images). Some uses include ways to allow a consumer to use a camera phone to view a street, for example, and an augmented reality application enhances the view by overlaying contextually relevant data – information about businesses, prices, promotions, and even video that refers to what the device is looking at.
Augmented reality is compelling because it brings together some of the most valuable tactics that marketers want in engaging consumers – real-time data, contextual relevance, and highly visual communications. But it hasn't reached critical mass yet in terms of how many consumers can and do use it when it's made available. In the next year or two, it's worth marketers' time to concentrate on how it will move their marketing forward.
There are merits and limitations to brands offering applications to consumers. Well-developed apps can be immersive and productive for brands, helping to drive brand awareness, interest, and sales. In many cases, consumers demand and expect to see your brand's app being offered in their app store of choice.
But apps are also hard to produce, distribute, and advertise. They require a smart, efficient plan, the right investment in promotion, and frequent updates and upgrades to succeed. Brands must provide apps to each of the major device platforms in order to get reach – notably iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. But also, if your brand wants to reach consumers globally, consider that Nokia, running the Symbian operating system, still has that largest installed base in the world.
Creating apps for each platform can be time, resource, and budget consuming. Also, once you've developed and distributed your app, there's a highly fickle and fragmented audience (divided across the various platforms and devices). Even though billions of apps have been downloaded from app stores by millions of consumers, data shows that most consumers use just a few apps regularly and often drop apps after using them once or twice. Stickiness has to be central to any app marketing plan.
Certainly, tens of other mobile tactics warrant consideration by brand marketers, but as with the ones discussed above, finding the right tactics is a matter of having a detailed strategic plan and a good understanding of the needs and behaviors of your target consumer audiences.
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Eric Bader is a partner in BrandInHand, a full-service mobile marketing and media company that serves global brand marketers, partners with agencies, and assists emerging media companies. BrandInHand's clients span the consumer goods, financial services, technology, and retail industries.
Prior to forming BrandInHand, Bader served as managing director of digital at MediaVest Worldwide. A new media veteran, he was formerly the head of online enterprises at CSTV Networks (now CBSSports) and, prior to that, executive director of interactive marketing at Ogilvy.