Mobile Marketing: Europe Offers Inspiration and Ideas

In the U.S., mobile marketing is nascent. Activities such as the BMW 3 series promotion are largely experimental. Here in Europe, however, the practice is increasingly widespread and sophisticated.

The mobile channel’s growing adoption among European marketers has been driven by a number of factors. Deep penetration of the consumer marketplace, verging on ubiquity, means mobile now offers great reach, whatever the target audience’s demographic profile. By the end of 2004, 77 percent of Europeans subscribed to a mobile telephony service.

Marketers have a simple and effective messaging platform with which to communicate to their audience, albeit within 160 characters of black and white text via SMS (define). It offers ease, speed, and comparatively inexpensive way to send and receive non-voice communications.

The introduction of cross-network, five-digit shortcodes for consumer textback response has also been a boon to the industry, helping marketers initiate a mobile dialogue with consumers. As a result, investment in the channel has increased significantly over the last few years, growing by 34 percent from €155.3 million in 2003 to €208.7 million in 2004.

The emergence of rich mobile media, however, and the channel’s growing versatility are starting to attract a greater number of European marketers to the platform. They’re persuading those early experimenters, who have already tested the medium, to start taking a more long-term, strategic approach to integrating it into the marketing mix.

Though the European mobile subscriber base is beginning to plateau, the handset landscape is developing at pace, and with it opportunities for enhanced marketing communications. Consumers are encouraged to upgrade their devices on a regular basis with a constant flood of new and improved handsets, heavy advertising from network operators and handset manufacturers, and cutthroat price wars.

Multimedia-enabled handsets, such as the Nokia 5100 and the Sony Ericsson T230, offer audio-visual capabilities, PC functionality, and WAP (define) Internet connectivity (via general packet radio service). Ownership of such devices will grow from 35 percent in 2004 to 86 percent by 2008. The capacity and connectivity of European networks are also improving, as operators, such as 3 and more recently, Vodafone, introduce 3G services into the marketplace.

As these development occur, Europeans consume more and more mobile data. The channel is becoming more visual than verbal, and opportunities for brand building via the mobile channel are burgeoning.

We’re seeing increased use of rich media mobile messaging for greater brand and communication impact. Marketers now have at their disposal MMS (define), WAP push (clickable links to WAP-based multimedia content incorporated into SMS messages), and video shortcodes (consumers receive a video stream directly to their handset in response to texting to a shortcode), recently launched by MX Telecom.

We’re also seeing increased use of branded mobile content and applications. In Germany, Coca-Cola offered participants branded wallpapers, logos, and icons as incentive to its “Message in a Bottle” promotion. In France, Procter & Gamble developed what might be the first example of a mobile advergame, a Grand Prix style racing game for Head & Shoulders shampoo. In the U.K., Specsavers Opticians is sponsoring an 80-episode comic strip delivered over 16 weeks by MMS. Companies such as Trigenix, SurfKitchen, and Silk offer marketers WAP-enabled, downloadable Java applications and user interfaces that give brands permanent real estate on their customers’ handsets.

We’re also seeing network operators exploit the growing traffic to their WAP portals by offering advertisers sponsored text links or mobile search keywords, facilitated by companies such as MotionBridge. And they rent mobile Internet-based space to brand owners. In Spain, Coca-Cola created a mobile version of its online community on Telefónica MoviStar’s e-moción i-mode (define) platform.

Not only consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies are getting in on the act. Automotive, fashion and beauty, and financial services companies are also exploiting the medium.

This may all sound a long way off in the U.S. Yet as industry barriers come down, connectivity and handset functionality improves, and consumer adoption of mobile data rises, these types of opportunities will emerge. For marketers keen to adopt the mobile channel on either continent, they first must build relationships via consumers’ handsets with promotions and customer alerts. Mobile marketing service providers, such as Enpocket, Flytxt, and Mobile 365, and network operators (for large-scale channel use) can help exploit the medium.

Related reading