MM Awards

What is Mobile Marketing?

David Murphy

It's a good question. Isn't it? How do you define mobile marketing? What does it embrace? And what does it not?  Rather than giving you our spin on the subject, we thought it would make more sense to ask some people at the sharp end. We invited half a dozen, four came through.

First up, Jonathan Bass, managing director of mobile marketing agency Incentivated, then Andrew Jones, who runs another mobile agency, Aerodeon. Next up is Troy Norcross, a Senior Telecoms Messaging Consultant, and co-founder of Pocket Reach and, more recently, Mobile Soul. And finally, the open mic. passes to Emma Coss, Managing Director of 12snap UK. Over to you guys...

Jonathan Bass, Managing Director, Incentivated

Jonathan_bass_jpeg_1To segment a market, theory tells us to consider groupings of similar things,  but where one group (segment) and another have broadly different characteristics. There is never a black and white answer and two segments might share some characteristics, so long as also they differ in more areas than they are similar. The defining characteristics often include things like common suppliers, products, pricing, customers, employees, skills etc.  Looking at each of these one by one, it is easier to see where the segmentation might lie.

In my opinion the Mobile Marketing industry is really two; the first segment is the biggest by revenue and should probably be called Mobile Entertainment.  The second is what the readers of a marketing publication would recognise as being close to what they do; call it Mobile Marketing proper i.e. the spending of a brands marketing budget as a means to an end, not the end in of itself. 

For companies like Incentivated, our customers are brands, advertising agencies, public sector bodies and charities. For companies like Mostermob (a Mobile Entertainment company) their customers are members of the public. They advertise in weekly consumer magazines or on cable TV; we advertise in publications like this. This is the main difference between the two segments. But there are more.

Incentivateds product is sometimes an online mobile marketing tool and at other times a service e.g. a fully managed text response campaign. The Mobile Entertainment companies are selling content for entertainment purposes; ringtones or wallpapers that they own or have licensed the rights for. Both our products utilise what mobile data services have to offer, but are quite different when it comes to explaining what we sell. We are not wedded to our own content or data lists; in fact we do not own content or mobile numbers as such.

The only other characteristic that I shall dwell upon is that of skill-set. The likes of Incentivated and Mostermob have very similar technical departments, but that is where the similarity ends. We look more like an advertising agency; staffed with new business people, account managers, ideas people and staff with a detailed knowledge of marketing, advertising, legislation and promotion codes of conduct etc. Of course, the Mobile Entertainment companies have marketing departments but their client is their own company, not other third parties, and so the skills needed are different. 

Let me conclude by saying that I realise I am fighting a losing battle; Mobile Marketing as a term has become entrenched already, and means any relationship between an organisation and a customer using mobile data services.  However, a market without segments is a confusing one, and part of the problem our industry faces is that many potential clients do not know how to differentiate between the players. A little more detail would help.

Andrew Jones, Managing Director, Aerodeon

The starting point has to be consumers.  We all know that the way that people communicate with each other is changing.  SMS, instant messaging and blogs are leading to new types of networks and relationships.

This has huge implications for brands. Consumers now decide in a flash who to push up and who to push down.  In the playground, it is known as bullying. In the market place it is simply the new reality.

Mobile phones are an inextricable part of this new reality.  They are the ultimate device that connects people, to each other, to entertainment and to brands. The glue, the frame, the context.

And yet we are only at the beginning of our journey to understand what mobiles and mobility mean for brands. So far, we have only scratched the surface.

I have no doubt that mobile marketing is the killer ap. Marketers will look back in years to come and struggle to imagine life before mobiles. The way that brands are presented and serviced will be transformed by the accessibility and interactivity which mobile provides.

But whether mobile marketing is a stand-alone discipline or a part of a much bigger thing, I'm not sure.  It's certainly a mistake to think of it as something that can be ring-fenced and isolated. But it is an even bigger mistake to underestimate the profound impact these little devices will have on everything we do. It's the job of mobile marketers to ensure this impact is a positive one for brands.

Troy Norcross, Co-founder, Mobile Soul

TroynorcrossIf you typed "mobile marketing" into a Google search three or so years ago, you would most likely have found that the majority of results were about advertising that was applied to the sides of cars.  Consumers were paid to put ads on their cars and then drive around major metropolitan cities.  Today, it is virtually impossible to find that old definition. 

Starting in early 2002, big names like Coke, P&G and McDonalds got into the game, largely in China as part of the World Cup activity. These campaigns were some of the biggest and earliest text-to-win campaigns where a consumer would see the call to action as part of an on-pack promotion, send a text message and then receive content back to their phone as either a coupon or an invitation to play again. It was simple text messaging, but it was immediate and it worked - very well.

If you have attended any of the recent conferences where mobile marketers are present you'll see that the industry has come a long way since plain text messaging. Today's mobile marketing includes rich multimedia messages combining text, still pictures, audio and video clips, allowing for a far superior consumer experience.  And that's not all.  Today's mobile phone can display streaming video, access WAP internet sites, provide information on your location and your availability, and more.  All of which has marketers drooling either with anticipation - or complete and utter confusion.

And in a category all by itself - because it is a personal passion of mine - is Bluetooth marketing.  Bluetooth is very appealing to marketers as it is location-specific and doesn't cost either the marketer or the consumer anything to send and receive content (no premium or standard rate text messages - no GPRS traffic costs - nothing).  And while this looks really appealing on the face of it, it is a potentially controversial topic, in that, if not done correctly, it could be considered to be Spam and thus illegal. You can't just blast content to consumers who happen to be walking by.  You have to invite them to take action and get the content themselves.

Bog-standard for today

Today, the majority of mobile marketing is still text message updates and alerts, as they are the lowest common denominator and reach the broadest possible audience. Its interrupt-based marketing, hopefully attached to timely, relevant and valuable content.  Trend-wise in this space, you should expect to see more rich multimedia messaging, marketers trying to tie into the well-understood television broadcast advertising model with mobile TV and marketers trying to tie into the well understood internet website banner ad model.  Both of which are well understood, which is why they have appeal - but both of which I predict will not have the same success.  Mobile is different.  More on that in a bit.

Jim Manis, Chairman of the MMA, stopped by recently and explains that MMA Global is expanding their definition of what constitutes mobile marketing to include mobile content downloads. Mobile marketing - or using the mobile for marketing products and services is different from delivering purchased content to a consumer, where mobile is really just the delivery channel and end-medium for consumption.  But here's the real deal: mobile content - premium SMS - that's where the money is.  So it's not much of a wonder that mobile marketing is being extended to include the money folks.

Future vision

But let's get out of the box here for just a minute.  If we talk about mobile marketing, are we really limited to the phone?  What if mobile marketing is defined a little more broadly as marketing that is personal to a consumer while they are mobile? What do we get then?  We get iPods and iPod video. We get Wi-Fi enabled laptops with city-wide (ad supported) access.  We get Sony Playstations and Gameboys.  Each of these is a mobile

device onto which the consumer can download content for a fee - and/or for free, with some advertising built in. Now that, that is the future definition of mobile marketing.

What if you could sync your iPod Video with your TiVo?  What if you could get free Sony PlayStation games with advertising messages built into the games displays and environment?   

I'd love to hear your thoughts on mobile marketing - and especially how you feel about permission and Spam within your personal space.  So please write me at [email protected] or check the blog at

Emma Cotton, Managing Director, 12snap UK

Emma_cottonMobile Marketing offers the most direct, most personal way of getting in touch with your customers. Whether we are talking awareness, sales promotion or customer retention, Mobile Marketing adds an interactive dimension that is unparalleled for effectiveness and immediacy.
For years now, reaching attractive and relevant target groups via classical media such as print and TV has been getting ever more difficult. This is exactly where the mobile phone comes in as a marketing channel. In many countries, there are already more mobile phones than TV sets, and the typical user behaviour (always on, anytime, anywhere), makes mobile the first interactive mass medium. Mobile Marketing is already becoming an integral part of a brand's overall marketing mix, and with very high  success rates.


What do you think? Where does Mobile Marketing begin and end? Let us have your thoughts.