Mobile marketing makes its move

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Consumer attitudes about mobile marketing are changing, if survey results are any indication. The Mobile Marketing Association’s (MMA) annual attitude and usage study, based on responses from 1,800 Americans between the ages of 13 and 65, revealed the average person on the street is becoming more educated about the features and functionality of mobile devices and is engaging more frequently in mobile marketing campaigns.

Among the highlights from the MMA’s research was evidence that text messaging is taking off: Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents said they use the functionality; 44% on a daily basis. The highest regarded mobile marketing tactics, according to respondents, were downloads, coupons and alert-based services. The study was conducted among members of market research firm Synovate’s online ePanel.

For Brian Hecht, chief executive officer of Kikucall, a company that helps brands, agencies, and media companies execute wireless marketing programs, these numbers come as little surprise. He notes that, as mobile marketing becomes more prevalent, consumer awareness and adoption are improving. And text messaging is leading the charge.

“There is a certain segment using mobile search and surfing the mobile Web, but messaging is the area…that consumers are most comfortable with,” Hecht said. He added that, unlike many other channels, “mobile is not a mass medium; it’s very individual.” Tapping into this attribute can lend an air of exclusivity to campaigns, helping to strengthen brand relationships in ways other channels cannot.

One prime example is a campaign Kikucall conducted for Dos Equis Beer in summer 2006. The companies organized a series of secret beach parties and employed street teams of models to visit local bars where Dos Equis was served, creating buzz about the events. Patrons were invited to send a text message to a secret Short Code. After doing so, they received a response containing party location and RSVP details.

The result was a marketer’s dream: “A highly motivated group of consumers who had self-selected,” Hecht said.

Energy conglomerate Shell also leveraged the personal feel of mobile channels for the Shell Passionate Experts Tour. Taking advantage of its sponsorship of Nascar driver Kevin Harvick, the company set up interactive displays at races, such as the Daytona 500. There, consumers were invited to participate in various activities, including playing a “Got Gunk” interactive game on their cell phones that allowed them to race against fellow fans through a street of “gunky” carbon deposits.

“Delivering key messages through fun and engaging activities helps improve both the customers’ experiences with the brand and understanding of our product benefits,” said Shell Business Communication Manager Anne Peebles. “At the end of the day, we hope the face-to-face time with the customer leaves them with a pleasant memory of Shell, which will eventually lead to brand trial.”

Ensuring such positive consumer experiences with mobile marketing is, of course, essential to the medium’s future. For this reason, the MMA has established guidelines and best practices governing its use. Laura Marriott, the MMA’s executive director, said the organization wants to make sure each consumer interaction “is a consumer pull—not a push. That means the consumer must opt in to participate in any campaign that they engage in.”

According to Hecht, following an opt-in strategy for mobile isn’t just good corporate citizenship; it’s also the secret to a successful mobile marketing campaign. Regardless of what the surveys say about mobile adoption and demographics, “there’s only one kind of customer that mobile works for,” Hecht said. “That’s a customer that wants to hear from you.”

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