Mobile Marketing to the Masses

Mobile information and communication are finally beginning to take off in the U.S., as in the rest of the world, albeit a few years late. U.S. users will leapfrog ahead, given phone technology is already advanced in other parts of the world. We’ll witness fast adoption of new technologies here. Much faster, at least, than we have so far.

An event that helped expose many U.S. users to text messaging (a huge European phenomenon) was the 2003 blackout. Millions of Web addicts suddenly realized they could send messages without using a computer.

In November, new regulations requiring mobile phone number portability go into effect. Essentially, we’ll all be able to take our phone numbers with us when we switch providers. This will profoundly effect individuals, companies, and industries.

How will mobile devices be leveraged for marketing purposes?

Big Business Will Sell Access to Walled Gardens of Employees

If you work for a company that either reimburses mobile phone expenses or picks up all the charges, prepare for a change. In Europe, company mobile phone accounts are common. Instead of owning your own phone, you use a company device.

The primary argument against using company-owned phones in the U.S. has been executives didn’t want their mobile numbers to change with their roles or jobs. With mobile number portability, it’s a nonissue. Mobile numbers follow the user, the employer pays the account.

Businesses will soon be able to negotiate far better rates than individuals can. This saves a lot of money. It also means companies will be better able to scrutinize employee phone usage. This could lead to terms of use policies and prohibitions, as with company Internet access.

It also means businesses may decide to seek additional revenues (or get deeper discounts) by allowing providers to market to these large pools of people from known demographics.

Of course, it’s likely the types of marketing messages allowed will be restricted, perhaps even the time of day messages can be sent to staff. A string of text messages might be permitted during lunch time, or offers could arrive at the end of the day. These would potentially be well received, even opted into by individual employees. Expect offers such as coupons for KFC (pick up dinner on the way home) or discounts on tickets to events or shows.

Many people will buy multiline telephones, with separate work and personal numbers.

Affinity Groups Will Take Off

With individuals locked in, a number of value-added services will crop up. You’ll be able to use your personal number in unforeseen ways. It will become a password to all kinds of special clubs, offers, and events.

Mobile messaging service Upoc has been around for a while (I’m a long-time user). It really isn’t a mainstream service, but it soon will be. Expect similar services to crop up in the near future.

Mobile Affinity Marketing

At first, I had a chuckle over the recent media coverage of so-called flash mobs. I thought it funny marketers would consider accessing this phenomenon for marketing purposes. It just didn’t seem broadly feasible. Then I started thinking about flash mobs as mobile users — and what location-based services could add to the mix.

Imagine signing up for an affinity group (via services such as Upoc) that bleed into real-world activity. You’re a radio-controlled toy airplane aficionado? Imagine an opportunity to meet with others in your local affinity group for an RC airplane mob. You could spontaneously fly planes around the parking lot of a local mall. Maybe you collect Peter Pots Stoneware (as my wife and her mother do). What if there were a sudden call from your affinity group to arrive at a local park carrying your best piece of pottery?

These may sound like microniches to those of us who shake our heads in wonder at these passions. But they are exactly the types of groups that would welcome, embrace, and react to marketing targeting their greatest enthusiasm. Before the Internet or mobile marketing, there was no way to effectively and cost-efficiently focus on such niche populations. Today, it can really be done.

People have deeply ingrained passions about many, many things. Mobile marketing can enable marketing to niche groups, as well as geographic segmentation and rewards. With the ability to communicate in real time, wherever they happen to be at that moment, you can create magic.

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