Posted by on Jun 9, 2004 in | 0 comments

Published at Commpiled.com, 2004

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) was set up to self regulate the emerging discipline of using mobile phones as a marketing media. At their inaugural breakfast briefing in London this week, some were asking the question; why has mobile marketing not been accepted as a legitimate marketing channel after four years of innovative and demonstrably successful campaigns? One of the reasons could be that it continues to be a technology driven product that is seen as an add-on rather than an integral part of the marketing mix.

It always takes a while for new technologies to adapt to be used for advertising. If one looks at the introduction of radio, television and the internet; the gap between introduction as a media and when it started being taken seriously as a promotional vehicle has varied between 10 and 20 years. Given these statistics, one could accuse mobile marketers of being impatient at the relatively slow uptake of the media, but one only had to look around the room at the MMA to get an idea of other reasons why uptake by major brands and advertising agencies seems tardy.

Mobile marketing in 2004 suffers from being understood mainly by technical people. Instead of presenting mobile marketing as an additional conduit between brands and consumers, industry experts still talk in telecommunications jargon. Even the relatively straightforward acronym SMS (short message service) is not something consumers or brand managers relate to. When SMS is presented as “a way for a brand to develop a one to one interactive dialog with consumers via their mobile phones,” that is put in a language understood by marketers, suddenly it is not a technology but a solution.

One of the side effects of mobile marketing being a predominantly technical discipline is that when it is trialled by brands, it is as a stand alone afterthought rather than a consistent extension of the marketing mix. The outcome of this approach is that many brands who have taken a risk on the technology are of the opinion “it doesn’t work.” Sports sponsorship suffers from a similar pattern. Sticking your logo on the side of a car or yacht is not as powerful as combining it with concurrent promotion in traditional media.

Gartner, presenting at the same breakfast briefing sees 3 scenarios. They differ about the particular type of wireless marketing to win out, but with magazine readership at an all time low and television changing to filter out ads, each scenario sees wireless taking a larger share of the advertising budget.

2005 will be the year when mobile marketing will become mainstream. While the UK sends more text messages per head of population than any other European country, consumers in the US send more messages than the UK. Big brands like Budweiser, Yahoo and NASCAR are devoting more of their marketing spend to mobile as a channel, meaning large advertising agencies will move to learn more to avoid losing revenue.

This scenario will only come to pass if marketers are open to trying something new and technically based mobile marketing companies learn to talk the language of brands. If the two sides can meet in the middle, then there is a great opportunity for a new and exciting method of marketing communications. Those who adopt the channel early and learn from the experiences in countries like Sweden, Australia and the UK stand to steal a jump on larger companies that move more slowly.

This is not about technology. This is about the future of long term interactive relationships with consumers that have a measurable impact on the bottom line.