Mass Marketing Gets Personal for Smart Mobile Marketers

Way back in 2002, I wrote a column discussing the differences between mass marketing and one-to-one marketing in my user experience review of the movie “Minority Report.” Today, we’ll examine two cases of mass marketing and see how smart marketers are exploring ways to make mass marketing personal. Conversely, we’ll see how the rest are missing the boat.

As I walked to a subway stop in New York City last week, I saw a poster for Victoria’s Secret. It was a typical mass marketing poster, with one major twist. It told me to turn Bluetooth on in my mobile device because I was approaching the store. When you walk by the store, it connects with you one-on-one via your mobile device.

I remember when the Palm devices came out and accepted infrared signals. My gym let you hold your Palm device up to the red beam, and it would send you the weekly class schedule.

While the idea isn’t new, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are enabling this technology to reach a wider spectrum of people because of their reach (as opposed to line-of-site infrared) and the prevalence of these technologies in mobile devices.

In Victoria’s Secret’s case, the fact that this was also a location-based marketing (i.e., I was about to walk past a store) made it really effective. But the poster itself could have had some kind of transmitter in it, allowing the Bluetooth idea to work regardless of the proximity to a physical store. This idea turns any mass marketing medium into a personal experience.

Now, let’s look at a bad example. I am currently in Sweden. When I arrived, I was tired, jetlagged, and hungry. The “I’m not a dumb American” tourist in me wanted to find a cute little Swedish restaurant and have my first meal be an authentic Swedish meal. The tired, jetlagged American in me thought it would be quickest to go to McDonald’s — there was one right near the hotel. I walked to it and almost walked in. But then, in the distance, I saw a huge sign for Burger King, which I much prefer. So I dragged my tired self about 15 minutes up the road to the building with the Burger King sign. All I saw on the ground floor was an Adidas store. No Burger King. I walked around the block, thinking there must be a side entrance. I looked up, thinking it was on a higher floor.

No luck. Finally, I went into the adidas store and asked the clerk where the Burger King was. She laughed because, evidently, everyone asks her the same question. The answer? There isn’t one. The burger chain just bought advertising on the building because it’s in a busy area. I asked where there was one, and she said there were two near by, but neither were a straight route, and I couldn’t understand the street names she was saying. So I went back 15 minutes to McDonald’s. In that same time, I could have been at the Burger King and been happy.

What could Burger King have done differently? Especially in a situation where there is no physical presence and there is the unofficial promise of one, it could have taken a page from the Victoria’s Secret playbook. Why not tell me to turn on my Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and beam me a map of the closest Burger King restaurants, along with a coupon for something?

This would turn its crummy branding idea into an interactive promotion for its restaurants, instead of making me hate Burger King for a few hours. Additionally, because the coupons could be easily traced, it’s a no-brainer to see the return on investment with a service like this.

As Victoria’s Secret showed, old forms of advertising are learning new tricks. Is your company embracing these changes and making each customer contact more personal and worthwhile? If not, I can show you where all the McDonald’s are in Stockholm.

Until next time…


Related reading