Four years ago, Anheuser-Busch offered consumers ringtones and wallpaper. Today, Budweiser, Bud Light and Bud Select have dedicated mobile sections on their websites, something key competitors still don't have. Further, all three Bud brands have wireless sites that are maintained all year. Again, their competitors don't.
Two things drive progress: eyeballs and dollars. In 2008, we believe we're going to see the two converge in and around the following concepts:
1. THE CELLPHONE WILL BECOME EVEN MORE PERSONAL.Consumers will be willing to download lifestyle applications (sometimes referred to as widgets) to their wireless devices. In 2007 this was one of the fastest-growing audience segments, increasing more than 225% from 2006, and we anticipate it will continue to expand at that rate. Here's why: First, industry players such as Yahoo, Google, MobiTV, Warner Bros., Apple and TeleNav are making major investments in applications and producing pretty exceptional tools for people. Each of these companies is devoted to creating a deeper connection with subscribers and subsequently developing a market that will be worth millions. The need for this approach was underscored recently when Apple opened its proprietary approach to the iPhone and made a toolkit available to developers, and when Google announced its mobile plans.
Second, we have intimate relationships with our mobile phones, and the more we play with and customize them, the more important the relationship becomes. Many of our clients realize this, and we're placing their brands between the communications channel consumers can't do without and the content they're passionate about. When done properly, this can result in an unparalleled relationship.
Third, applications provide a much more rewarding user experience, which will propagate the development of even more applications. An enhanced interface, robust content and a more immersive experience are all reasons consumers are responding well to downloads.
A final reason you'll see more applications downloaded to phones is because the phones are improving and can run the applications. More than 60% of U.S. phones have cameras, and an estimated 45% of phones are video-capable. And the features keep coming. In preparation for the recent launch of the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live venue, we demonstrated at an internal Nokia event a drink-ordering system that leveraged Near Field Communication technology. Attendees were able to order drinks by simply waving their phones over pictures of the drinks they wanted, much like you would buy gas with a Speedpass. With worldwide sales of mobile phones predicted to be more than 1 billion in 2007, the choice of handsets unlocks an entirely new level of marketing options.
These applications will serve as a platform for customizing how a consumer interacts with brands, and the benefits to the brands are substantial as well. An application provides 24/7 access to a company's brand and associates the brand with a positive experience. And by developing applications around affinities that relate to the brand attributes, a brand can provide functionality that directly supports the brand promise.
2. THE CELLPHONE WILL BECOME A REMOTE CONTROL FOR REALITY.Consumers will use their phones to enhance and manage events, concerts, vacations and trips. Here's why: First, the more control we have over a venue, the more we can use a series of tactics to enhance an experience. Clients such as AT&T, Nokia, Victoria's Secret Pink and Anheuser-Busch are leveraging mobile technology to create wireless environments that provide value to attendees from the time they purchase tickets to the day after the event.
Second, smart marketers are creating mobile opt-in databases, giving us knowledge of the capabilities of subscribers' phones. Handset knowledge combined with a manageable venue experience enables us to provide an experience available only to people in Japan or Europe.
The third reason we're expecting mobile-marketing environments to be important in 2008 is because venues have captive audiences. Limited points of entry allow us to introduce attendees to the experience onsite and efficiently opt in. And the mobile device is the one constant -- from the seats to the pits to the stage to the food line to the bathroom to the vendor line. Most important, it's the one thing guaranteed to leave the event with the customer.
In 2008, we'll see consumers seek out content and applications to serve various utilitarian and entertainment functionality such as games, camera, music, maps and directions, wireless internet, social networking, TV, personal management (finance, calendar, to-do lists), event interaction, and smart-home interface. Look for the mobile device to become the "go-to" solution for managing their lives.
3. MOBILE BRAND LEADERS WILL APPEAR IN 2008.A land-grab mentality will take place in the coming year as brands realize the mobile channel is uncluttered and comparatively inexpensive. This has already begun, as many major brands have tested the medium in the past 24 months. Now they've recognized that mobile is a viable channel that delivers significant return on investment. That's why 89% of U.S. companies plan to do mobile marketing next year. The ones that do it right will reap the rewards of "owning" the channel.
This strategy is straight out of the internet playbook, made famous by first movers such as Dell, Barnes & Noble, Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, Best Buy, Charles Schwab, 1-800-Flowers and others. Although they had successful businesses before the internet, they invested heavily in the internet and made their brands synonymous with the medium.
Take Dell, for instance. A year after launching its site in 1996, Dell.com was doing $1 million a day, all while reinforcing its brand with its customers, who could get the computers they wanted whenever they wanted directly from the manufacturer.
This is already taking place and providing a first-mover advantage to Anheuser-Busch. Four years ago, it offered consumers ringtones and wallpapers. Today it's moving into mobile sampling, couponing, and Bluetooth transmissions and gaming, among other mobile strategies. Budweiser, Bud Light and Bud Select have dedicated mobile sections on their websites, something key competitors still don't have. Further, all three Bud brands have wireless sites that are maintained all year. Again, their competitors don't.
4. NEXT YEAR, THE CONSUMER IS IN CHARGE.Companies will invest heavily in CMR -- customer-managed relationships. With the advent of the internet, a shift in control began to take place, going from the brand to the consumers. With this delicate medium of mobile, the pendulum swings even farther toward them. It is a natural evolution in the medium that suggests marketers will think beyond a project or campaign.
While the traditional CRM -- customer relationship management -- approach would be to develop high-level segments and communicate to a few groups in a time-bound wave of communications, mobile provides us a platform for speaking to consumers on a true one-to-one level based on their desired manner of interaction.
5. BRANDS ARE "IN THE KNOW."Brands are ready to learn. As opposed to being asked to "try mobile," today we're doing extensive studies based on a structured learning style. "How should we be measuring the success of these campaigns?" This question, along with "Are we getting the best response possible?" are two of the most frequent questions we field from clients. We're working closely with many of them to understand the true impact of their wireless initiatives.
For example, working with AT&T, we've developed a mobile strategy to enhance customer experiences at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. The program includes a learning strategy that tests optimal use of the medium, including variables such as ideal messaging, offers, interaction channels and services. This approach is carefully planned and measured for each event, and lessons are then applied throughout the year.
Mobile is no longer just an "American Idol" voting tool. Smart marketers know it. Their questions have gone from "What's mobile marketing?" to "We have a little extra budget; can we do it so we can say we did?" to "How do we do this right?"
CMOs, be aware: There are more than 250 million U.S. consumers holding devices in their hands that can unlock valuable relationships with your brand. Marketers that can entertain, inform and serve these people consistently will be rewarded in spades.
If mobile marketing isn't yet a major part of your marketing plans, consider Einstein's words: The future is coming soon enough. In fact, it's here.
Bryon Morrison is president of Ipsh, the wireless-marketing division of the Marketing Arm, which operates within Omnicom Group.