Finding the mobile 'sweet spot' 06 July , 2011

Mobile marketing is hot! After years of false dawns, brands and agencies are recognizing the mobile channel as an essential element of the marketing mix. So what’s changed and why now?

In recent years there have been a number of forays into the ‘mobisphere’ by leading brands, often with mixed results. Mobile marketing initiatives were (and often still are) driven by the capabilities (and limitations) of mobile technology. However, there is a growing realization that how people interact with technology is more significant than the technological capabilities in and of themselves. The magic of mobile marketing lies in the momentum of the medium and not merely in the mechanics.

From a plethora of unimaginative “SMS and Win” competitions or intrusive bulk SMS and MMS promotional messaging, through ‘creative ideas’ that involved ever more complex technology and demanded complicated user interaction, mobile campaigns have often been judged by their ‘cool’ factor or the ‘cleverness’ of the technology, not by their effectiveness in achieving the marketing objective or in engaging the consumer.

Given that more people – across all age groups, races and genders – own a cell phone than watch TV, read newspapers, listen to the radio or surf the internet from a PC, it is clear that mobile users are not ‘techno-geeks’ but mainstream consumers who don’t want to be spammed or to engage in fussy interaction on a small screen. Against this background, the need for fresh thinking about mobile marketing becomes obvious. Thinking that focuses on an awareness of how consumers use and interact with cell phones, and how brands can engage their clients in a mutually satisfying dialogue using this ubiquitous and yet highly personal channel.

Enter the new wave of mobile advertising and media agencies: agencies that focus on using the mobile channel to find the sweet spot where brand objectives and customer requirements converge. Explains Tim Legg, founder and CEO of MobiMedia, one of the first agencies to identify this need in the market: “Rather than seeing the cell phone as just another vehicle for below-the-line, response based advertising, we view the mobile phone as potentially the most significant communications channel between advertiser and consumer, and thus a key platform for brand-building and developing interactive relationships.”

When using the mobile channel, it is a given that the technology has to be cutting-edge, but – as many brands can, to their cost, attest – clever technology alone is no guarantee that a campaign will work. The key differentiator lies in an agency’s ability to deploy an array of simple yet effective techniques and methodologies based on an understanding of consumer psychology and how a user interacts with a cell phone. These methods would include essentials such as intuitive user interface design, smart copywriting and simple graphics, amongst others. The communication must be beneficial to the recipient – be this in the form of information, entertainment, reward or all three. And the sender needs to be ready and even eager for feedback, because mobile communication is very much a two-way stream.

“The (mobile) channel may be ‘new’, but the principles of communication are age-old. As such, clients should be able to rely on their mobile agency to apply advertising skills and media know-how not only to broadcast their message but also to encourage and facilitate direct consumer engagement with the client’s company or brand,” said Legg. When selecting a mobile marketing agency, clients should make sure the following boxes are ticked: innovative concepts and effective design, the ability to create or source compelling content, expertise in mobile media planning to ensure audience reach, plus strong technical capabilities and proven technology with a track record of successful campaign delivery.

“Taking the approach outlined above is what will enable an agency to create effective mobile campaigns which entertain, inform and reward the consumer, thus helping clients to build their brands, strengthen customer relationships, generate new business leads, boost sales and ultimately grow their businesses,” concludes Legg.

Legg will be a key-note speaker at the 4th Mobile Marketing Summit to be held at the Grace Hotel in Johannesburg on 12 July.

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