Mobile: It’s Not Just for Teens Anymore

Arguably one of the most prominent trends of 2005 was mobile marketing. From Frito-Lay to Campbell Soup, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies began to explore this medium, not in small part due to the growing number of mobile phone subscribers.

A recent study by Insight Research predicts by the end of this year, there would be 1.8 billion mobile phone subscribers worldwide. Additionally, independent studies and surveys show teens and college students — desirable demographics among many CPG companies — are more active cell phone users. They’re more likely to use mobile email than the average subscriber and more likely to download mobile games and to personalize their phone content.

With statistics such as these to buttress them, many interactive marketers assume young adults are the primary consumers who utilize mobile technology. Think back to the mobile campaigns you’ve seen. Nearly all seem to be targeted toward this demographic. It’s a natural assumption to make; we once thought this same young, tech-savvy audience dominated blogs and RSS (define), when in fact many older and affluent consumers are actively involved. Contrary to common misconceptions, teens aren’t alone in shaping the mobile technology trend.

The new face of the mobile era belongs to office workers and professionals, and not just to the executive segment of the demographic categorized as “corner-office.” Increasingly, office workers of all types and status levels employ mobile technology and open up a new world of mobile marketing possibilities in the process.

A few weeks ago, mobile device manufacturer Nokia released a white paper, “Myths of Mobility,” designed to encourage use of mobile technology within the workplace. One myth it set out to debunk is mobile technology as uncommon in the average workplace.

The paper notes that by 2009, there will be over 878 million mobile workers worldwide, a sure indication workplace mobility is on the rise. It also states companies of all types and sizes have begun to employ mobile technology, from small businesses aiming for a competitive advantage to large organizations wishing to support employee mobility.

Why the move toward mobile technology by employees and their employers? Already, most employees spend more than a third of their work time away from their desks, much of that outside of the office. Mobile technology can ensure constant communication and improve workforce productivity.

The study also points out smartphones offers many benefits to workers as compared to laptops and PDAs, the reigning (just barely) leaders in workforce mobility. Many smartphones offer all the features of a laptop and then some, as they also allow users to conduct conference calls or surf the Web while on the phone. These benefits, along with size and portability, are predominantly responsible for the increase in smartphone sales; shipments of PDAs were down by nearly 17 percent in the third quarter of 2005, while Palm’s Treo line of smartphone outsold its PDAs. Smartphones as a category are expected to outsell PDAs overall in 2006.

With professionals embracing mobile technology, and teens and college students not solely being responsible for progressing this trend, interactive marketers have an opportunity to transform the mobile marketing industry. No longer must CPG companies monopolize this arena. No more will games and contests govern consumers’ screens.

That working professionals are on board with mobile technology is sure to attract a new marketing set, including luxury consumer goods vendors and the business-to-business (B2B) sector. It represents another medium via which to effectively reach consumers with purchasing power, as well as a creative outlet for marketers and media buyers determined to develop engaging and interactive ad campaigns.

As engrossed as younger audiences tend to be in mobile offerings, today’s professionals will be even more so if marketers recognize their interests and develop campaigns accordingly. The younger demographic may have a reputation for being progressive, but with their multifunctional smartphones and a need to spend a good portion of their days on the move, office workers and professionals should be top of mind for mobile marketers in 2006.

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