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Nimal Wirasekara MSLIM, MCIM, DipM(CIM UK), MASMI (Aus), HIMM(SA) Executive Director Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing The writer is the Executive Director of the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing, and the Vice President of Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka, and is a member of the Marketing Advisory Panel of the Export Development Board, a Council Member of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry Sri Lanka, and the represents Effies (Advertising Effectiveness) in Sri Lanka through SLIM. Previously used by leading brands from the entertainment sector, the mobile phone is now finding a niche in the marketing strategies of increasing number of businesses. This paper looks at how are some of these organizations use mobile marketing - and also raises some concerns over its present viability? The marketing mix has stood the test of time with the four ‘P’s of Product, Price, Place, and Promotion, keeping its ground while the service marketing has managed to enhance its Marketing Mix with three more “P”s which are Physical Evidence, People, and Processes. However within the marketing Mix there have been various developments in many of its tools. Various new products have penetrated the markets. Pricing strategies have gone haywire with the oil prices jumping up and down. New distribution channels have come to stay with the Internet becoming the centre stage, Promotions and communications too have seen many innovations of which Mobile Marketing has stood out from the rest.
A recent study revealed that the number of brands planning SMS and MMS mobile marketing/advertising has doubled over the past year to 28 percent in the US, and the same study also claimed that many brands are planning to increase the proportion of the budget allocated to mobile campaigns. A leading global beverage company has been quite vocal in advocating mobile marketing. In 2005, the company was talking about the future value of the channel, even suggesting that as a medium it would compete with TV. Speaking in November 2005, then Marketing Manager of the company said that it ought to be "phenomenally powerful and more important than TV… we should be spending 50 percent of our marketing budget [on mobile] within decades." Several months later, this company had a novel campaign in Spain with more than 50 Smart cars enabled with Bluetooth devices that sent free content to nearby users. As part of a promotional campaign, consumers merely needed to be near the car to be able to download music, wallpapers and customized games. The Business Development Director for the advertising agency that worked with the beverage company on the campaign explained that the client wanted to reach consumers aged between 15-17 years old, "We branded the Smart cars with the brand name, put Bluetooth antennas in the cars and put them at the exit of schools so that when the schools closed the leavers could receive free branded content. People aged 15-17 received the message and the campaign received coverage in the news for its novelty. Overall, the campaign lasted three months, with different schools, different music, and we reached a lot of people." said a representative of the advertising agency. Subsequent campaigns have seen the company continue to explore the mobile phone's potential as a marketing platform. And this beverage company is not alone in these “M” activities. “The clear difference in this market over the recent past has been the embrace of mobile marketing as an integral part of cross-media brand campaigns,” suggests a Research Director of an agency. “Mobile is no longer off-limits in the minds of advertisers, but is instead seen as a very personal way to reach consumers who can be incentivised through information services and compelling content, as well as through more directly relevant and targeted messaging.” But the mobile marketing hasn’t been fully utilized yet. Some businesses have experienced both the benefits and shortcomings of the Mobile phone platform. Recently, a brand of deodorant, launched a new advertising campaign designed to increase awareness of the brand – particularly amongst the hard to reach 1624 bracket of males that has traditionally been difficult to influence through advertising channels. Offering groups of mates the chance to stake their claim as
the ultimate 'players' – the team best at attracting ladies – the competition saw entrants across the UK competing in regional finals before being whisked off to the five-day 'Boom Chicka Wah Wah' Rally in Florida for the grand final. Alongside traditional marketing channels like posters and press, mobile advertising also formed an important part of the campaign according to the marketing communications and buying director of the company. "We were driving consumers to a WAP site through posters and press, and advertisements" she explains. "There you could request updates and text alerts and download ringtones and wallpaper of the – stunning girls who were part of the campaign to find the Lynx players. Ultimately we wanted as many groups of guys putting themselves forward to be the best players and the mobile was a perfect way to deliver some additional content, keep them updated, but also create some buzz and pub banter – these guys would have something on their phone that they could show to their mates." Whilst the campaign wasn't the company’s first entry into the world of mobile advertising, it was the first time that it used the mobile phone as a platform for a marketing pull campaign. "We have done other mobile advertising in the past, but more focused on pushing messages to consumers," says Bristow. "We have trialled some in-game advertising, when consumers are downloading games to their phones. But this was the first time we were actually asking consumers to opt-in and actively sign up – from which you should get better engagement and marketing results." The campaign as a whole was a success, with the mobile being an important contributor. Overall, over 10,000 people registered for updates off of the WAP site on to their mobile phones, and brand enjoyed a 14 percent clickthrough rate from its WAP site. The results have been sufficient for them to acknowledge the qualities of mobile marketing – and of the possibility of the mobile channel featuring in future campaigns. But at the same time, there are some reservations. Despite high mobile phone penetration in the UK and other obvious benefits of the platform, it has been suggested there are several factors inhibiting it from being exploited to its full potential. "You can send a lot of additional content and personalise it; you can send updates cheaply and quickly; and you can have a two-way relationship because there is an opportunity to have a two-way conversation," she explains. "Further down the line, I'm sure mobile marketing could be a consistent part of the marketing mix. But this depends on the phone charges – how much it costs consumers to access the web via the phone and how much it costs to download content like videos onto your phone.
"Because of the costs, millions of people aren't doing these at the moment in the UK. It's a major consideration for consumers and therefore a consideration for companies. But I'm sure that as these various charges drop, people using the functionality on their phone will increase." Indeed, with a new generation of 3G handsets allowing a superior user experience of content downloads and mobile internet, and mobile operators increasingly offering flat-rate data charges, the mobile phone is sure to offer more rewarding opportunities for marketing in the future. In UK there are more mobile phones than people. It’s a safe bet that Sri Lanka too has a fairly wide mobile phone usage. The intimate nature of these devices presents a fantastic opportunity to not only market to your customer base, but to get them on a two way communication line with you. Interest in mobile marketing has been growing steadily in recent years as marketers have woken up to the massive opportunities within the channel. The medium has moved on from its small beginnings, to be a separate medium which is becoming more noticeable. From mass campaigns now it has become a highly targeted medium. Mobile marketing is no longer a cheeky add-on, only to be considered when there is a superfluous marketing budget. Greater understanding of the medium and massive widening of the scope of available options has meant mobile is now woven into a growing number of successful campaigns. One of the great things about contacting customers via mobile is you can virtually guarantee your message will be read. But ensuring the information it contains is relevant to the reader, like other channels, is incredibly important. For instance, send a hard core “UNP” supporter a text message about the “PA” and he or she would instantly shoot it down. "You could go out and buy a list of mobile phone numbers and throw out hundreds of thousands of messages," says head of interactive sales of an advertising agency, "But that is the worst possible thing you can do." Instead of just taking an ordinary campaign and throwing it out on the mobile channel, you need to align it to the wider campaign being undertaken and think about the fact that it is a different medium. In other words, what does the user (your customer) want to see and what type of information would be relevant to them? Because the mobile phone is such a personal device, what is sent out has to be specific to the individual that’s receiving it. It’s different to paying for a TV or newspaper ad and hoping at least some people will look at it and the message will stick.
You could send a text but you could equally send a pin number to get into a website, a voucher to redeem at a retail store or even give them some free content they can use on their phone like a game or a ring-tone. Being able to reward a customer is extremely powerful and something that can be done relatively easily. "You have the ability to take the customer on a journey or an experience," says Channel Business Manager of a promotions Company. "You can reward them in lots of different ways that you can’t really do with many other mediums." If a company has a TV ad with particular music in the background, marketers can utilize that music in a ringtone to give away, so the customers can get more entrenched and more aligned with that brand. It's not just a case of 'here’s our product, do you want to buy it?'. Marketers are now thinking of deeper ways of fostering a relationship with their customers through mobile. With text messages limited in size, marketers have had to adjust their style. It can almost be as creative as you want it to be, says a Senior Business Developer at a communication company. "Obviously there are complexities, but there are ways of doing it," he adds. "Text, for example, is restricted to 160 characters but people know that and they work with that. So rather than trying to force a long piece in, they know they need to re-scope and try to get the message down to a concise text, as opposed to something that’s gone out in the press." However, far from simply being able to communicate with customers through a different channel, brands can utilizing mobile to allow customers to begin the dialogue. An advertisement can be made with a short code text number included which customers can text a specific word or phrase in order to receive more information? This type of pull strategy will become increasingly popular because the messages can be customized and personalized. Rather than printing a web address where the customer has to either write it down or remember it until they get online, the immediacy of mobile allows customers to express their interest straight away. So it’s not just a case of throwing out a load of leaflets and hoping some people take you up on it. With customers expressing interest off their own back, it becomes highly targeted and the avenue is opened for further communication. Companies are taking this further and driving customer satisfaction by integrating text message alerts into the services they already provide. They can use mobile and text in particular as a way to keep their customers informed. It could be something as simple as a bank balance or the status of a loan request. Companies can let people know when deliveries will be made or if a service is going to de delayed. As well as providing a simple way to keep customers informed, this is helping drive efficiencies within those companies which, in many
instances, would otherwise be fielding calls from these customers through their call centres. In Sri Lanka SMS has become an exciting medium that has been used by many entertainment channels to market themselves. Many of us may not know that ZMessenger a Sri Lankan owned company was a pioneer in SMS marketing in Sri Lanka. In addition to their usual promotions they were also involved in predicting election campaign results which predicted results of the elections well before the elections were announced. It should be noted that the technology that is just now beginning to filter into the UK market has been tried and tested in Japan and some of the Asian markets. Some believe it's down to differences in culture which mean Eastern markets are quicker to embrace new technologies. "In the Asian market they tend to push the boundaries a bit quicker than perhaps we do in the UK," a marketer said. "We do a lot of work making sure that it works and does exactly what we want it to, whereas some services in Asia might try it out at an earlier stage." Her are some of the plusses of using mobile marketing:
Direct response: mobiles are with us 24hours of the day 7 days a week, in-home and out-of-home, which makes them an instant, real-time response channel for any other media channel – ads on TV, press, radio and outdoor, direct mailers, in-store and on-pack promotions. Personalisation: mobile phones have one user - unlike PCs which tend to be used by multiple users - which means they are a powerful channel to deliver highly targeted and relevant information. Location: mobiles are designed to be portable, and thanks to GPS we can track their location at any time allowing brands to send location-specific information. Accountability and measurable feedback: the mobile channel provides real-time reporting of SMS responses generated by above and below the line advertising, DM, sales promotion or PR. This reporting output means you can tweak your ‘traditional’ budgets to boost the channels which generate the highest response levels, each of which can tracked by carrying different ‘keywords’. Integration: mobile works best when carefully integrated with other parts of the marketing mix. In the early days, mobile was added as an after thought, but today more and more integrated campaigns are launching where mobile plays a core role in the process.
Stymied by some short-term platform-related issues, it may still only be only a by road in the marketing highway. But, as forecast by the beverage company in
2005, it looks increasingly likely that the future will prove mobile marketing will become increasingly popular in the future and would become a stand alone medium such as the electronic media. Sri Lanka too can proudly note that they are also in the running with the pack for future of mobile marketing with the mobile service providers coming up with innovative packages for themselves. However, It is very unfortunate that the Mobile service providers have not opened up these opportunities for others including marketers and advertisers. They should now launch special promotions and special schemes to popularize mobile marketing to companies which will promote and benefit mobile phone usage. As soon as this is carried out, the mobile phone usage will grow by leaps and bounds while creating an aura of excitement and sheer value addition around the simple gadget the “mobile phone”.
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