I found the December 1 ADWEEK -- particularly the article “Economy Puts Mobile Marketing on Hold” -- thought provoking. Yes, I agree with the general premise of that article that “despite the hype, optimism and growth potential” the mobile medium “won’t dial up in ’09.” The financial situation will put downward pressure on experimental spend, particularly in more conservative organizations. And many of the current mobile marketing applications just don’t deliver.
The advertising industry is getting much, much better at digital marketing. If read through the 2008 Buzz Award winners in the same issue of ADWEEK you see some very smart work. At the same time, you can tell it the industry is behind the curve on mobile marketing when you read “display ads on the mobile are coming fast.” Yikes. In the United States the mobile device is an extremely personal space. This may be less true the more advanced Scandinavian and Asia-Pacific mobile markets where commercial and ad content has had some success.
The last place I want to see a display ad is on my handheld device. Many mobile applications still make little sense, including the geo-targeting of information. I don’t care how many people in the region are sick (Zicam). When I out shopping and I can’t find the pants I want to buy in the size and color combo I want then I’ll call you (so to speak), but don’t call me.
That said, the article led me to some other thoughts about the state of mobile marketing and how I will counsel clients in 2009. I realize my thoughts below are not actionable advice for specific programs and tactics. Read this more as the base, or frame of mind from which t approach mobile programming.
Experiment with mobile. When I worked on DSL marketing in the early years I privately referred to broadband as the “big lie.” The speed wasn’t there to support the claim of rich media, and the penetration wasn’t there to rely on it for very broad consumer marketing efforts. Rich media was also still too fat – really good compression for Flash and video was still a work in progress. But for some marketers, broadband was the real deal -- if they were targeting the right niche. And broadband was going to have an immense impact, just not for another 18 to 24 months.
I’ll argue that the organizations that judiciously experimented at the front end of the curve benefited. They cut their teeth, learned important lessons and gained street credibility with key audiences. I think that in the United States and Canada we are at that moment with mobile marketing. In 18-to-24 months the curve will begin to accelerate and the companies that experiment in 2009, run smart pilot programs, will be way ahead and everyone else will be left playing catch-up. And you don’t have to start with external marketing, employee communications is a great way to experiment with mobile.
Where should the money come from? I’d be pulling back on print and TV advertising in a big way. The ROI just isn’t what it used to be (keep the radio, radio packs an ROI punch and I think it is undervalued).
Don’t forget the Internet. Most companies haven’t figured out online marketing, and they’ll have more bottom-line impact in the near-term with online efforts than they will with mobile. The impact of social media is still badly misunderstood by many marketers, and the upside of getting it right can be tremendous. And then there is the secret sauce that we have learned at Fleishman-Hillard: the power of combining face-to-face and experiential marketing with digital word-of-mouth. Mobile has a role to play here, but in a discrete manner with specific audiences (tweens to late twenties).
If you are global go mobile. If you are a global company run by American executives you better take a good look at your mobile strategic roadmap, because odds are you are way behind the curve in markets outside of North America.
Don’t be intimidated. A lot of marketers shy away from new technology because it seems difficult, they are unsure or cost, they don’t know what to ask for, and they don’t know where to start. Don’t let that be a barrier. We offer our clients digital and mobile immersion sessions so they can understand the possibilities without getting “sold” while they are trying to learn. The landscape is changing, the earth is moving, and if you think the same old approach will do the job because it is tried and true you are in for some uncomfortable surprises.