Is Mobile Web Marketing Dead Due To Mobile Apps?

A funny fact is that even though those most conservative advertisers who used to doubt mobile marketing and had many questions now come back and ask for a mobile app. We have received all kinds of briefs, from fast food chain stores to fruit juice, from shampoo to skincare, from television brands to automobiles, they all want to develop a mobile app so they can offer more content, deeper engagement and better brand experience to their consumers.

And they all come with a very strong will: Yes, this is what we want to do, a mobile app. I don’t doubt that at all. Because if you look at the kind of mobile phones they are using today, you will get the answer yourself. iPhone penetration among China’s mobile Internet users is 4.2 percent (source: Madhouse Metrics, 2011 Q1) , but in China’s ad agency and marketer users, especially their digital teams, it is safe to say the penetration of iPhone plus Andorid mobile phone users is already above 50 percent and maybe higher.

“These fancy cool apps (games, in most cases) are really adorable. Would be great if my brands could have something like this, and consumer will stick to it, so my brand gets exposure all the time… and mobile sites and banners, they are so out. My brand is looking for engagement, that only an app can do”.

I’m not surprised to hear all these. Yes and No. Mobile app marketing is on the rise, but mobile web campaign won’t die.

In our previous column, we talked about how to make a better branded mobile app. But honestly, not every campaign needs an app. Here is an excellent example from Coca-Cola that shows a mobile web campaign, a single one, can achieve great result and ROI too.

Coca-Cola launched a Chinese New Year greeting campaign earlier this year on different media platforms, including mobile. The campaign was simple, consumers get to make a new year wish on the mobile web campaign site, and Coca-Cola will send their wish out on a virtual coke bottle by MMS.

That’s it. No fancy technology, no apps. Mobile ad banners were placed on various mobile portals where youth would visit. Traffic was then driven to this simple mobile page and without registration; consumers could make their New Year wishes by “typing in” and “send out” right away.

The result? Over 240,000 submissions generated during the campaign while the original KPI set by client was only 30,000 – eight times, yes! In this campaign, mobile beat all other media platform and won – both on ROI (cost per submissions) and quantity.

I love this campaign because the brand certainly knew what they want to do and was really focused about it. Simple, straight and memorable. Instead of developing something complicated, Coca-Cola made it really easy for everyone.

You see today, a mobile web campaign can be like this and it works. For an app that only offers product information, graphics and simple interactive such as registration and filling in a form or applying a sample or a ticket, I don’t see there is reason to skip the mobile web site directly to a campaign app. Iif we can make it earlier to consumer, why would we want to choose a complicated way to confuse them? Besides, why do we want to narrow down the audiences (only smartphone users who download the app can see), when we can have more potential participants (both feature phones and smartphone users would be able to join it on a browsing base, and if you wish, you can set targeting criteria to reach the desired audience)?

Of course, you would say branded apps offering games are different. Yes some type of games can only be played in an app, and consumers might like it… they play mobile app games anyway. But do you really want to get involved into the mobile app game war? Thousands of game developers are out there, before you only need to compete with your competitor in the same industry sector, now you want to stand out from millions of mobile games? I don’t really think that is a good idea to do.

Branded Mobile apps are charming, but back to the roots, consider the fact that there are 303 miliion mobile Internet users (Source: CNNIC, December 2010) in China, it is more important to have a mobile web base where your consumer can find you easily when they are on the go and when they need information on you before they consider to download an app from you. Mobile web today is more like an infrastructure rather than just a tactic or media format.

With the arrival of HTML5 mobile web pages, it will allow more functions on the browsing base without downloading an app to do it. But that is yet a future to come. We can talk about it next time.

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A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.