Riding the Perfect Storm of Mobile Marketing

A flurry of new studies and product releases last week seems to point to one thing: we’re about to enter the perfect storm for mobile marketing. And it’s time to think about how mobile marketing is different and how we can fit it into our increasingly complicated campaigns.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” you’re probably saying. “We’ve all heard that before.” And I don’t blame you, especially if you’re still recovering from the overhyped mobile Web that the telcos and tech heads tried to foist on us back in the late ’90s and early ’00s as an antidote to the rapidly bursting dot-com bubble. There was a lot of hype, some questionable demos, and a lot of disappointment from consumers who thought the mobile Web would be like their desktop Web only to discover that the experience of the mobile Web was a bit…errr….lacking.

But things are different now. The technology’s become fairly mature. People are used to texting and mobile e-mail. Devices work a heck of a lot better, and today’s mobile devices now come tricked out with GPS, Wi-Fi, cameras, and a host of other features that the old four-function flip phones of yore could only dream of.

People are changing their use of mobile technology, too. Fully 17 percent of households are ditching their landlines for mobile phones, and Nielsen Mobile predicts that the number could jump to 20 percent by year’s end. While it’s not a big surprise to anyone that teens are leading the mobile revolution, I was amused by a recent Harris Interactive study found that nearly 60 percent of teens credited their mobile phone for improving their lives and that four out of five teens carry mobile devices (a 40 percent jump from 2004). In fact, the devices have become so much a part of their lives that the same study found that 42 percent of teens could text blindfolded!

New devices are changing the game, too. There’s been enough written about the iPhone so I don’t need to rehash the device’s popularity and features. But now that Google’s gotten into the game with the release of the first phone featuring its Android OS, things are definitely going to get a lot more interesting.

Why? Because while Apple has opened up things a bit with its App Store, Google’s paradigm-shattering approach with Android is to make the mobile Web as open as the desktop Web. While innovation has been stifled in the mobile space for a long time due to arcane (and usurious and ultimately self-defeating) telco rules and restrictions, Android means that anyone with a dream and a development kit can create new mobile applications for other Android phone users. Note to mobile carriers: like it or not, you’re just about to become the bandwidth providers you’d always feared you’d become. And in the immortal words of Nelson Muntz, “Haw haw!”

Finally, the integration of new technologies into mobile devices that make them aware of where they are and what they’re looking at will change everything — as soon as marketers get creative with these new technologies. The iPhone and the Android phone come with GPS capabilities, making location-based advertising that actually works a reality. Samsung’s new breed of camera phone is slated to be released with Scanbuy barcode-reading software built in, allowing consumers to scan barcodes in stores and receive up-to-the-nanosecond information about the product, including reviews, prices at other stores, even promotional spiffs. This isn’t an entirely new idea (a year ago Microsoft announced a technology that would allow mobile phone users to take pictures of ads in magazines, then get info delivered to their phones). But with new technologies such as Kooba’s mobile visual search, which allows users to take pictures of movie posters and get instant reviews, show times, and other movie info, we’re clearly moving into a new realm, where the real world and the online world are finally becoming inextricably linked.

While the mobile Web and mobile marketing in general have had their share of overhyped moments and jump-the-gun promises in the past 10 years, there’s no question now that if you’re a marketer, you’d better be paying attention. And once you start paying attention, you’d better start thinking differently. Marketing to the mobile consumer is a lot different from marketing to the desktop-bound (or couch-bound or car-bound) consumer. Sure, a lot of stuff you’ve always have had to worry about will still matter — demographics, psychographics, media consumption patterns, and the like — but there’s a host of new variables, such as context, feedback, location, integration, social interaction, and situational awareness that you’ll have to start considering.

Tune in to my next column for my list, “The 12 New Rules of Marketing in the Mobile World.”

In the meantime, practice texting with your eyes closed so you don’t embarrass yourself in front of the kids, OK?

Join us for a new Webcast, High-Touch Personalization, The Successful Marketer’s Secret Ingredient, September 29 at 2 p.m. EDT.

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