Contributed by Rohit Dadwal, Managing Director, Mobile Marketing Association Asia Pacific Limited 

Rohit Dadwal

The barrage of statistics outlining the rapid growth and spread of cellular phone use in Asia is never-ending. This is good, because it indicates just how healthy the mobile space is – but it’s also tempting to be carried away by a flood of statistics. At some point, marketers have to abandon the statistics and trust that mobile can be a winning proposition, and then take the next step, which is to incorporate it into a marketing campaign of some sort. No one is suggesting that mobile advertising or marketing should replace traditional channels, but it has characteristics that make it a desirable part of a successful marketing mix.

Mobile is a personal mass medium

Mobile is personal, no doubt. But it also has the broad reach of broadcast media – and disseminating messages using mobile can be done as easily or cheaply. Nevertheless, when a consumer looks at his or her mobile phone, the message is going to him or her alone, which is a level of one-to-one engagement that is otherwise quite difficult to achieve. Unlike television or film, this is not a medium that is consumed en masse. In fact, these days, mobile devices are used to discuss films and television shows that have just been watched, as people use them to post on Twitter and Facebook. Mobile reaches out to individual consumers on a one-to-one basis, and the consumer alone decides what content or applications appear on his or her device.

Mobile users are permanently connected

Other media are very much dependent on the actions of the consumer, who has to turn on the television set to watch tv, or go outside to be exposed to billboards, or flip through a magazine to see the glossy ads. The mobile user, on the other hand, is more or less permanently connected. He or she may choose to use the mobile device during any and all activities, including shopping, dining, when travelling and so on. This presents an unprecedented opportunity. Location-aware services, for example, are looking to deliver information when it is most needed, determined by cross-referencing the location of the mobile user. This permanent (or near permanent) level of connection also means a very high level of access for mobile marketers, who could, in theory, reach mobile users while they were at home or asleep.

Mobile devices are carried all the time

Most people are familiar with the feeling of having their mobile phones in their hands very nearly all the time. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but no other medium is quite as ubiquitous as the mobile phone. People carry them around with them everywhere, in bags or pockets, or wander around with them in their hands, or place them on the table when they are sitting down. That may be the reason why people use their mobile phones as alarm clocks. Nokia reported at MindTrek 2010 that, on average, people all over the world over check their phones 150 times per day. That means that on average, we check our phones once every 6.5 minutes when we’re awake. That’s barely enough time to put it down before picking it up again.

Mobile has the most accurate audience information

Each and every device on a cellular network is registered separately. This means that technically, every mobile device is individually distinguishable, and so mobile has potentially the most accurate audience information of any other medium. Of course, confidentiality and consumer privacy laws restrict marketers access to this information, but permission-based marketing programmes allow consumers to voluntarily share their information in exchange for discounts and other special offers. In turn, this lets marketers use the database to target marketing material very accurately, almost down to the level of the individual.

These are the basic characteristics that make mobile such an attractive space to work in, and which distinguish it from other channels. In order to make the best use of mobile, it is useful to consider these when planning a campaign with a mobile component, so that mobile can be used to create meaningful interactions and powerful exchanges with consumers.