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October 06, 2009

Don't Screw Up Your Mobile Marketing Opportunity

by Josh Bernoff

From my Marketing News column.

Mobile advertising has been the coming thing for so long that some of us gave up on it. Now it’s here. In a Forrester Research survey of 176 interactive marketers in March, one in three were currently using mobile marketing, and another third were planning to do so. Of those who market with mobile, 47% will increase their budgets this year.

Mobile marketing plans Mobile is so close to the customer (in her pocket!) that it’s pretty powerful if you do it right. It’s also dangerous to your brand if you do it wrong, especially since consumers are very aware that they pay for mobile phone and data services. So rather than just be a cheerleader, I’ll put down some advice here based on successful marketing campaigns.

Let’s start with adoption. As you might guess, the interest in mobile is driven by the adoption of Web browsing phones from Apple, RIM, and others. Around 26 million people, 15% of the mobile phone customers in the US, use the mobile Web at least once a month. That’s a juicy, young, affluent segment, and it’s growing. So it’s no surprise that marketers have gotten moving in reaching them.

And mobile marketing isn’t just mobile Web sites. It also includes banners on other mobile sites, short codes (like the codes you send text messages to when voting on American Idol), ads in phones’ video programming, and even little two-dimensional codes (like bar codes) that send mobile customers to Web sites when photographed.

Just as in developing social technology strategies, we recommend using the “POST” method (People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology – and note that the choice of technology comes last). As my colleagues Julie Ask and Charles Golvin explored in a recent report called “The POST Method: A Systematic Approach To Mobile Strategy,” you have to start by assessing the mobile technologies your customers use. Even if you don’t have access to Forrester survey data, you can still learn from your customers’ behavior. For example, Sears found traffic from mobile phones to its sites growing, but those customers were bouncing off because the sites weren’t designed for mobile. If your site doesn’t recognize and reconfigure itself for mobile, you’ll see the same thing. As soon as you can prove that a significant number of your customers are mobile Internet users, you should do what Sears did, and build a mobile site.

After people, think about objectives – and note that mobile can serve a variety of different ones. For example, after Jiffy Lube used mobile coupons to drive foot traffic at one of its franchises, 50% of its new customers at that franchise came from the mobile promotion. Ford had a different objective; it wanted to generate awareness for its Ford Flex and used banners ads on mobile sites to generated 3.5 million impressions and a 1.4% click-through rate.

Your strategy and tactics will vary based on your target. Take AXE, Unilever’s personal-care brand for 18-to-24 year-old guys. AXE advertised on MTV and suggested a short code. Texting to the short-code generated a link to a site on “hair crisis relief.” That’s a tactic that works great with young men, but don’t try to get business executives texting –or you’ll find the yield is a whole lot lower.

So, how can you not screw this up? First, keep it simple. The more complex the process, the fewer the people who will follow it, and the less success you’ll have. The diversity of tools in mobile is tempting, and that’s the problem – you can get sucked into the technology and leave the marketing behind.

For example, in a recent case study, Neil Strother, Forrester’s expert on mobile marketing, describes how simple banner ads helped RIM sell more advanced BlackBerry devices. They started with ads on mobile sites for Yahoo! and The Weather Channel, since those mobile sites had experience with generating and dealing with large volumes of mobile usage. The banners were formatted automatically for the customer’s current device and one click led to RIM’s mobile-enhanced site. When RIM found success was correlated to those who clicked on the mobile store-locator page, they used that as a key metric for the program. Simple plan, simple execution, and simple measurement led to a successful campaign.

Second, integrate it with other media. Media can drive texting; if you’re advertising, think about how mobile could boost the engagement of your customers who took the time to read the ad. And if you’re a mobile marketer, ask yourself how your campaign fits into the overall media picture.

Third, follow the rules in the Mobile Marketing Association’s Code of Conduct to stay on the right side of the privacy line. You’re about to interact with people on a device they feel very personal about, so you’ll need a framework for treating their data right.

Finally, make sure you think a little longer-term than the average advertising manager. The advertising manager wants to think of mobile as a new medium to tap, and that’s fine. But the database marketing manager is lusting over the new contacts she can make with short codes and opt-ins. Unless both get what they need out of the campaign, you’ve wasted your mobile opportunity.


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Mobile opportunities are very important! Might want to add something about making your individual messages worthy of passing along. Viral potential!

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