What to Do About Mobile?

There seems to be this insistence in the market, for many consumer products, to "do something" with mobile. It seems odd to me that marketers will sometimes pick a medium in which to run a campaign without knowing what will be executed in that medium or how a campaign will be put together. To an extent, I think it stems from the realization that mobile devices are ubiquitous, but that young people seem to have the best handle on the wide range of features built in to today's mobile devices. This is especially the case with text messaging and mobile browsing.

A lot has been written about the differences between mobile users in the United States and those elsewhere, especially in Asia. Non-U.S. users tend to rely on their mobile devices for non-voice communication more, and they react to mobile advertising more favorably. To a degree, the U.S. market was shaped by early problems with cross-carrier compatibility and the mobile market here has not evolved with a built-in ad model.



That's given U.S. consumers plenty of time to get used to wireless communications without the presence of advertising, which makes experimentation with ad-supported content or "push" advertising likely to be met with fierce opposition. Most successful mobile programs in the U.S. have been executed not by pushing unrequested ads to consumers, but by allowing them to request information or sponsored content.

Downloadable ringtones, applications, and text codes are popular components of many of today's mobile strategies. What do these three things have in common? They rely on the consumer to opt to receive them.

Years ago, I wrote a column in which I stated that any ad pushed to my mobile phone would likely result in me hurling my phone under the wheels of the closest moving truck. Based on research I've perused lately, that attitude is fairly representative of that of many U.S. consumers. The situation is similar to when people were surfing the Web at 14.4 and 28.8 kbps speeds on dial-up modems. Push advertising was seen as a waste of bandwidth already paid for on the subscriber's dime and by and large was a no-no.

However, consumers do appreciate response mechanisms that allow them to opt in for content. Opting in for a regular and relevant message to be pushed to the consumer seems to work well. User-initiated requests such as text codes, downloadable ringtones, and sponsored games are also well received.

With mobile devices in almost everyone's hands while they're in transit or at an event, many outdoor ads and display booths have been carrying short-text codes that allow mobile users the ability to send a text message to receive more information. Companies like Enpocket have been leveraging this to build effective response mechanisms where consumers can request more information or enter into a program or contest.

User-initiated is the way to go here in the states. The push model and spamming both carry with them incredible risks for a brand. Give the consumer a choice or run the risk of having your mobile strategy completely backfire.

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