Helio's Buddy Beacon Extends Positioning

"Don't call it a phone" Helio, the wireless venture of EarthLink and SK Telecom, is building its marketing on the proposition that it offers unique social networking capabilities.

Its Buddy Beacon feature, available on the $225 GPS-enabled Drift handset, allows members to use satellite technology to broadcast their location to friends on their Buddy List. When they turn on Buddy Beacon, their Buddy List friends with Helio devices can spot their physical location on a map along with a nearby address. Members can add up to 25 buddies to their Buddy List.

Helio will explore ways to integrate ads naturally into this process for the coming year, said Craig Shapiro, Helio's head of content strategy and acquisition, at the Mobile Marketing Forum in Los Angeles earlier this month.

"Our demographic pays a premium for our services, so ads should feel natural," Shapiro said. "Local search is going to be big for us in 2007, and our devices with GPS capability offer a unique capability to add value."



Helio also just opened its first of five flagship stores on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA, in time for the holiday retail season. The 4,000-square-foot store was built to encourage Helio members and prospective members to hang out, incorporating a lounge-like feel.

"Helio stores are designed to be unlike anything else in the wireless world," said Helio CEO Sky Dayton, in a statement. "They truly embody the Helio spirit of design and the lifestyle of today's young consumers. Now people can experience Helio firsthand while they shop for new exclusive devices or test our cool services. Or our members can cruise by to meet up or just hang out with friends."

Helio, which has been a heavy advertiser on local L.A. radio station Indie 103.1, will be hosting in-store broadcast of the station's programming, as well as live music events, to promote the store's launch.

Helio made its debut seven months ago as the only brand allowing its users to access MySpace wirelessly from handsets. Targeting the same 20-something male audience as competitors Amp'd, Boost Mobile and Virgin, Helio needed to differentiate itself to get customers to buy its proprietary handsets (the least expensive of which is $100) and pay a monthly or a la carte fee for its suite of multimedia services.

Cingular Wireless is now finalizing a deal to put MySpace on its mobile phones.

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