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Marketing Goes Mobile

Smartphones offer marketers direct, personal access to customers



It’s increasingly making business sense to consider mobile as a key element in your marketing strategy or that of your clients.

According to Chetan Sharma Consulting (, it’s predicted that, by next year, 70 percent of the world’s population will own a mobile device. And mobile Web penetration globally is already above 25 percent and rising rapidly. Devices that combine mobility and access, such as smart phones, iPods, and the Kindle book reader, create opportunities and stimulate demand for mobile media. And the availability of GPS on mobile devices opens the door to countless new location-specific applications allowing people to do things that were the stuff of science fiction just a few short years ago.

Consumers now expect easy access to a wealth of digital services, all delivered with broadband speed and available any time, anywhere. For years, marketers have talked about media convergence—now, it’s actually happening within the mobile device.

New ways to engage consumers
With mobile, marketers have access to a truly personal communications vehicle, and can reach customers and prospects with messages and offers specific to their location and interests. Let’s take a look at a few practices that are proving effective—some that are linked to print apps.

Soap maker Dove included a text-to-vote number on a billboard that showed a clean-scrubbed, average older woman. Pedestrians were asked to choose between “wrinkled” and “wonderful,” and the combined results from both text and online voting were displayed on the billboard’s live ticker.

Pontiac, meanwhile, launched a camera-phone promotion for its new G6 sedan, encouraging consumers to look for G6s on the street. Consumers who took a photo of a G6 and sent it in were entered into a drawing to win $1 million.


And shoemaker Adidas extended its sponsorship of the London Marathon by getting runners’ families and friends more engaged in the event. A Java application for the mobile Web tied together radio-frequency identification chips in runners’ shoes with timing mats on the course. Spectators could enter a runner’s unique code, via the application or online, to get the latest information on individual progress and projected finish time.

Rewarding loyalty, and more
If your client is intrigued with the possibility of integrating mobile technology into his next campaign, consider these suggestions, complete with examples:

Reward loyalty: Starbucks recently launched a mobile loyalty program in Mexico that achieved a 60-percent coupon redemption rate. In-store signage includes a mobile “call to action” offering various discounts and upgrades. At the same time, the company is targeting new customers with a buy-one-get-one-free offer via postcards handed out in malls, universities, and retail outlets.
Make it easy: Designing an application specifically for mobile devices makes good sense for companies wanting to stimulate usage. The car-sharing service Zipcar ( announced a new application that allows members to find, reserve, honk, lock, and unlock its vehicles—all from an iPhone or iPod Touch.
Care about what the user cares about: AT&T found an innovative way to cement relationships and stimulate usage while providing a valuable service. AT&T Social Net acts as a “social mission control,” providing a live connection to popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Visiongain Research predicts mobile social network-related revenue will reach $60 billion by 2012 and, in the US, mobile-only social networks such as MocoSpace, Mig33, and Peperonity are gaining traction.
Communicate in real time: Minnesota’s Mall of America now offers a new text-messaging service called MallCall, giving shoppers real-time information about deals and promotions. Consumers must opt in to the service and receive texts only during mall hours. The service lets retailers target potential customers already in the mall, driving traffic and making bargain-hunting easier for shoppers.
Look for times of special relevance: Honda launched its hybrid Insight vehicle to coincide with Earth Hour, a specific time when people around the world are particularly aware of environmental issues and therefore likely more interested in a hybrid vehicle. The mobile element of the campaign included opt-in alerts reminding people of the Earth Hour event by time zone. This simple but effective campaign allowed Honda to provide a service to consumers while building its brand.

Don’t neglect to build relationships
Because mobile devices are highly personal, they must be treated with respect. Getting permission from the user is imperative, partly because of privacy legislation and also because sending messages without permission destroys brand trust. Spam sent to a mobile phone is particularly offensive because the consumer pays for the cost of delivery.

Marketers who look to the future are building opt-in databases of consumers who genuinely want to be in touch. And forward-thinking marketers are increasingly looking for ways that mobile can give them the creative edge when it comes to building their brand relationships.

Andrea Southcott is president of TBWAVancouver (, a full-service advertising and media-planning company in Canada. This article first appeared in The Globe and Mail, and is licensed from CTV globe media Publishing Inc.





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