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Bluetooth makes Olympic debut with Coca-Cola mobile campaign

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Bluetooth went for gold in Beijing last month, when Coca-Cola Co. launched the first mobile marketing campaign in Olympic history to leverage the wireless technology.

Working with Pioco, a Shanghai-based out-of-home advertising company that specializes in Bluetooth media, Coca-Cola wired some 1,500 hot spots in Beijing and Shanghai. Concentrated around Olympic stadiums, transportation hubs, commercial areas, hotels, restaurants and other leisure venues, the hot spots were marked by signage bearing the Bluetooth symbol.

When users of Bluetooth-enabled devices entered a hot spot, they received a message inviting them to download an Olympic-themed Coke commercial. If the user clicked “yes,” the commercial downloaded to the device within 20 seconds.

Coca-Cola, an official sponsor of the 2008 Summer Games, employed various media for its Olympic marketing, including television, online and print. “This campaign is unique in that it allows us to directly reach consumers in outdoor entertainment venues,” said Michelle Yang, media director of Coca-Cola China.

According to Steve Chao, co-founder and CEO of Pioco, “the goal was to open up an extra distribution channel for the Coke TV commercials targeting the young generations.” He added that, since most of the stadiums were built around schools, the hotspots enabled Coca-Cola to reach as many students as possible.

Bluetooth was chosen for the campaign in part because of its popularity among Chinese consumers. “China has a 35% Bluetooth penetration,” Chao said.

In addition, Bluetooth is user-friendly. It offers a faster transfer speed than many other mobile formats, giving marketers more options to design compelling content. And downloads don’t cost the consumer a dime—or, in this instance, a jiao.

By contrast, mobile marketing campaigns asking users to visit a URL to retrieve content can be frustrating for the consumer. “People have to pay for mobile bandwidth and it can be quite expensive when glitches happen,” Chao said. “[Bluetooth] is all about instant gratification—not waiting.”

Coca-Cola did not offer incentives for consumers to download its content as part of this campaign—something Chao typically recommends. Still, the campaign generated 880,489 downloads from Aug. 1–31—downloads that were delivered directly to consumers, with their permission, in venues where the product was readily available.

Chao said Bluetooth marketing could be used for everything from direct sales promotion to branding. “The key to success with Bluetooth marketing is the venue or occasion the campaign is designed for,” he added.

In venues that prompt participants to enable their Bluetooth devices, as was the case in the Olympic hotspots, Chao has seen conversion rates of up to 65%.

Success, of course, is also dependent on the rate of Bluetooth adoption in the target market. But Mike Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, a trade association, said the Bluetooth brand is well known around the world.

In fact, a recent survey from research firm Millward Brown found global awareness of the technology this year reached an all-time high. Eighty-five% of consumers polled in the U.S., China, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and the U.K. recognized Bluetooth. This was the fifth consecutive year in which awareness of Bluetooth technology climbed.

In the U.S., specifically, Foley said consumer recognition is being boosted by use of Bluetooth in marketing campaigns for such brands as Coca-Cola, Ford and Jeep. “Mobile marketers should find that the audience they are targeting is not just aware of Bluetooth technology but already familiar with using it,” he said.

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