Mobile Marketing: Righting The Wrong (0)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 by , under

Did you happen to hear about Deloitte's latest TMT Predictions for 2009? Every year since 2006, Deloitte produces this interesting study debrief on what movements to expect in the fields of Technology, Media and Telecommunications -- and their impact on canadian businesses. It's usually very insightful and well-documented, and indeed -- as they say -- it "...provides a diverse selection of views and thoughts that challenge, inform and engage industry leaders and executives."

Well, case in hand, they truly did challenge me. A friend of mine posted a Tweet that attracted my attention on point 8 in their “2009 Canadian TMT Predictions” PDF : "Mobile advertising finds its meaning: cellphones are the new billboards". Wow. I read on with more attention, making sure I wasn’t distracted by all the dinosaur roaring behind me. I read on, thinking there had to be a deeper thought or explanation hiding somewhere in the body copy.

“Monetizing the screen you look at 50 times a day. (...) But higher smartphone penetration, higher network speeds, better mobile operating systems and, in some cases, a better understanding of the medium means that mobile ads are likely to be the only category of advertising that grows in 2009."

Are you for real? This prediction is no better than what we've been hearing for the last 5 years or so. Once again this is an analysis that's only based on media sales numbers, much more than qualitative research. That's not what I call a prediction, it's a historic account of failed hopes.
In Canada, mobile marketing is still in its infancy. Worse, it hasn’t really been born yet. Advertisers are still at experimentation level with the media, and haven't really bought into it enough for anyone to come up with such a prediction for 2009. Indeed, mobile marketing represented less than 0,4% of all advertising investments as recently as 2008, as Deloitte reports themselves. I don't see a sudden boom happening this year, and frankly, I especially don't see "cellphones turning into virtual billboards".

So what's happening? Why such a low investment in the medium?

Reason #1: no one could come up with a viable advertising model, hence announcers with cold feet and a small budget failed to see the possibilities.

Reason #2: The consumer receptivity factor. It's common knowledge that people just don't respond well to unsollicited advertising, and this is particularly true on their cellphones. I have yet to hear about a mobile advertising campaign success in Canada, that's didn't use "reach" but "sales" as its benchmark for evaluation.

So how can we be talking about potential "better understanding of the medium" when the rules of the game have yet to be written? And how can Deloitte attribute potential success of mobile marketing to technologies evolving, without even the smallest mention of a very mandatory condition: consumer behavior?

Kindly allow me to make my own prediction: In 2009, marketers will take some time to study people's mobile usage, and then come up with a viable mobile marketing model. Taking in account a context of economic crisis, we know without a doubt 2009 won't be a big year in terms of traditional advertising investment generally. Which means announcers will be quick in investigating the communication possibilities offered by emergent media like cellphones, and ad agencies should quickly turnaround and try developing communication models for these emergent media to generate conversion.

Having powerful technology at hand is one thing: making good use of it is another. Deloitte does have a much better take on this notion in their 2009 Global Media Predictions document. (See "Mobile advertising finds its meaning"), to the point where it feels like both documents have been written by different people with different opinions. But unfortunately it's still not quite there yet -- I find Deloitte analysis is too one-sided, speaking only of "the industry", "technology" or "understanding of the medium".

In my own early personal analysis, I came up with five factors to consider in building a viable communication model for mobile advertising. They're mostly thought-starters, but I feel nevertheless that they take in account more human realities:

1) Mobile marketing should not use traditional communication methods: This includes unsollicited text messages, videos or pictures, or anything that forces a "push" upon the consumer. Mobile marketing should not be a static "show and tell" media, but incite users to take action, whether it is playing, sharing, or talking.

2) We have to find out what the mobile culture is in Canada. In a little chat I had yesterday morning with Serge (Upperkut's president), he pointed out how Japanese users crave QR codes (Quick Response codes) , and we were left both wondering if it'd ever work here in Canada. Who knows? Could this be compatible with the usage we're making of our cellphones here? Is there something to be learned from this usage? There's a huge cellphone culture in Japan, France and Korea. But what's the cellphone culture in Canada? Is there any insight to pull from there, in order to help us construct relevant mobile marketing tools?

3) Mobile marketing should thrive on instantaneity: Cellphones are "hot publishing" devices. Satellite crashing in your backyard? Pic taken and posted on Twitter or Facebook within seconds. As marketers, we should take advantage of this "high turnaround rate" and indeed turn it to our advantage.

4) Mobile marketing should be generous: Being generous in marketing doesn't necessarily mean giving out rebate coupons on your next IPurchase. Generosity in marketing means giving a communication experience of value to the consumer.

5) Mobile marketing should empower online communities: Let's stop using mobile marketing as a message-generating medium. It should rather become a driving force to strengthen the bonds between users in a brand's community. With web 3.0 in the works, I have a feeling location-based social networks like Brightkite or FireEagle, or geocaching games will have an important role to play in providing engaging experiences with mobile media.

At any rate, I'd like to hear anyone's take on this. Do you agree with Deloitte's prediction or, like me, believe that it's misguided -- only taking media sales in account? While markets are conversations, don't you think that mobile marketing should concentrate on stimulating and encouraging these conversations?

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