Rohit Dadwal

With over 4 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, the mobile medium has been hailed as the “hot” new media channel for brands globally. But how will mobile marketing progress and where will the utilisation of mobile be a few years from now?

Mobile marketing has radically changed the way we, the consumer, use and pay for goods and services. Mobile marketing has also radically changed the way marketers interact and engage with their consumers. Always on, always available and everywhere, mobile is set to become the ‘first’ screen for marketers worldwide. Recent predictions place mobile marketing and advertising as industries worth well into tens of billions of dollars over the coming years. Regardless of how accurate many of these predictions may be, they serve to illustrate the enormous expectations that surround the concept of mobile marketing and advertising.

Opportunities for Market Growth

With the number of mobile subscriptions growing at a tremendous rate, there is no reason for mobile marketing not to become an accepted part of our daily life. Marketing and advertising via mobile is already an integral part of mobile commerce and entertainment and consumers are becoming more receptive to interacting with more advanced features and services through their device. Brands are also learning how to build stronger relationships with consumers via mobile that revolve around the mobility and intimacy that this most personal of devices offers.

Consumers want to interact with their favourite brands based on affinity – but also on entertainment, fun, personalisation and increasingly, around productivity. The take-up of fast 3G services and vastly improved device interfaces are improving the user experience for millions of mobile subscribers as access becomes smooth and instant. We have reached the point where the PC experience is mirrored on the mobile phone. So, with the technology now reaching a point of maturity, it is only natural that the next phase of mobile is all about content, rich media, and the convenience of converged services.

And it’s the convergence of things like music, games and mobile Internet that is attracting brands to mobile as a marketing platform. Mobile is fast becoming a dominant force in both the technology and media landscape, as mobile marketers are now integrating mobile campaigns into existing digital or traditional media initiatives.

Mobile operators have already made progress towards lowering the cost of mobile ownership as the industry moves its focus to growth in emerging markets. All you can eat data and low cost, feature-rich handsets will help to drive the adoption of microbilling and micropayments, mobile Internet, TV and video. With the cost of such services a much bigger issue in this scenario than in the developed world, it’s a huge opportunity for brands to help carry the cost in return for exposure. It is clear that there is a significant opportunity for brands and consumers to maximise the long-term benefits of this powerful marketing channel.

Challenges to be Met

Despite the opportunity for long-term growth, there are hurdles that need to be overcome if the marketing industry is to meet expectations quickly and successfully.

Reach

The first barrier to the uptake of mobile marketing is consumer adoption and perception. To most consumers worldwide, mobile is a medium that is all about voice, not data services. Despite millions spent on research, product design and advertising, for many users a mobile is an overly complex and technologically confusing media channel.

As more consumers begin to discover the advanced functionality of their devices and extract value from these interactions, they will begin to utilise mobile more – hence extending the reach for brands/marketers as they use the mobile channel. The mobile industry also needs to help educate consumers on the value of the mobile experience and help encourage consumer interaction and adoption of mobile. Once we put ourselves in the role of the consumer, we will be able to encourage adoption and extend channel reach.

Strategy First, Technology Second

One of the largest issues that we need to counsel brands new to mobile on is to focus on their strategic objectives first, not the cool mobile technology. Focus on brand engagement or acquisition objectives and find the technology that fits, not the other way around. We can expect to see brand campaigns evolving to be less about the technology and more about their objectives over the coming years. Mobile provides high interaction and high response rates and brands are learning how to use the mobile ‘basics’ to drive these interactions.

Industry Guidelines & Best Practices

Mobile presents a challenge for brands to understand the effectiveness of a campaign across operator networks or technology enablers, or to define mobile’s reach. Through its work with all players in the ecosystem, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) is leading the move to create standardised formats and methodologies to protect the consumer experience and ensure the sanctity of the mobile channel through guidelines such as mobile advertising formats. These guidelines help encourage faster brand adoption of mobile, as they can quickly deploy campaigns using set guidelines. The MMA and other key industry stakeholders are also working on consistency and definitions around measurement to ensure a brand is able to generate consistent and reliable results from their mobile initiatives worldwide.

Trust

Last, but by no means least, is the issue of consumer trust. It’s fine to work with the mobile industry, brands and advertisers globally, but without the buy-in of consumers, mobile marketing simply won’t succeed. It is essential that we remain vigilant to prevent poorly planned and executed mobile marketing from being perceived as intrusive or, worse, outright spam.

How do we ensure that brands are able to build this level of trust and a true dialogue of interaction with their customer? Education of both consumers and marketers alike is crucial. For consumers, we need to make sure that they are aware of all the systems and policing mechanisms in place to ensure that the mobile marketing experience they receive is a positive and predictable one, and provide them with recourse for any behaviour that they find bothersome. For marketers, we need to encourage them to move away from the traditional ‘push’ or interruption-based form of advertising, and adopt the six central tenets of a positive consumer experience: choice, control, customisation, consideration, constraint and confidentiality. These form the basis of the MMA’s global Code of Conduct, and its Consumer Best Practices in the USA:

Choice: The consumer must “opt-in” to a mobile marketing programme. Consumers have a right to privacy and marketers must therefore gain approval from consumers

before content is sent, and include clear directions on how to unsubscribe from

communication should it become unwanted. This ensures consumer pull rather than consumer push.

Control: Consumers should have control of when and how they receive marketing messaging on the mobile phone and must be allowed to easily terminate or “opt-out” of an unwanted programme.

Customisation: Any data supplied by the consumer must be used to personalise content (eg: restricting communications to those categories specifically requested by the consumer), making content as relevant and useful to the consumer as possible.

Consideration: The consumer must receive or be offered something of perceived value in return for receiving the communication (product and service enhancements, requested information, entry into competitions, discounts etc).

Constraint: The marketer must effectively manage and limit mobile messaging programmes to a reasonable number of programmes.

Confidentiality: Commitment to not share consumer information with non-affiliated third-parties.

Taken together, the evolution of mobile marketing is delivering reach and revenues to advertisers and brands, while at the same time offering consumers relevance and value. If we continue as an industry to collaborate and innovate, then it’s realistic to expect mobile to represent at least ten per cent of the global advertising spend within the next three to four years.