Mobile marketing today seems a lot like web marketing 15 years ago. Just about everyone agrees it's going to be big, but few concur on what approach will hold the most promise for brands.
Instead of obsessing over desktop browsers (Internet Explorer vs. Netscape), marketing and development teams are more focused on operating systems (Android vs. Apple's iOS) and devices (tablets vs. smartphones). Like web marketing, however, success will hinge on a company's marketing chops and technology prowess, its audience, and more.
Marketers and their teams are taking different routes to better understand mobile's potential. And I got to hear firsthand about some initiatives as moderator of a panel discussion, "The Future of Mobile Marketing: Where Are We Headed?" at an event hosted last month by Morris + King, a public relations firm, and organized by IDG Strategic Marketing Services.
"Mobile is very intrusive. It's hard to shut it off. Mobile is the remote control for our lives. It's much closer to us than the PC ever was," said Anna Bager, general manager of the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, underscoring the opportunities and challenges for marketers.
And the numbers are clear, tablets and smartphones represent the next gen of computing power.
Verizon Wireless-NFL Team Up
The wireless service's National Football League app features live video from football games and a fantasy football tracker. Using the app, fans can sign up for a morning alert for news or track the Twitter account of their favorite team.
"We want not only our customers to use the app, but want to drive some of our competitors' customers to switch over to a Verizon smartphone," said Steve Fox, associate director, media and sponsorships, Verizon Wireless. The basic service, which includes live audio of games, is free; a premium version, which includes live video of games, is available for $9.99 a month, according to a customer service rep.
Macy's: Bringing Designers to Shoppers
The retailer's Backstage Pass QR code program was a multi-channel campaign that included in-store signage featuring a QR code; customers who scanned in the code with a mobile device were served up a :30 video featuring Sean "Diddy" Combs, Tommy Hilfiger, and other celebrity designers.
Within the first weeks of launch, the campaign recorded 45,000 video views, said John Baker, president, client services for JWT New York, the agency that worked with Macy's on the campaign.
IBM: Building Brand in a Tribute to Art and Sciences
In 1960, husband-and-wife design team Charles and Ray Eames created a museum exhibit for IBM called, "Mathematica: A World of Numbers…and Beyond." Over the past year, IBM has been working on an iPad app that celebrates Mathematica. Ben Edwards, vice president of digital strategy and development, IBM corporate marketing and communications, described the app, which will be available for a fee, as an "interactive reimagination" of Mathematica. What are he and his team learning? "As we moved into owned media…it's very expensive and you've got to be very careful about how you go about scaling it," he said.
IBM: Empowering a Sales Force
IBM's global sales force is evolving along with its offerings. Instead of selling specific products, sales professionals must now sell complex solutions that include hardware, software, and services in consultation with clients. So, Edwards and his team are developing a tablet application designed to equip sales professionals with information they need just before and during sales calls. "The challenge is scaling the application," he said. "IBM sells over 100,000 products, services, and solutions and we have a sales force of over 70,000. How do we scale a content rich application across all of the use cases that we need to?"
Siemens, IDG: Taking a Multi-Channel Approach
Siemens, a technology company focused on the energy, healthcare, and industrial sectors, worked with IDG last year on a multi-channel campaign in Europe and the United States that included mobile banners, mobile advertorial, QR codes, sponsored apps, plus tablet and print magazine ads. The campaign resulted in more than one million mobile impressions in one month with a click-through rate of 0.5 percent, according to Howard Sholkin, director, communications and marketing programs, IDG Strategic Marketing Services. "We're learning a lot in the United States from our colleagues in Europe," he said, emphasizing the importance of testing strategies.
Mobile Marketing: Where Is It Headed?
Marketers say mobile remains in an experimental phase because it hasn't been around long enough to develop decent benchmarks.
"Mobile is uncharted territory. No one knows what the model is, where the investment needs to go, how you scale it, from the client side or the agency side," Edwards said. "We're overwhelmed by the user revolution and we don't yet have a model to scale and that makes us all anxious."
In the case of Macy's Backstage Pass campaign, marketers projected the number of video views without historical context. "We went in and said let's try to achieve 7,000 video views. It turns out in the first few weeks we had 45,000. Does that mean we were exceptionally good in our execution? It really means we didn't know how much we should have," Baker said.
Mobile Advertising: Will It Ever Rival TV or Radio?
Can mobile attract large audiences that, in turn, will attract big brands and big dollars?
It depends. "There is scale depending on the brand and what content companies are delivering," said Verizon's Fox, pointing to Major League Baseball as an example. MLB Advanced Media, the professional baseball's digital arm, reportedly had more than half of its traffic come via mobile apps and mobile websites in July, according to AllThingsD.com.
Marketers question whether increases in mobile marketing budgets will be offset by cuts in TV or radio advertising budgets - or come from other sources such as digital marketing budgets. Fox thinks it may come from the latter. "We'll see a big shift as people get more comfortable using that [mobile] doorway to the Internet. They are going to be less inclined to use the web browser on their PC," he said.
At least one study backs up Fox's point. One-third of American adults own a smartphone, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project's report, "Smartphone Adoption and Usage," (July 2011). Of those smartphone users, 87 percent said they access the Internet or email on their handheld.
Still yet, some mobile marketing initiatives, especially branded apps, may be funded from other sources, such as product development. "If clients are becoming media owners and building these [apps] as product extensions or to support their brands, is it part of the media ad spend?" Baker asked.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT