Mobile Marketing Beyond the Mobile Phone

E-readers, Tablets and GPS Systems are Connecting More People Every Day -- Here's How Marketers Can Benefit

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- If you think mobile marketing is about reaching customers on their cellphones, you need to get more creative.

In the hyper-connected world, everything from medical devices to cameras to dog collars can forge a wireless connection—and carriers are eager to provide it. Already Sprint powers connections for Amazon's Kindle, and AT&T powers Barnes & Noble's new Nook e-reader. Makers of previously offline gadgets are increasingly embedding wireless access into their wares. In addition to a new crop of faster and fancier smartphones slated for next year, more e-readers and tablet devices will also join the wireless fray.

While wireless-device proliferation means more opportunities to reach the mobile consumer, it also means marketers should view mobile less as a tactic and more as an integrated strategy, while also considering the behavioral shifts mobility brings.

"There are more and more popular devices that are beginning to be connected," said Eric Bader, managing partner of mobile-marketing agency Brand in Hand. "But it's not, 'What's the available media I can buy?'; it's thinking about how consumers are behaving and what role do devices have in the way they behave."

Here are some of the near-term opportunities to put on your radar.


These devices for reading digital books are multiplying; by Forrester Research's count, some 40 e-readers are on the market today worldwide. With their sales set to double next year, e-readers are quickly coming into their own: A survey commissioned and published in September by consumer- electronics portal Retrevo found that 21% of respondents said they planned to buy an e-reader this year, which is more than those who say they'll buy MP3 players.

Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony Reader

Perhaps more than any other non-phone device, e-readers have marketers excited, with some seeing sponsorships and apps as being part of the advertising mix on these devices.

Think apps or content extensions: If someone is downloading a book on starting a vegetable garden, there's an opportunity to offer a bonus, in the way of a companion application or some additional content with tips on how to grow, say, summer squash, that's sponsored by a fertilizer or pesticide maker. If someone's buying a book about vintage German cars, Mercedes or BMW could step up to offer a free app.

"One would have to assume that the device manufacturers will look for differentiate their devices with interesting content, and potentially there are opportunities for them to sell sponsorships on these devices," said Bill Predmore, founder and president of Seattle-based interactive agency POP.


Between a smartphone and a netbook sits a mishmash of devices that are both lightweight and sleek enough to fit into a small purse. Among these, expect to hear more about smartbooks, described as an "always-on" mini-laptop, as mobile-chipset maker Qualcomm has been talking up these devices at least since January.

This class of devices typically favors touchscreens over physical keyboards, and tablets, one of which Apple is developing (though it's yet unseen). HP also plays in this space, and is said to be releasing its specs to media companies.

Archos Android tablet, Nokia N900, Sharp Netwalker

Qualcomm is dangling scenarios like "watch HD movies on a brilliant, high resolution screen," and "play your favorite 3-D game without burning through your battery"--these units are made for super-rich, multimedia content. "I think the video experience is going to be really good on these devices, more so than on a little iPhone ... [it's] going to end up being the killer app for these machines," Mr. Bader said. That's good for advertisers, as richer media can lead to greater consumer interaction and engagement. "Today's mobile marketing is pretty limited creatively; the more flexibility you have, the more things you can do with it and the more engaging it can be," he said.


On one spectrum are the lightweight, portable handheld gaming devices; on the other are MP3 players, a category Apple dominates. As gaming and music devices start to converge, many believe Sony is well positioned to turn its popular mobile-gaming platform into a computing and entertainment venue to compete with the iPod Touch, through which Apple has found an audience for cheap, downloadable games. Similarly, Microsoft is trying to position Zune as a gaming play with its partial Xbox integration, and could expand Zune's gaming marketplace through some integration with the Windows Mobile application storefront.

Apple iPod Touch, Microsoft Zune HD, Nintendo DS, Sony PSPgo, Sony PS3

IPod Touch users are showing that apps are more than a passing fad--so don't be surprised when gaming devices and music players open up app stores where marketers can hang their branded content. IPod Touch users download 80% more apps than iPhone users, according to mobile ad network AdMob, and 10% of the ad requests on AdMob's network in October came from iPod Touch users, second only to the iPhone, which generated 22% of the ad requests.

Mr. Predmore envisions other device makers will follow Apple's app platform model. "Sony," he said, "has investments in many different areas--portable music devices, mobile phones and hand-held gaming devices--so an app platform that could be shared among these devices would be very interesting."

Gaming hand-helds also have live internet connections, giving brand marketers more leeway to control their in-game campaigns--they no longer have to be dead-bolted into the game.


Google's offer of free, turn-by-turn navigation services on Verizon's newest smartphone is threatening to upend the personal navigation device (or PND) space and so PND makers like Garmin are fighting back by differentiating themselves with a slew of on-board, feature-rich navigation capabilities.

Garmin, OnStar, TomTom

Navteq was acquired by Nokia in 2007 and opened its navigational and mapping content to advertisers about a year ago. In that time, Garmin has allowed the advertising program to run on more than 10 of its devices. A Navteq-commissioned survey this spring found that 19% of PND consumers who recalled seeing a specific ad clicked through to find nearby retail locations, and up to 6% of GPS users visited a business after seeing an ad on their PND. OnStar, the most popular of these in-vehicle communication systems, has no advertising program, and no plans for one.

A caveat: Although PNDs sold today use mobile broadband to access navigation data, older devices rely on radio signals for data and are limited to just over 50 markets. What's more, clickthrough rates aren't trackable on one-way devices. As Google greases the wheels for location-based advertising, reach may be a problem for the PNDs, Mr. Predmore said--"a fragmented market may slow the adoption by marketers."

Most Popular
In this article: