Tone of Choice

A ringback tone is the music or theme tune you hear when you call someone, instead of listening to a boring ring-ring dial tone.

The music you hear is chosen by the person you are calling, and mobile subscribers around the world have proved themselves to be ready to pay for the ability to express themselves in this way when their friends call them.

But while they are popular in many parts of the world, there is a huge, untapped opportunity for ringback tones in Europe. So first up, five facts you may not have known about ringback tones…

1. The opportunity for ringback tones for European operators in untapped media inventory will have grown from €40m in 2007 to €229m in 2013, according to 200the 8 Juniper Research European Mobile Media Forecast.

2. Ringback tones are hugely popular outside of Europe, with 55 per cent of subscribers using ringback tones in Korea, 50 per cent in China, and just over 25 per cent in India, making Europe a huge potential market for ringback tones.

3. Ringback tones are device-independent and so can be offered to the entire subscriber base of the operator, unlike data services, which are dependent on the subscriber’s device.

4. Operators are able to own the ringback tone market because ringback tones can only be run through their networks, making them a powerful smart pipe enabler and rich new revenue source.

5. The ringback tones can consist of any type of musical media file, which creates an opportunity for operators to run ringback tone ad campaigns, adding another valuable revenue channel.

So much for the facts, but how do you go about successfully marketing ringback tones? In our view, there are seven steps on the stairway to ringback tone Heaven…

1. Awareness – Ringback tones are also called Calling Tunes, Welcome Tones and Ring Rings. Muzicall is trying to unify the product name under Ringtagz, as this will greatly simplify marketing communications across Europe. The name has been adopted by Orange UK and Vodafone Netherlands. In Switzerland, both Orange and Swisscom are planning to launch their off-deck services under this brand. Our aim is to make Ringtagz universally understood and recognized by subscribers throughout Europe.

2. Discovery – Enable customers to easily download and activate Ringback tones everywhere, via all consumer touchpoints, including SMS, IVR, WAP, USSD and web, and make them available on all as handsets to ensure all subscribers can access them. Ringtagz is launching a series of iPhone, Android and Blackberry Apps which will greatly enhance the ability to browse new ringback tones and manage a collection.

3. Packaging  – Make Ringback tones an acquisition and retention tool and package them into a bundle of other services. This can help increase sales by up to 30%. Providing the service for free for one month upon acquisition will give subscribers a taste for Ringback tones, making them more likely to keep subscribing. Bundling content has also proven to be a great way to increase ARPU, by offering consumers value for money subscriptions and ever changing playlists.

4. Promotion – The service needs to be seen and heard for consumers to understand how ring back tones are different to normal ringtones. Create viral marketing campaigns that drive the message and make sure it is easy for subscribers to promote Ringback tones to their friends through recommendations, offers, and gifts to friends and family, and user-generated content through social networking. You can reach 1m people in one week with just 100,000 people playing a ringback tone to 10 people each. This also makes ringback tone an excellent medium for Ad delivery.

5. Place – Create an off-deck and affiliate partnership. Around 65 per cent of mobile content is sold outside of the operator’s channels. Ringback tones can be sold direct to the consumer (D2C) by content retailers through above the line and digital sales channels. By integrating with D2C storefronts, operators can benefit from significant incremental revenues driven by large-scale off-portal marketing campaigns.

6. Content – Ringback tones are not just about chart music. In addition to offering popular music tracks, include theme tunes and tie in new content to current events to give subscribers a wide choice of ringback tones.  For example, the 2010 football World Cup has driven national anthem downloads and football chant ringback tone purchases. Segment your subscribers and offer content that fits their demographic and personal interests to make ringback tone relevant to individual groups.

7. Technology – Invest in a trusted technology and marketing partner to provide the enabling platform and shop front and let them manage and promote your rich portfolio of content across all consumer touchpoints, freeing you up to focus on innovation and customer retention.

Lourens de Beer is CMO at Muzicall