Brand Marketing in a Wireless World

I recently attended a seminar in Manhattan during which Research in Motion (RIM) Chairman and Co-CEO Jim Balsillie was giving a speech targeting the financial-services vertical market about RIM’s new offerings with AvantGo.

During the presentation, he grabbed his RIM pager to read incoming messages. Now this is Manhattan we are talking about, the heart of the world’s financial markets, so if he is interrupting his presentation to answer a page, it had better be some important message!

While talking with him after the presentation, I discovered that he had filters set up on his personal digital assistant (PDA) to let only certain people (read: addresses) come through during a set time frame. In other words, only the most important business-critical messages that needed his immediate attention would be able to get through the filters. I thought to myself, As the CEO of RIM, he probably has some important messages come through, but isn’t this (expensive) presentation to his target audience equally as important? For all we in the audience knew, he could have been checking the device just for effect during the presentation. He is the CEO of RIM, after all.

Now let’s cut to the world of brand marketing.

Companies and technologies exist today that are built to deliver marketing messages (straight brand ads, e-zines, e-newsletters, etc.) out to wireless devices such as RIM pagers and other wireless data-enabled PDAs (e.g., PalmPilot, Compaq iPAQ). AvantGo itself is a strong proponent of these messages. Yet who is ready to receive an unsolicited brand-marketing message on his or her wireless data-enabled PDA? Or even an opt-in marketing message? Certainly not the CEO of RIM. He has already filtered out most of his everyday messages!

Now let’s talk about the technology. At the moment, some of the unsolicited brand-marketing messages will actually slip through the filters because, as we all know from doing our own filtering, you have to “nominate” the address (and/or the domain) of the sender in order for proper filtering to occur. In the near future, Balsillie is not going to be very pleased when he is interrupted by an unsolicited brand-marketing message during an important presentation!

My opinion on brand marketing in today’s wireless world?

  1. Humans are not ready. We are not ready for the advent of widespread brand-marketing messages on our wireless devices. We are already in information overload. How many unsolicited emails do you get per day?

  2. The technology is not ready. The technology that gives you the ability to filter on Microsoft Outlook or a PC-based personal information manager can’t be ported directly into the wireless data-enabled PDA world. These two devices (a PC and a PDA) are driven by different needs as far as time constraints go. I am much more willing to take an unsolicited brand-marketing message on my PC where I have the ability to easily set up filters and the time to determine which senders (addresses) I should filter out. I instinctively know where the Delete key is and use it often. On my PDA — a Compaq iPAQ — I am under different time constraints, I’m using a stylus, and I have no capability to filter. These messages in today’s world are simply going to make me mad.

Brand marketing will be much more important in a wireless world for many reasons. One is for the sheer fact that consumers have less time to become familiar with a brand yet are receiving more and more incoming messages on their PDAs. Consumers will then automatically filter out brand messages about products they are not familiar with and accept the brand messages about products they already trust. This gives marketers less time to develop a relationship with consumers before the message gets filtered.

I would really like to see the major PDA vendors develop new ways of filtering for the wireless world so that we are not forced to carry the PC paradigm of filtering into tomorrow’s devices.

I have a feeling Jim Balsillie would also appreciate it.

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