As marketers, we benefit from gaining different perspectives on the world as we normally see it. While on a recent trip to Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand, I realized firsthand how much more pervasive mobile lifestyles are outside the United States. However, I also observed totally different mobile lifestyles among the cultures, and it helped me leave with a better understanding of the necessities and conveniences of our own mobile lifestyles.
On one extreme, in remote areas of Indonesia, families struggle to earn a living; they have nothing but the bare essentials, however most own a mobile phone. Most have no land lines. Mobile phones are the norm, and short message service is the communication format of choice. Text messaging is cheaper than voice calls. In the Sorong airport (west of Papua New Guinea), the agents share a computer, there is no air conditioning for the 98 degree heat, but you can confirm your local flight via SMS. Utilizing efficient mobile communications is a necessity, and also provides a convenience for Indonesians.
In Singapore however, smart phones and multi-tasking is all the rage, and not just among young professionals. All segments of the population regularly utilize e-mail, SMS, and digital cameras on their mobile devices. As a small country with little natural resources, Singapore is competing in a global economy. Being technically advanced is a necessity, and is also convenient.
I was actually on a boat in the Indian Ocean near Phuket, Thailand during the big tsunamis in December of 2004. When communication was nearly impossible, we learned of the earthquake, tsunamis, and devastation happening around us via an SMS message sent from the elderly mother of one of our shipmates from Singapore.
Throughout Asia, consumers embrace their mobile lifestyles. This has spawned the demand for significantly more products and services that can be easily accessed via mobile device than here in the states. Let this be a precursor as to what we can expect in the future, as tomorrow's American consumer, with a strong focus on current mobile marketing efforts, grows into economic maturity.
Circle back to the good old USA. GSM (global system mobile) phones have only recently penetrated the market. Many phones are still not on the GSM network, forcing Americans to travel with a second phone or forgoing service altogether while traveling abroad. Smart phones are still in their infancy and are slowly being adopted. Executives have had a hard enough time dealing with the 'information overload' from the onslaught of their daily e-mail, now they must also cope with being accessible 24 hours a day via their Treo, Blackberry, or other device. For Americans, utilizing mobile devices that can increase personal productivity is both a necessity and a convenience, but moreso a convenience.
So is 'mobile media' mass media? Yes. Is it a mass marketing medium? At some point it could be. Is it a mass advertising medium? Certainly not. Consumers use their devices for communication, information, and entertainment. There is no room for clutter in mobile lifestyles. Yet marketing opportunities abound in the mobile world. The opportunities however, are not always as obvious and straightforward as what marketers are used to.
Mobile marketing opportunities can be simple. Marketing can be focused on the convenience side of our mobile lifestyles; distributing SMS messages, ring tones, wallpapers, games, or even video clips to a network of subscribers is a no-brainer for marketers with appropriate brands and assets. If your brand's creative assets are desirable, iconic, "hip" or otherwise innately viral, then you should already be executing some of these initiatives.
This is not a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile marketing. Integration with other media presents an engaging and effective option, like online ads that promote sending a message, picture, or sound clip to your friend's cell phone, or TV, radio, print, point of sale, and packaging utilizing a short code/SMS combination as a call to action and engagement. Promotions, coupon requests, and direct commerce opportunities can all be included as a call to action when appropriate. Again, these are examples of ways to market to the convenience side of our mobile lifestyles.
Marketers in categories such as financial services, news, and publishing, for example, can also market to the necessity side of our mobile lifestyles via alerts, reminders, and special content. In the same manner, retailers can send mobile coupons for limited time sales.
At what point does the necessity of our mobile devices for vital communication, merge with our ongoing desire and demand for new forms of entertainment and general convenience? When publishers and marketers give consumers a reason to engage with us on their devices. We're getting there...
By Paul DeBraccio
For the first time, I think we agree!
I must admit that I agree with 99 percent of my esteemed, well traveled colleague's comments.
However, I disagree with one point mobile has arrived as a marketing vehicle. We now have the 2005 version of the 1997 468s and consumers are salivating for more. The publishers are working at a feverish pace to increase the product in the pipeline. Now we have MobiTV and in a few months we will have full-length video with TV not far of
Mobile is here now hurry up and get on the boat!