The ABCs of Mobile Marketing, Part 1

Mobile marketing has experienced enormous growth over the past year because technology innovations have allowed us marketers here in North America to conduct campaigns across carriers. The industry also smartly created the means for brands to monetize the mobile channel and to make it fun for consumers, while enabling those brands to create and solidify their position with consumers — and to make money. It’s win-win.

U.S. mobile penetration now exceeds the similar penetration metrics for home Internet, cable, and computers. With wireless penetration reaching upwards of 70 percent in most major metro areas, wireless devices have become a ubiquitous communications tool and a channel for marketers ignore at their peril. Mobile allows brands to track campaign success, so-called brand interactivity. By including a mobile call to action in a given campaign (broadcast, print, outdoor, etc.), marketers can more accurately track response rates for specific campaigns or channels.

Mobile allows a brand or content provider to target subscribers with anytime, anywhere marketing. A consumer’s mobile device is always on and always connected. That means always available. Brands can now access consumers when they’re at home, at work, in the car, traveling, and so on. These consumers are in complete control of their mobile experience. When they choose to be engaged, they’re more likely to want to buy. When integrated into a cross-media marketing communications campaign, mobile provides consumers with a flexible new medium to target.

For the non-mobile savvy, however, the terms and perceived complexity of the industry appear daunting. With abbreviations like “SMS,” “PSMS,” “WAP,” and “MMS” and terms such as “mobile video” and “mobile advertising,” how does a brand begin to launch a mobile marketing campaign? In fact, it’s very simple. The key terms:

  • SMS (short message service): This is often referred to as “text” or “text messaging.” It’s the ability to send text-based messages person to person (P2P); from person to application, such as a voting application (P2A); or application to person, as with an acknowledgement or information (A2P).
  • PSMS (premium SMS): Premium means the service user will be charged an incremental fee instead of the basic text charge. The transaction usually involves participation in a program, purchase of a ring tone or wallpaper, or something similar.
  • WAP (wireless application protocol): WAP is simply the wireless Web. When you access an Internet session on your mobile device, you access via a WAP session.
  • MMS (multimedia messaging service): Ever taken pictures with your phone and sent them to friends or e-mailed them? That’s MMS.
  • Mobile video: It’s exactly what it sounds like: watching TV, music videos, commercials, and so on from your mobile device.
  • Mobile advertising: Like Internet or TV advertising initiatives, this is the ability to offer a call to action or brand banner within the mobile application, whether it’s mobile Web (WAP), text messaging (SMS), pictures (MMS), or video.

Consumers strongly fear being inundated with spam. Should you worry? No. The mobile industry has learned from the Internet; it’s instituted guidelines and best practices that not only protect consumer experience and privacy, but also ensure the integrity of a publisher’s data.

The time is right to get engaged in mobile marketing. The industry has experienced near-hockey-stick vertical growth. In the U.S. alone, text campaigns (SMS) have experienced approximately 200 percent growth (extrapolating from H1 2005 growth numbers) in adoption in the last year. No other marketing medium, not the Internet, out of home, or print, has experienced this level of adoption. And this is only beginning (text messaging is only one aspect of the mix).

Mobile allows brands that have relied on traditional channels to create a more direct, sustained relationship with consumers. Mobile Accord targets its mobile marketing business toward nonprofits (NPOs). They now have a more cost-effective means to target subscribers.

“Mobile provides a far more cost-effective channel than direct mail or telemarketing campaigns, which have traditionally been used by the nonprofits,” said Mike Ricci, VP of marketing at Mobile Accord. “More importantly, it creates an environment where donors are empowered to instantly respond the moment their empathy intersects with the NPO’s call to action.”

Mobile marketing is here. Entertainment brands know it; consumer packaged goods brands are on it; quick service restaurants and media companies are active. When are you going to take the plunge and add mobile to your mix? You can start slow, but start now.

Laura is off this week. Today’s column appeared earlier on ClickZ. Be sure to check out parts two and three.

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