Mobile marketing 101: Geographic targeting, bluespamming

Monday I wrote about smart-targeting based on geography and technologies like GPS and SMS. Customers, in that case, would have signed up, confirmed their opt-in and set their preferences for receiving messages.

The other form of geographic targeting is also proximity based (where you only get messages when you're in a physical range of the transceiver), but it's not specifically targeted to your device and you probably didn't ask for it. This is happening now where stores are using Bluetooth technology to push their messages to anyone who walks past. The term is 'bluespamming' or 'bluecasting'. (See this great post by Helen Keegan of Beep Marketing for her take.)


For marketers, this is tempting because of its simplicity (set up a bluetooth server that constantly sends out your message to anyone who walks by), but it's as unethical as email spamming in the lack of user permission. The technology isn't the problem, it is the usage in this case. If marketers leveraged the smart-targeting example and asked permission this could be very successful and probably more cost effective to set up and manage.

Bluetooth has limited range, but for shops with a lot of pedestrian traffic nearby this could be a great model. This is sure to start popping up in the US now that Bluetooth is becoming standard issue on most phones, but it doesn't seem like a viable long-term solution to mobile marketing.

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The bleeding edge: QR codes

img.pngAlthough QR (quick response) codes have been around since the mid-90s in Japan (born from manufacturing), they have only recently come into the mainstream consumer's focus. Japanese mobile consumers are using these codes along with special software and their phone's camera to shortcut having to type information into a mobile browser. (The QR code to the right is the URL for this blog in QR symbology.)

These codes are creeping up online, in magazines and newspapers and even on TV to allow users to quickly jump to their website or share a host of other information. All a person has to do is point their phone at the code and it knows what to do, taking the user to the end destination. See for yourself and create one using this generator.

Realistically, the success rate of something like this in the US is going to be equally proportional to the number of US mobile subscribers who use mobile web. Right now that number is low (but growing). Without a support base of subscribers who find entering information into their phones difficult, this could go the way of the Cuecat.

Here is a video of it in action, you may not be able to read what it says, but you'll see how it works.

Competition is out there (see this post on Engadget) and although QR is an ISO standard, it is not a universally agreed upon convention. Interesting to note, there are also 3D versions of these codes which are capable of storing 1.8Mb of data. That could be a document, small music file or short video clip. Imagine the possibilities. Walk into a store, see a CD you like, scan the code and possibly listen to a clip of the track right there.

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Mobile marketing 101: Geographic smart-targeting

This is the first of a two part series on mobile geo-targeting. Geography-based targeting is becoming more realistic as technology improves and consumers become more accepting of marketing messages on their phones. This post explores "smart-targeting" where the marketer knows (based on signup) who their customers are and what content they would like to receive. The marketer then uses the customer's real-time, geographic position to send them messages when they're within range.

To illustrate a smart-targeting campaign I created an example (see below) using my favorite purveyor of coffee. For a campaign like this, users would have signed up online to receive update messages and profile their interests. They also would have gone through the mobile confirmed opt-in process (read more about confirmed opt-ins).

Once activated, whenever a customer comes within a pre-defined distance from a store they would receive a message from that location based on their preferences. The power here is that the offer is relevant to their interest (coffee drinking and the brand) and it is geo-relevant as well. Each Starbucks location would have the ability to send out similar messages as a subscriber's device is detected with matching interest criteria.


(Hat tip to David Armano for the inspiration to blog with my information designs, I've got a ways to go before I reach his level.)

There are three primary types of customers who could receive these smart-targeted messages. Green consumers in the diagram are true devotees. They welcome your messages and even get excited to receive them because it makes them feel more like part of your community. Geo-targeting to these users serves as a branding reinforcement and could spark spur-of-the-moment purchases through coupons or new product information.

Consumers in orange are on the edge. They're occasional users of your product or service, but they are close to moving to the red level. Messages to this person need to be more focused on product trial. The more they try and become devoted, the better chance they have of moving back to green.

Red consumers are the most crucial to deal with. They have either a) lost their affinity for you and your products or b) forgotten they signed up in the first place. Every campaign needs to have a mechanism built in to remove these users immediately and put them on a permanent do not message list. Most of the risk (legal, time and money) of any geo-targeting campaign lies in this group.

Other, non-mobile methods of contact should be sent periodically to allow users to adjust their interests or opt-out. Other questions should aim to provide more insight into the level of the customer for campaign message adjustment.

Despite the risks, the power of mobile technology combined with the hyper-relevant message is nearly unmatched in modern marketing. No other combination of resources is as relevant and personal as geo-targeted marketing...if done right. If not conducted correctly geo-targeted campaigns become pure spam, hurt the overall brand and limit acceptance for future mobile efforts. The technology to enable this type of geo-targeting is becoming a reality more and more as new geo-ready phones are released.

Part 2 will focus on always-on, proximity targeting. This is very different from geo-targeting and has its own set of risks and rewards. Check back shortly for that post.

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Mobile Marketing 101: Know thy audience

toddlerphone.jpgOne of the primary decisions anyone creating a mobile campaign must decide is whether or not their audience actually uses mobile devices. If they are a user, depending on their age, you must decide how they use them so your message and delivery is relevant. I just came across a press release from comScore which underscores this point.

comScore breaks mobile phone users into three groups:

  1. Adult Adopters (age 35+) - More functional view of phones. Didn't own a phone until they were an adult and just want the basics.
  2. Transitioners (25-34) - Started using in teens, early adulthood.
  3. Cellular Generation (18-24) - This is the most likely audience to engage with your brand through a mobile device. They've had access to phones throughout their lives.

This may seem logical, you may say to yourself, "self...I shouldn't push cutting edge mobile P-2-P technology to my 40-year-old target market", but many marketers are ignoring the obvious and campaigns fail to achieve results. Rushing a mobile campaign to market without being goal-driven and targeted is like giving a toddler a Motorola Q and expecting them to use it. They may be initially happy with all of the buttons, but that happiness will soon fade when all they really wanted was something shiny.

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Mobile Marketing 101: Ad formats

Just a quick post to touch on ad format standardization in the WAP mobile space. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has published a nice, concise PDF file that outlines current formats. If you have a chance check it out.

There are a couple of extra points to consider with mobile that don't really come into play with traditional interactive campaigns. Some of these points are:

  • Device type: is there a certain device that you're targeting (sales support/prior marketing deal) or are you targeting the broad mobile web community? Blackberry's behave different than Motorola Razr's behave different than the Sidekick and those differences are important (screen size, plug-in support, etc.).
  • Carrier: Are you partnering with one carrier to run a promotion or going after everybody? If you are working with one carrier, you may be able to tap into their proprietary hardware or software solutions.
  • Call to action: The call to action on mobile devices is also different. Users can use click-to-call to dial a number instantly, click a link to send an SMS message or vote, send an email to a specified address or proximity use proximity to find local information and drive foot traffic (maps, directions, phone listings).

Measurement is as important for mobile ads as for any other campaign type. Impressions, clicks, click-throughs, CPM, Impressions and unique users can all be used to measure and sell the ad spots.

All of this being said, there is room for improvement and certainly for innovation. Mobile campaigns have a lot of potential and as devices become more connected that potential will be realized.

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Mobile marketing 101: The push


This is the first in a series of posts I am going to do regarding mobile marketing strategy and tactics. You can't surf through the web today without seeing some iteration of mobile marketing. Everyone from the Wall Street Journal to AdAge is covering the ways in which marketers are creating new, mobile customer engagement opportunities.

While I'm sure some of these campaigns are founded in keen strategic insight, and not by "me too" marketer-envy, there are some significant challenges to overcome. The mobile web is, compared to the web we access from our computers, in its infancy. We're talking about straight up 1996, buttonized, non-engaging user interfaces and one-size-fits-all content. The problems I see with the mobile web are about 5% in technology and 95% in a lack of understanding on the part of marketers. Go to most major sites on the web today and take a look on your phone. It's ugly, it's impersonal and 99% of the time it's the same site you see on your desktop but scrunched and battered into an almost incomprehensible form.

Does it take a lot of work to get your mobile initiatives up and running? The answer is yes. I won't lie. You have to change your thinking and apply different rules. You may even need to make up new rules. The format and architecture is new and can't be borrowed from someplace else.

Is it worth it to do this? Absolutely! If you go to a site that is made for mobile, you will see what I mean. The formatting is clean, the response is quick and the information you need is right there in front of you. You find yourself appreciative of the effort that company has taken to make sure your experience is a good one. Try going to on your device and let me know what you think.

We need to put things into perspective. Mobile marketing is new. Devices are improving all the time and standardization is slowly beginning to creep in. Acceptance of mobile marketing is also just starting to pick up. I posted late last week on a study that the Mobile Marketing Association published, which found that only 2% of all US phone users have engaged in any form of marketing on mobile devices.

Mobile marketing is a growth area for sure, but should not be treated the same as a website. It needs new thinking, new strategy and new tactics to make sure you're reaching the right people with the right message.

So, let's look at mobile push marketing. To re-iterate my previous post, only after a user confirms their opt-in to receive your message should you engage in any marketing campaign with them. Unrequested push marketing is spam and could lead to a major backlash and loss of subscribers. Mobile users should be treated like a delicate flower, show lots of love, and only give them content when they ask for it.

One practical example of push marketing that works is content alerting. You see this all the time with sports sites where users can sign up to receive score updates. The information is generated as it happens and each instance is not specifically requested by the user. These short messages are great ways to add value to an advertiser or promote an upcoming contest. This method works well with content that is followed closely and updated frequently. Best practices here would include batching information (sending scores at the end of the game or inning and not every time a point is scored).

Other examples of push marketing are using advertising on other related content sites, sending one-time surveys or picture messages (if opted in for), weather and other site content updates and sending instant coupons to users. The coupon idea will be discussed later this week and has some major hurdles to jump before it becomes a reality for users. The more customized and relevant the message the more value your customers will see.

So, do your customers use mobile technology? One way to determine some level of interest is to look at your current web site's stat reporting software (HitBox, WebTrends, etc.) and look in the browser info section to see if mobile devices are hitting your site. You may also want to run a short poll or survey to get more information on what customers would find useful. Some businesses may be tailoring something like this to an internal audience who all use one device. In this case more specific campaigns can be created and opting in could be automatic (i.e.; all sales people receive real-time quota info or pricing updates).

No matter what your industry this is something you could be participating in now with some planning and dedication to the medium. Next up I'll talk about creating mobile versions of existing websites. That's one example that every single marketer should be looking at to meet the status quo, but to do it right takes some new thinking.

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Mobile marketing 101: Yes means no (until you say it twice)

yield.gifI am starting my series on mobile marketing today and one of the key points to lay out first is the idea of the confirmed opt-in. This has become the de-facto standard for gaining acceptance from a consumer before reaching them on their mobile device.

What does this mean you ask? Normally, say for an email newsletter, you complete a form, click a checkbox that says you want to be contacted and viola. You receive an email with a link to confirm your intentions to join the list.

The same is true for mobile campaigns. It's actually more important in mobile due to the fact that it may cost the user money (text message fees, airtime, etc.) and the juvenescence of this form of marketing in the eyes of the consumer. (Some mobile campaign creators will actually triple confirm their users. This is a little excessive, but possible.) This confirmation can happen through a website, text message, email, phone call or through snail mail (*gasp*), but it needs to happen.

So this is the first standard that any marketer should follow for any mobile campaign. This is a new touch point for your brand. Consumers are very protective of their mobile space and will defend it against unsolicited marketing more than any other medium. If done right this can be a nice asset in your toolbox. If done wrong it can be a PR nightmare.

The MMA has a code of conduct document you should check out before doing anything else.

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Nevermind the iPhone, give me a video iPod+

Now, I truly thought I wanted the iPhone. I really wanted one. I would have killed (maybe not kill, but surely I would have gently maimed somebody) for one. Now that I've seen it and thought about it for the past week I realize that I don't really want it, I want part of it.

I keep coming back to one major problem. Cingular. Or should I say AT&T. Yikes, that makes it even worse! Let me clarify a couple points before I go on. I love Apple. I use as many Apple products as I can get my hands on. I love the design of iPhone. I love the UI. I love the integration. It's beautiful and I really want to hold it in my hand and never let it go.

So why do I say kill the iPhone? I, like millions of other people around the world right now, am accustomed to carrying around two devices. One does the phone/email/SMS and the other does video and audio. I don't mind carrying my Motorola Q and my 30Gb iPod. I like the functionality of my phone separate from my iPod because they are fundamentally different devices with different purposes.

So what do I want? I want convergence that makes sense to me. I want a widescreen video iPod in the same case as the iPhone. I want a camera in the device. I want Bluetooth for wireless sync and to use wireless headphones. I want Wifi and a built-in browser for surfing. I want to buy songs on the go. I want battery life. I want iChat built in for IM and video conferencing down the road. I want more than 8Gb of storage.

What I don't want is the phone. I want to watch video and talk at the same time. I want Verizon as my phone carrier and another device to handle my media.

Please Apple, release your iPhone to the dwindling AT&T users. I will covet thy iPhones in the meantime (I admit it). But give me the killer iPod I deserve as a loyal Apple evangelist and continue your (very deserved) domination of the mobile player industry.

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Mobile marketing 101

There are a lot of different ways marketers are using, or are thinking of using mobile technologies to reach consumers. Over the next couple of days I am going to show you what tactics are currently in use, their goals and challenges and see what the future may hold.

The mobile marketing space is REALLY the wild west right now with a lack of regulations and standards. Smart marketers should use the tactics that reach their target most effectively (yes this sounds like common sense, but many companies are recommending solutions which do not work for this very reason).

Tomorrow I'll start with push marketing technologies. If there are any topics you would like me to cover please let me know in the comments for this post.


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The iPhone mess and corporate conversations

apple with bite taken.gifI just came across this post on Mario Sundar's blog about the iPhone debacle that Apple is in with Cisco. I left my comment there, but wanted to touch on this a little more.

Apple is in a unique position where its community base wages most of its wars. If someone, anyone decides to pick a fight with Cupertino, Apple's army of fans decends upon them like the plague (I am one of those people fyi). Apple, however, does not arm its army properly. The lack of real conversation (via a blog, press release, video statement, etc.) only hurts the troops on the firing line. But this is an army so large and so passionate, that they tend to overwhelm their opponent by pure force.

Other companies are not this lucky, which is why I write this post. Their customers don't have the company kool-aid running through their blood and some are looking for reasons to switch away.

So what can blogs (or any other form of personal communications) do to help them? The problem with most companies right now is that they use the web to conduct a monologue. They speak to everyone with the same voice and with the same message. They don't engage customers in a conversation, don't give them the opportunity to contribute or share their ideas.

New, progressive companies are open to this conversation and encourage it. This new company sees the value in engaging the customer, making a personal connection through dialogue and growing true fans. These companies may make commodity goods, easily switched at the drop of a hat. If that company has done its job, used the web to make those connections in a cost-effective manner and kept the conversation open, they can prevent the switch, make more people aware of their benefits and grow customers into die-hard evangelists.

Without creating this conversation, the customer is left to create their own conversations and those conversations will usually end at your competitor's door.

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Mobile marketing acceptance

Laura Marriott, Executive Director of the Mobile Marketing Association and ClickZ contributor, has a nice article on the growing consumer interest in mobile marketing. Some of their findings:

  • 48% increase in phone usage
  • 69% use text messaging, 44% use it daily
  • 16% have use TV voting
  • 25-34 year olds were most familiar with Common Short Codes
  • There was a 4% decrease in interest for marketing on phones
  • Youth are most receptive
  • Only 2% have engaged in any form of mobile marketing
  • Highest interest is in alerts, downloads and coupons (push on demand)

So, while marketers are going more and more to the mobile space, the reality is that it's a strategy in transition. Marketers who can find ways to engage customers on their devices which they are accepting of will take the lead. Marketers going to the pre-college market could make inroads for mainstream acceptance.

In the next week I will be posting a series of articles outlining what is happening in mobile and how marketers can make sure they're ready when their customers are. Stay tuned.

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The collision of interactive and advertising

One of my personal favorite bloggers is Brit Iain Tait at His last post was a great one. While I was not familiar with the campaigns he mentions (they are very good though after looking at them) the last two paragraphs really struck a cord with me. I work for a digital agency and this idea of converging advertising and interactive is real.

His point about how pitching to a client's digital group and their advertising group is dramatically different is dead on. Advertising-oriented clients want the idea. They want a great idea and they don't really care how it gets done. Digital-oriented clients want to know you can cover their ass with implementation processes, analytics, A/B testing and cross-browser testing. More and more these two client types are coming into the same room and agencies need to adjust accordingly.

Digital advertising and other interactive marketing takes a unique skill set. This blog, for instance, is all about how the technology impacts the marketing. To market online and to mobile platforms you have to know the limitations and how to push right to the edge. Can an ad agency with digital ability do this? Possibly, but a digital agency who understands the media with which it works is going to have at least as good a chance, if not better at winning new business.

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Google extending browser to mobile

personalized_home.gifI'd posted earlier this month about a feature on where the user can have listing information sent directly to their mobile device. I saw this article on LifeHacker (a great site with lots of great time savers) about Google's click-to-call feature.

Basically, Google Maps is allowing users surfing the web to call a business based on the listing information and connect it to the user's mobile device (or any phone really). So let's say you're looking for a dry cleaner. You go on Google Maps and search based on where you are. Once the filtered listings come back you find the one closest to you and there is a link to call. Google then asks for your phone number and calls you, then connects to the business. Viola. You're talking.

Businesses who can extend their services to take advantage of mobile technology will be more ready to take advantage of the true mobile web. These basic steps are necessary to build confidence and show the true power of portable, relevant, time saving technology.

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Conill named multicultural agency of the year, Hispanic growth

Hispanic shop Conill in NYC was named Ad Age's multicultural agency of the year. Conill is a part of the Publicis Groupe family of agencies and has seen impressive growth.

Another Ad Age article from early December shows that Conill's growth is more the rule right now in the Hispanic agency world rather than the exception. US Agencies, according to Ad Age, have continued on double-digit growth as the realization of the importance of the Hispanic community is reaching companies.

Interesting items to note (from my own research):

  • Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority in the US
  • Hispanics consume a greater volume of information online than any other group
  • The typical online Hispanic is mid-20s and male (prime targeting demos)
  • Hispanic's use of technology is centered around communication and IM, e-mail and mobile technologies will reach them easier and more effectively

I could go on, but I'll follow up more on marketing to the Hispanic audience in a future series of posts.

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Video at your fingertips

The recent Saddam Hussein execution video still causing ripples around the world, it serves as a reminder of the power and growth of video enabled cell phones. People no longer have to lug around heavy camcorders as more and more phones are video enabled. The Nokia N93 phone (all the rage in the blogosphere) records near DVD quality video by folds in half and attaches to your belt.

Phone technology has allowed photo imaging for a number of years and companies are taking advantage of that availability (Flickr, Blogger). As Time magazine proclaimed in it's year-end magazine 2006 was the year of the consumer generated media. Amateur videographers poured clips into YouTube and Google as rates which were mind-boggling.

As more phones have video capabilities, new opportunities and challenges will pop up. On-the-spot video journalists will be able to capture and upload video of breaking news faster than any news service. Citizen reporters will be able to record a clip, write a story and post it within minutes of the event happening. Fewer events will go unrecorded as an army of videographers hit the street.

As marketers we need to embrace this technology, determine how it can work for us to reach our customers on a more personal level and move the experience of the brand off-line. At the same time we must be aware of the implications. If a user is in a store, they can record a conflict with an employee, for example. That clip may not show the company in the light it wishes and risk management measures need to be in place to make sure companies are not caught off-guard.

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One of the challenges facing most content providers going forward is figuring out how to position themselves to take advantage of the mobile space. Saw a post on Brand Noise about a new feature on called 'send to mobile'. The site allows surfers to send listing information to their cell phone via text message for later use. This feature allows users to access mobile content on the go, even if they're not savvy enough to surf for the info on the phone itself. A late 2006 comScore survey showed that 19% of US mobile phone users actually surf the web on their devices. This is one tactic to reach the other 81% who are yet to surf from their Razr's.

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Apple iPhone more than a rumor, challenge for Apple begins

Apple's 'iPhone' (we'll call it that for lack of a better name) was recently confirmed by CFO Peter Oppenheimer in a conference call. His confirmation paired with alleged phone-related programming calls in an iTunes update are leading many to believe that Apple could introduce a phone/MP3 device this year.

If they do release such a device it is sure to be a huge hit. It would no doubt carry through with Apple's unique design, would be intuitive to use and probably retain familiar iPod-like controls for digital music. It should wirelessly connect to the Tunes Music Store and have other cool features like BlueTooth and WiFi. Millions of Apple faithful would surely flock to stores in desperate need to obtain one (myself included). Having THE mp3 player with a great phone all wrapped in one smooth translucent white/chrome casing would just be too much to pass up.

Apple has never been in the phone business before (outside of a mediocre partnership with Motorola on the Rokr phone) and that is where their challenge starts. Making sure the phone is carried on the major networks will be crucial to achieving iPodesque ubiquity. Will the carriers participate and can Apple knock off popular phones like the Razr? What other features will be onboard when it is released? Camera, browser, mini-OSX (please learn from Microsoft and don't miniaturize the OS, it's really poor for phone use).

We'll have to hold our breathe and see what happens. Apple's WWDC is next week and this is still a possible candidate for release (although a very outside candidate).

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Toyota trying made-for-mobile video

Toyota is making a large investment in the creation and promotion of it's new made-for-mobile video series 'The Pool'. The short-form movies will surround a group of car-poolers and their adventures in a Toyota Camry.

The deal is through the Sprint/Nextel network and limited to their devices. Video will need to follow in the footsteps of other mediums which have moved to cross device/network limitations.

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