From Bango Numbers to Mobile Coupons in 10 Short Years

I’ve got a great evening ahead at a party being thrown by Bango to celebrate 10 years – yes, you read it right, 10 years – of the mobile web.
I don’t know what to expect, but if the evening is appropriately themed, there should be some slow moving images that take too long to load, displayed on screens that are too small to see anything properly.
Well, 10 years ago maybe, but even the sternest critic of the mobile web, and there are plenty of them, would have to concede that things have come a long way since 1999. As, indeed, has Bango. I remember writing an article about Bango for the FT many years ago. It was all about Bango Numbers, which was the company’s idea to sell number sequences on mobile keypads that spelt out company or brand names. Sony, for example would be, er actually, that’s hard to say as my phone has a Qwerty keyboard. Another thing that’s changed.
That idea never took off  – maybe they should have called it Bango Bingo? – and Bango disappeared off the radar, only to reappear again as a mobile payment and analytics company when we launched Mobile Marketing Magazine four years ago this month. I congratulate them on their ability to reinvent themselves.
It’s not all play on the front line of mobile marketing journalism, however. I’ve spent the last hour and a half in the company of David Timm, CEO of i-movo. The company was behind a recent mobile couponing campaign for Coca-Cola which offered consumers free bottles of Fanta, Sprite and Dr. Pepper, using secure digital vouchers delivered to mobile phones.
By the end of the campaign, 200,000 drinks had been given away to almost 100,000 consumers across the UK and the campaign had delivered a jaw-dropping redemption rate of 87%, which Timm explained to me thus:
“It’s better to offer 100,000 people a free product than to offer 200,000 people a 50% discount. If you target 200,000 people with the 50% discount, you will be lucky to convert half of them. Target 100,000 people with the free offer and you will get most of them.”
According to Timm, the conversation with brands and agencies now is not about whether the company’s technology – for which it holds two key patents – works, but rather, about what sort of mobile couponing promotion will work best. The company has enough successful campaigns under its belt for big brands to justify his confidence.
I was very impressed by what Timm had to say and to show, and the arguments in favour of digital coupons, whether they are on a phone, a piece of plastic, or a printed barcode, are well understood. They are easier to track, to measure, and much less prone to mis- and mal-redemption.
I’ll be writing up my meeting as an interview or something more substantial than this at some point in the next week or two. In the meantime, I have a party to go to, and with a bit of luck, I might even be home in time for the re-run of Flight of the Conchords on BBC4 later. If you’ve never seen the programme, trust me and watch it. If you have, well you’ll be watching it again won’t you? There’s even a cameraphone gag in about Episode 4. Whatever you’re doing yourself this evening, have a good one.

David Murphy