Magazine article Marketing

Digital Mobile: Marketing's Ugly Duckling

Magazine article Marketing

Digital Mobile: Marketing's Ugly Duckling

Article excerpt

Of all marketing channels, SMS is perhaps the most intrusive. So, how can advertisers ensure consumer buy-in?

The majority of mobile-phone owners will have received a commercial SMS message in the past few years. Not surprisingly, such communications have not always been welcomed.

SMS - and its successor MMS, which includes colour and images - were once heralded as a marketer's dream, offering the chance to connect with consumers on a one-to-one basis and deliver highly targeted messages. But mobile messaging has never really taken off as a marketing tool.

Mobile agencies are still keen to stress the benefits of mobile messaging, such as the medium's extensive reach, as proof it can be an effective marketing channel - there are more devices than people in the UK. Yet advertiser enthusiasm remains lacking.

'There are many fun and useful ways of using SMS,' says Jeremy Wright, co-founder of Enpocket. 'But it is not creatively rich, so media agencies don't see how it can add value and so they have not been pushing it as a viable medium.'

Enpocket works with bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes, sending out tips to punters who have subscribed to their services. It claims this works because it reaches people who have opted in, at a relevant time and with a valued message.

According to Wright, most brands don't see a need to carry out one-to-one marketing communications on any other basis than tactically around certain promotions. Text-to-win initiatives are common among FMCG companies, with on-pack space used to advertise free promotions, but few brands seem willing to try anything more than this.Even the arrival of MMS and the richer graphics, video and sounds that it brought has failed to capture their imagination.

Enpocket has carried out more than 100 MMS campaigns for Vodafone, but using the channel to promote a mobile operator's own offering is vastly different to attracting third-party brands to sign up to the service.

The cost of MMS is still prohibitive for most brands wishing to use it as a marketing channel; there is speculation it will fall in the next six months, though that may still not be enough to kickstart interest in MMS as anything other than a customer relationship management add-on.

Integrated ad agency Archibald Ingall Stretton handles consumer mobile marketing for O2, and, like Vodafone, the operator has been a pioneer in the mobile messaging space, integrating the channel into the majority of its marketing as well as making it central to its 'rewards' promotion. It uses SMS to support its cross-media advertising, sending out call-to-action messages to coincide with TV ads.

Jon Buckley, head of digital at AIS, admits mobile messaging is not suitable for all brands, but adds that the channel does have certain advantages when integrated properly. 'It can close the loop on all marketing channels, but you have to have complete data sets in order to do that,' he says.

The data issue has to be addressed when looking at running mobile messaging promotions. The Mobile Marketing Association's guidelines state that all mobile marketing campaigns should be opt-in; frequent users of mobile messaging for marketing, such as O2, often go for a double opt-in approach to make extra sure the consumer is happy to be targeted in such a way.

Contrary to online, where spam has become almost unavoidable - and yet preventable - there is no system to detect unwanted SMS messages. This means mobile phone users tend to guard their number closely and are loathe to disclose them unless there is a perceptible added value or benefit.

'If you give consumers information that does not interest them, you will annoy them and damage your brand in the process,' says mobile agency Kodime's marketing director Brigitte Kopke, whose clients include Music Choice and band The Editors.

Some technologies do not require opt-in, however: Bluetooth, for example, is used by marketing agencies such as Hypertag to send data to consumers' mobile phones from poster sites. …

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