Mixed Messages

Mark Brill, Chair of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Mobile Marketing Council and CEO of txt4ever, responds to criticism of the DMAs latest research on mobile, and argues that the mobile marketing industry is failing to get its message across to brands and agencies

Mark Brill In a recent comment in this magazine about the DMA's UK Spam study into mobile spam (12 November), David Murphy posed the rhetorical question: “I just wonder how many more studies we need to tell us that consumers are happy to receive marketing messages on their mobile phone, so long as they have agreed to receive them.
Of course, for those of us entrenched in the mobile marketing sector, the question of consumer interest in mobile marketing is familiar and well understood. The UK Spam Study wasn't conducted with a view to preach to the converted. The DMA conducted the study because of its concern that the mobile marketing sector is failing to convey the right messages about mobile marketing to the wider brand and agency audiences. In publishing the UK Spam Study, the DMA has sought to improve understanding in a number of ways.
Firstly, we all make assumptions, and having studies that either confirm or challenge them is useful. Such information is only useless if it can't be acted on. Secondly, the study went far beyond simply looking at consumer interest in receiving mobile marketing messages. It also addressed key issues, such as consumers' favoured time and frequency for receiving SMS marketing messages, as well as the all-important opting-out process. Thirdly, it's clear that some agencies and many brands do not appear to understand about mobile user content or how to engage with their customers through the medium.

Getting it wrong
I believe that it's the last point that makes the UK Spam Study all the more important. As a mobile marketing practitioner I take great interest in watching brands taking their first steps into adding mobile into their marketing mix. Unfortunately, all too often I see them getting it wrong. For example, a major retail brand recently sent marketing text messages using mobile numbers of customers who had not specifically opted-in to receive that kind of information. Whilst the data would have been regarded as a soft-opt in and within the regulations, much of it was more than a year old. The result was that the retailer had a poor – even hostile – response from its customers.
Brands typically assume that their customers want to receive their marketing messages. However, mobile is a very personal medium, and when encroaching on such sensitive territory, it is dangerous to make assumptions. If a brand carries out a poorly managed campaign which does not adhere to their users' perception of permission, and as a consequence receives a poor, or even hostile response, then the net result is that the brand will judge that mobile marketing doesn't work. Not only does the UK Spam Study help to reinforce what marketers need to be mindful of when conducting a mobile marketing campaign, it also helps brands to understand the power of mobile marketing when it's done correctly.
I agree with Davids comment that we mobile marketers should be looking forward. This is why the DMA is hosting a number of specialist seminars, publishing new research papers and launching a new initiative during 2010 to help establish mobile marketing as a successful mainstream marketing channel.