February 2008 - Channel Crossing: Mobile

2008 Mobile Marketing Trends

By Bob DeSena

Google’s recent news that it would bid on U.S. wireless spectrum has the mobile market buzzing. This, coupled with Verizon’s announcement that it plans to open its network to any device and any application, spells change for an industry that has largely been shaped by the cell phone carriers.
2008 will also see phones used primarily for voice communications continue a technological evolution into multi-purpose mobile devices. Apple’s iPhone was one milestone of this evolution, and 2008 will see the industry undergo further changes in the fundamental relationship that end users have with their mobile devices, as mobile marketing adapts to provide an integrated brand experience for consumers.

Mobile phones are the most ubiquitous, and personal, communications devices ever created. The fundamentals of direct marketing and establishing personal relationships with consumers come to the forefront with this most powerful targeted medium. With more than 2.9 billion mobile phones in the market today, and growth at a pace of more than 20 percent a year, the potential rewards of reaching mobile users with targeted, measurable ad campaigns are driving advancements.

Until now, marketing to mobile consumers has been retail-focused, primarily based on downloading ringtones or wallpaper. However, the industry is in transition, offering more content for users, breaking through some of the barriers that have prevented widespread adoption of mobile media. High-speed 3G networks have been introduced, as have “smart phone” devices with larger screens that make content more compelling and practical. Nevertheless, the prevailing pay-per-view or subscription-based business models will prove unpopular with consumers who are wary to add to their already costly service contracts. 2008 will bring desirable mobile content to end users free of charge through mobile advertising.

Historically, direct response marketing on mobile devices has been primarily limited to SMS and simple WAP advertising. As mobile grows increasingly sophisticated, marketers will be capable of new levels of engagement. Personalized advertising will be targeted to consumers based on their specific preferences. Advertising will become inclusive, not intrusive, offering relevance and value. Top brands will recruit consumers for opt-in initiatives, deepening brand loyalty and virally spreading consumer awareness in previously closed social circles. What is one of the most exciting developments anticipated in 2008? Improved content flow from the TV to mobile and PCs, allowing for integrated campaigns across three screens.

To fulfill all this promise, the mobile marketing industry must evolve to find the right fit with consumers. Too often, marketers place more focus on their own business challenges than the end user experience. In 2008, marketers cannot lose sight of the importance of understanding and delivering what consumers want on their mobile devices if they are to achieve success with, and begin to fulfill the potential of, mobile marketing campaigns.

Bob DeSena is managing director of iO global North America, a spin-off of British Telecommunications’ ventures program focused on advanced mobile content solutions. He can be reached at (646) 487-7400.


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