Asia: New Wireless M-Generation

Did you know that more than 600 million people are projected to have mobile or cell phones within three years? Most will have WAP (wireless application protocol) access. Most will be in Asia. And once these forecasts see fruition, the days of Internet dominance will be over because there will be more wireless Internet users than fixed-line users.

I remember when the Berlin Wall came down over a decade ago; that event ushered in some golden days for advertising agencies and other businesses. They all raced into eastern Europe to capture the untouched market, a market with no brand clutter, no brand preferences, and a big desire for brands. A marketer’s dream!

And I was one of those who raced east. But when I introduced my computer to some of the local manufacturers in order to reveal what the web was all about, I couldn’t connect. Not because they didn’t have a phone line, but because all their phone lines were digital! They were miles ahead of the rest of Europe because they didn’t have to establish an old-fashioned copper-cable infrastructure.

There’s a parallel here between the eastern European market then and the emerging Asian markets now, especially if you consider China. The only difference between the Eastern Bloc and China is one billion people, all of them with a wireless web connection.

But in a market where no marketing rules have been created (these are the preserve of China’s major cities and special economic zones), where branding still is virgin territory, and where a wireless web is just as natural for its users as a web with wire is for us, new ways of thinking are bound to surface.

Just as the advertising and consulting industries have struggled in the past few years to establish new business platforms to cope with the interactive age, the old world (meaning the United States and the rest of the Western world) generally will struggle to keep up with the innovative thinking that will feed the new wireless generation and that will inform the building of wireless brands.

An illustration of this issue can be seen in the Europe versus the United States m-commerce affair. While the United States was focused on establishing the dot-com culture, Europe was busy moving to the next stage and becoming the mobile dot-com experts.

Besides indicating that the center of excellence is likely to move from the United States to Europe, I am also suggesting that a third party will soon surprise the current players. And that third party is Asia. As well as being more advanced in certain m-disciplines, Asian technocrats are likely to be forced into advancing the handling of wireless communications and into creating and understanding wireless branding and the opportunities it creates.

Just remember: The values you are born and raised with are 10 times easier to understand than those you have to adapt to. With m-commerce likely to be born in Asia, that market is bound to lead wireless marketing with fluency and adeptness.

The rest of the world is already years behind do-co-mo (Do Communications Over the Mobile Network). Yes, some of you might know the technology behind WAP because it is HTML-based. But, hello! What does that mean when six million Japanese users adopt the new system? More than one million written messages are sent every hour.

The latest interface in the iMode series is a video camera, so you finally can see to whom you are talking on your mobile phone. Oops! I mean the do-co-mo phone. And guess what? You can now even download or stream your favorite karaoke songs along with vision via the phone in stereo!

Most impressive of all, it took the Japanese people only nine months to get where they are today! And Japan is not the only player: Korea is already well on its way, introducing electronic m-payments that enable you to pay for your bus and train rides using your mobile phone without even having your phone switched on! And, of course, you can use it to check timetables as well.

Asia is well on its way to being the new wireless m-generation. And I think the likelihood that it will become the first m-branding generation is just a phone call away.

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