Mobile marketing harnessing the real potential of a powerful medium


  • Business
  • Saturday, 15 Mar 2003

BY JASMINE LEE

VISIT any bookstore and browse for titles on Internet marketing; you will still find volumes of publications (at exorbitant prices) displayed for your picking. The Internet has opened our eyes to the concept of individual control over a mass medium and to a new interactive medium.  

Today, even after the dotcom meltdown, we still find a wide selection of titles on the pitfalls of Internet marketing. Many marketing gurus are still reaping the profits of tearing the Internet apart and providing eager consumers and marketers with the do’s and don’ts of marketing on the World Wide Web. Surprisingly, marketing through mobile is still virgin territory. This is because much of what we know about marketing and its principles comes from the US, which is extremely backward in mobile usage, compared to Europe and Asia.  

They are still predominantly a voice-dependent nation and there is no standardisation in the technical specifications of data i.e. short message service (SMS) delivery and pricing. Therefore, we face a brand new medium without much “expert” guidance from the marketing gurus from the US. 

We are more than capable today to harness the real potential of any new media. Realising that, in order to make mobile a success, we have to study and use this medium like any of the existing ones. For instance, branding and advertising via radio differs from via television and print.  

Although each medium has its own function, they seldom work alone. It’s been long since we’ve practiced fully integrated campaigns. And the mediums, when combined, deliver better collective results to the brand.  

With a total of 8.6 million users in Malaysia, mobile has highly exceeded Internet penetration, and as marketers, we simply cannot ignore it as a medium. It has mass reach with a very personal appeal. Seventy per cent of the mobile users in Malaysia is between 18 and 35 years old, urban and earn above RM1,500 per month, making them prime targets for any consumer brand marketing.  

The mobile phone as a medium has many advantages. It is:  

·Personal: Users have a very close relationship with his or her mobile. Any interaction with this medium immediately links the brand and its target at a personal level.  

·Immediate: Exchange of messages to and from mobile phones can be done anytime and anywhere. It caters to the need to respond on the spot without the hassle of filling in a form and mailing or faxing it later. Speed and accuracy are essential in facing the consumers of today where instant gratification is key. Mobile allows brands to respond immediately too via automated responses.  

·Contextual: As it is mobile, marketers can also choose to send messages within the lifestyle context of a consumer. For example, an invitation message to a rave party on a weekend will only be sent on the evenings closer to the weekends when a person’s mindset is more relaxed and he/she is in a mode of figuring out the programme for the weekend.  

Unfortunately, much of its usage to date as a medium of communication with the end consumer has been isolated from traditional above-the-line activities and is treated as a “one-off” medium.  

Many marketers who have tried using mobile treat it as a mere “broadcast” medium by force-feeding advertising messages to the consumers.  

The attitude is, “Just send an SMS message giving 10 per cent off my toothpaste brand to the whole world that has a mobile phone. It will expose my brand and people will flock to the shops and buy my toothpaste”. But the real question is, “Will people actually go out and buy this toothpaste if they received this SMS message?”  

We integrate the rest of our communication message to consumers. So why should a mobile message be delivered in isolation? The incidence above is what is called “spamming”.  

Spamming was first introduced in the heyday of e-mail marketing. Where is e-mail marketing today? With the Internet and database marketing, comes the realisation of privacy. Consumers today are much more aware of their privacy and this is even more sensitive with mobile phone users.  

How many times have you wondered who is this number who is sending you all these unwanted messages?  

The negative impact derived from an individual receiving an unwanted and irrelevant message sent to his personal mobile phone is much more detrimental than from him/her receiving a junk e-mail or junk mail.  

The myth of mobile operators selling subscribers database for spamming is really just a myth. Mobile operators, due to the nature of their business, are extremely sensitive about the privacy of their customers as they will be the first to receive consumer complaints in the event of an insensitive marketing message sent to the wrong audience – as in the previous case of an alcohol brand spamming to Muslim customers.  

Therefore, much more care and thought need to be put into strategising the use of this new medium. We find some key principles in usage of mobile as a medium based on successful case studies in Britain.  

Since year 2000, brands such as Coke, Sony, Cadbury and Carlsberg have experimented with mobile as a part of their total integrated marketing campaign. Most of them have used mobile as a tool for consumer response when exposed to any advertising via traditional medium. 

A customer who bought a Cadbury bar from a vending machine can enter a contest via SMS by simply typing in a few letters and sending them to a number that is not more than five digits. Cadbury in Britain has received more than 4 million entries by this simple exercise. Its success is contributed by a simple contest entry mechanism via mobile.  

The mode of entry was also communicated in Cadbury’s above-the-line advertising. This makes the campaign believable, credible and most of all permissive, as it starts by the customer responding to the advertising and asking for contest messages to be sent to him/her.  

As in Cadbury’s case, they do not know who the consumers are. They have no records of their mobile numbers within their database and also the profile of these users to know if a message sent via SMS on the promotion will harness any response at all.  

Therefore, integrating the SMS as a response tool not only adds value to the brand for being innovative; it has also harnessed much valuable database from real users of Cadbury and their mobile numbers. After this exercise, Cadbury can start a conversation with the participants for its next promotion.  

As such, the way to harness an effective campaign through mobile is to integrate it as part of a brand campaign, build offers that are relevant to consumers, encourage voluntary responses via mobile and start constructing a usable and permissive database for further effective consumer dialogue creation and relationship sustenance with customers.  

l Jasmine Lee is the marketing director of MNC Consulting Sdn Bhd, a mobile solutions ally to Naga DDB  

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