The Mobile Marketing Manifesto

This week, I decided getting you excited about mobile marketing should be my personal crusade. The refrain I seem to hear is mobile is “it ” in Europe and Asia, but it’s “a few years away” from hitting it big here in the States.

People working in mobile marketing circles say we’re a lot closer than you might think.

I got a quick state of the union from Carrie Himelfarb-Seifer, VP of sales at Vindigo and a board member of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA). Some facts she brought to my attention:

  • Of 180 million wireless phone subscribers in the U.S., 58 percent use their devices for non-voice functions.

  • WAP (define) 2.0 has gained traction. Over 44 million subscribers used the mobile Web to access news, information, and entertainment in February.
  • Ring tone sales are projected to hit $500 million in the U.S this year. This is an amazing number. People use their phones as a form of personal expression. They personalize phones with wallpaper and ring tones — and pay for those features.
  • Over 10 million mobile subscribers play games each month.
  • 3 billion text messages are sent each month — yes, billion.
  • 3G (define) networks, which offer higher performance and more capacity than existing 2G networks, are up and running in some U.S. cities. Handset makers are rolling out 3G-compatible phones.

Like Himelfarb-Seifer, I believe we’re closer to Europe and Asia in terms of mobile readiness than you might think. And the future is platform-agnostic. The content and functionality available on PCs, TVs, and mobile devices will, in essence, be the same. That day is also closer than you might think.

Here’s the future of mobile platforms in the U.S.: Mix the ability to engage consumers the way TV does with the ability for users to immediately respond, as they do with the Internet, then give those users the ability to engage and respond anywhere.

Imagine the possibilities for mobile marketing. A consumer downtown in a major city watches a live TV stream on her phone or mobile media player. A commercial streams in for a retail brand. It allows the user to “click” or interact to learn more about the brand. Because the user downloaded a city guide and the phone is GPS-enabled, she immediately has access to the brand’s nearest locations.

She can also opt in for future offers, branded wallpaper, and branded ring tones. This is a really great retail brand, with cool imagery and a cool jingle, content a user would want to download and use with her mobile device (like images of beautiful celebrities).

Much of this functionality already exists. It’s just a matter of harnessing and using it in the manner described. I’m not aware of anyone delivering this kind of integration in the States… yet. But a number of companies out there can do most of this now. We have a plethora of mobile marketing options. Look at what “American Idol” did, from allowing people to vote for their favorite contestants through text messaging all the way up to PDA branding campaigns.

Here are just a few environments in which we could advertise and interact with mobile users:

  • Wallpaper

  • Ring tones
  • Weather updates
  • Location-based services
  • Games
  • City guides
  • News
  • Entertainment updates
  • Calendar reminders
  • Text messaging

I spoke with reps from a couple of those companies “When people are using their PDAs, they’re in a more intimate, personal mode than when they use their computers,” says Ann Knox, an account manager for AvantGo, iAnywhere Solutions’ mobile Internet service. “Behavior with computers is much more task-oriented and people have learned to tune out, or avoid, the advertising online. With wireless PDA usage, people are more likely to notice and engage with the advertising.”

With all the options available to advertisers, the mobile marketing landscape gets more interesting all the time. Companies such as Vindigo, AvantGo, Enpocket, Mobliss, and Third Screen Media can tell you more about mobile marketing and opportunities within this space. And if you’ve done a really interesting mobile campaign, I’d love to hear about it.

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