Will mobile phone advertising be intrusive or a boon for the consumer? That debate, which has been building, is about to boil over as wireless phone companies and advertisers run tests.
In many ways, the ability to target a message to the right person at the right time and the right place could never have been so viable. Mobile devices have voice, text, and even Web surfing capabilities at a flat rate with unlimited messages. The advertising world is drooling over the possibilities. From today’s $3 billion in mobile advertising spending, ABI Research projects that spending to grow to $19 billion by 2011.
To consumers, that could translate into many unwanted messages and interruptions on a device most consider very personal. Every call made, every text message sent, every Web page surfed from the mobile device is attributable to you, the owner of the phone having a contract with a wireless phone company. It doesn’t take too many leaps to realize that your wireless provider knows where you live and what you do. All phones have GPS tracking as mandated by the FCC for emergency call locating. The behavioral information collected, or that can be collected, about you is what the advertising industry is so interested in.
An article in the April 23 issue of “BusinessWeek” titled “The Sell-Phone Revolution” begins with a neat story about a mother on vacation in Vegas spotting a billboard ad with a text-message number for information from the National Basketball Association. When she got home in Florida, she received a targeted ad from Adidas via a text message for a sale on limited-edition basketball shoes. She loved it. So did Adidas, its advertising agency, and her wireless company.
It’s the holy grail of advertising to make a direct personal ad that gets a direct purchase connection. This is about as close as it gets. The mom in the story may or may not have realized she gave Adidas permission to send her the text ad. Privacy advocates are charging after hidden permissions, and the FCC released a recent order to protect consumer privacy requiring “expressed consent” (read that as not burying the permission in the catch-all contract agreement).
None of this is new. The real difference is that the ad to this mom for basketball shoes was relevant to her interests (and inferred needs) and delivered to her in a way she chose.
How will business-to-consumer marketers reach that level of relevance and permission? The answer is in painstaking analysis that brings together all consumer insights (usage, interests, demographics, behaviors) and in subsequently using those insights to categorize the consumer based on his needs. You can then link the needs segments to those individuals who have opted in. The marketer that links needs, permission, customer experience and learning is the one that will succeed in this new medium.
These needs emerge through understanding the lifecycles your consumer progresses through when buying and using your products. When married with an understanding of the consumer life stage—and the accompanying needs, behaviors, transactions, and demographics that surround the consumer—you can create groupings of consumers who have similar needs that their company can address. Adidas learned that consumers who will travel to Vegas for the NBA All-Star Basketball game and who will send a text message to the NBA for helpful information were among the group of consumers likely to respond to a targeted ad for NBA-branded basketball shoes once they were back in their hometown.
Permission is not just about the opt-in or the opt-out. It is much more about the relevancy and value of the offer or the message. Advertisers and marketers that use consumer information responsibly to provide the right message to the right person at the right time will earn permission from the consumer to contact him again and again. Adidas took the leap from a billboard ad that had a text-message response to later sending a text message back promoting a sale for shoes to this basketball mom. Technically the mom had opted for text-message advertising by sending her text message—although she probably didn’t realize that. But equally important, Adidas was using the relevant vehicle of a text message that the mom had already shown as likely to be the preferred way to interact and tied in an offer message that clearly aligned with her interests.
Mobile advertising is new ground, and few are going to get it right from the start. It would be a mistake not to use in this mobile-device world all the capabilities that we marketers have in the Web 2.0 world. Setting up disciplined, integrated, and measured campaigns, testing, and response tracking are absolutely critical. Mobile devices are as real-time as it gets.
The overarching marketing strategy for mobile advertising has to be accumulating a consistent brand-building experience that helps consumers find value and take easy action to buy your products or services, all the while protecting and honoring the consumers’ privacy. (For more on customer experience as part of a marketing strategy, see “The Case for Customer Experience Management.”)
You have to earn the right to interact with your customers. That requires addressing needs, permission, learning, and experience. If you don’t, your customers will do exactly what millions of other unsuspecting consumers who receive ads on their mobile phone do at that very instance they look at a new message arriving and see an unwanted, irrelevant, and intrusive advertisement: “delete.”
Lane Michel is executive vice president/managing director of the Marketing Performance Management business unit of Quaero Corp., a marketing and technology services provider based in Charlotte, NC. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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