You do mobile marketing. But you don’t.

During the past 2-3 years I have met numerous companies from many countries. Almost all of them say that they are actively doing mobile marketing. They must because consumers are spending more and more time with mobile gadgets. Some companies are creating mobile optimised responsive websites. Quite a few advertise in Facebook or foursquare. Some have banner ads visible in various mobile apps. Some have even their own mobile apps. If you do any of these you are fine with mobile marketing, right? Wrong.

I have realised that for most of the managers who are responsible for marketing, mobile marketing is just a tick in a box. What I mean with this is that they know that they need to do ‘mobile marketing’ and they are satisfied with anything that has the magical word ‘mobile’ in it. And in reality they may just create more intrusive advertising spam to consumers. Ask yourself: ‘Do I want to get more advertising through mobile?’ The obvious answer is ‘no’, of course. But our recent studies show that when mobile marketing is done properly and it is not just a tick in a box, consumers don’t even see it as advertising but is it considered to be a service which consumers want to get more of and its effectiveness is 100 to 1000 times better than of the traditional display marketing.

What is then proper mobile marketing? Let me start with a fundamental question to you: ‘Why do you want to do mobile marketing?’ There are probably many reasons but the answers I don’t accept from you are ‘because our competitors are doing it’, ‘we want to sell more products’ or ‘our company strategy or my manager or our advertising agency is requesting it’. You have to understand why you want to use the magical word ‘mobile’ in you marketing. Otherwise you belong to the ‘tick in a box’ group, i.e., you don’t understand why you are doing mobile marketing. What is then the correct answer? First of all, and this is most important, you have to know what business benefits a mobile marketing campaign will bring to. Secondly, you have to have a clear reason why you want to use the unique aspects of mobility. And thirdly, you need to understand which of your company assets are suitable and powerful for mobile marketing. I will give you good and bad and ugly case examples of these.

I start with the second point because that will clarify nicely what mobile marketing campaigns should be all about. The unique aspects of all of today’s mobile gadgets are location, time and that they are very personal. They are the only devices, which we carry wherever we go. I have my mobile phone in my pocket pretty much always and even when I am asleep my phone is next to me and its alarm buzz is the first sound I hear in the morning. So in addition to it knowing where I am, it also knows when I am there. And I trust my mobile phone very much – it is very personal to me. In fact, studies tell that mobile phones are the most personal items people have. You can lose your car keys, watch or eyeglasses and you will survive – you can replace those and insurance will buy you new ones. But if you lose your mobile phone, you are utterly disconnected, alone and desperate in a cold world. Try the 1980’s lifestyle and hide your mobile phone for a week and you will understand. ‘Now, knowing all this, what on earth has this to do with my marketing campaigns’, you ask. Everything. You and I are consumers like anyone else. If you are on a move and you see an ad that is relevant to your current location and time and it is exclusively made for you, you are pleased. But if your phone beeps and shows an ad that is irrelevant to your present location and time and is very generic, you want to stop that kind of spamming.

Last year I consulted a medium size publishing company. Their target was to create a local, mobile marketing channel alongside their other channels (newspaper and web). An excellent mobile application was created, it was launched and properly marketed and pretty soon there were thousands of application downloads. In the beginning everybody within that publishing company were interested in making the application successful – local businesses were asked for exclusive offers and there were so many ads that all the local consumers found new interesting offers wherever and whenever they used the app. There were pizza deals, which were shown only during lunchtime and a photo shoot competition when an old tower was blown up. Statistics showed that consumers were using the application more than the best mobile games and the mobile ads within the app resulted to changed consumer behaviour in 1 out of 10 impressions where 1 out of 1000 or 2000 impressions is considered to be very successful with traditional advertising. A consumer study told that almost all of the application users wanted get more advertising and saw ads as service because they so nicely matched their timely needs wherever they were. The publishing company had really made it!

Six months later there were almost no application users at all and the name of the mobile application had become a swearword inside the publishing company. The mobile application was still there and it was still the same app. So what had happened? The ‘tick in a box’ had happened. The leadership team had understood the unique aspects of mobility and had initially required the advertising sales team to get location, time and personal preference targeted ads from their local advertisers. The leadership team also understood that as a local publishing company they have two excellent assets for mobile marketing: their trusted relationship with local businesses who have been advertising in their newspaper for a long time, and the image of being the most trusted local content provider in the eyes of consumers based on a more than a hundred years long history as the local newspaper. And they even understood very clearly what is the business reason for the mobile marketing application – their newspaper business started to rapidly decline a few years ago and if they don’t transition their business to the media chosen by the consumers, i.e., mobile and web, they will die. But what was missing was clear business reasoning below the management level – the advertising sales team did not understand the benefits of the mobile marketing and they were not incentivised to get advertisers to the mobile app. As soon as the management attention went to the next important topic, the advertising sales team reverted back to their long-time trusted processes – to sell advertising space in the newspaper. Selling advertising to their mobile app had been just ‘a tick in a box’ for them. That resulted to a disaster – no mobile specific ads were sold and ads were simply copied from the newspaper, which meant that they became weekly or monthly campaign ads losing the ‘right here, right now, for me’ aspect. That naturally led to consumers to lose their interest in the app. And then the vicious circle was ready: no mobile optimised ads, no interesting content for the app users, no reason to use the app, fewer application users, not large enough audience for advertisers, no mobile optimised ads… you get the point.

What are then business benefits of a mobile marketing campaign that can be understood throughout the organisation? These must be derived from the very business the company is in. For most publishing companies the business benefit is obvious: ‘consumers have moved over to mobile – if we don’t, we will die’. In fact, a recent mobile media consumption report by InMobi, Decision Fuel and OnDevice Research including data from 14,000 users across 14 countries tells that out of six hours of active media consumption a day, consumers are using 97 minutes with mobile compared to 81 minutes watching TV, 70 minutes online and only 33 minutes reading magazines. For retail, restaurant and hotel businesses the business reason for mobile marketing is to keep up with or stay above of the competition. Many competitors are using or trialing ingenious mobile marketing solutions – if you do nothing, consumers will find your competitors more interesting and you fall behind.

‘All this sounds very difficult and scary to me – what should I then do?’, I hear you asking. First, get your facts clear. Am I in a consumer business? Who are my consumers and what media are they using? Remember that in today’s world no one owns the consumer – consumers choose themselves who they listen to. Those days have long gone when a single brand, media or advertising agency was able to say that they own the consumer. You need to know what are the chosen media by your consumers. Most likely mobile media ranks very high. Another fact, which you need to be very clear with, is that how will mobile marketing benefit my consumers and thus my business as I explain above.

Secondly, you need to understand how mobile specific aspects can be used with your mobile marketing. If you are a publisher and you have a good relationship with local businesses, you can bring the physical location of the stores as part of your mobile marketing solution. And even better, if you can pinpoint product ads to the stores selling that product. Then the ad is both timely and locally accurate for the benefit of the consumer. Be very precise defining what parts of my consumer business location or time specific and what kind of personal experience I can and I should provide to consumers.

Thirdly, you need to list your company assets, which you should use for mobile marketing. For a restaurant they may be a physical location and a constantly changing menu depending on the fresh ingredients of the day. For a hotel it may be the good connections with local restaurants, shopping and sightseeing. Those assets need to be such that you already have and you can use with mobile marketing.

The last important point is execution. Like all change projects, a new mobile marketing solution needs three things: a reason to change, management attention, and change agents. All those who are part of the mobile marketing solution need to have all these three. A reason to change can be positive (‘we will double our sales and your commission will double as well’) or negative (‘otherwise we will die’). The reason must be clear and all have to understand it. Management attention means that there is a committed manager in all levels of the mobile marketing team. And those managers show their commitment (‘I will ensure that this will be done’), require reporting and do follow up. Change agents are those people in the organization who others go to for a little chat. So when a person from your advertising sales team is a bit unsure about the new mobile marketing solution, they always have some one who they ask for a bit of advise. Typically this person is an individual having a lot of company during the tea or lunch breaks. You need to recognize them and ‘convert’ them to the new mobile marketing solution before the rest of the organization. There are good change management consultants if you need help.

I have talked a lot about ‘do’s’, i.e., what you should take care of in order to do mobile marketing properly. The last thing I want to talk about is ‘don’ts’, i.e., the no, no’s of mobile marketing. First, is your business suitable for mobile marketing? If you are web store with no physical stores, you should ask yourself: ‘why would I buy in haste using a mobile phone rather than buying with my computer or tablet at home when I cannot get the product right there, right now anyway?’ ‘Are my products suitable for mobile marketing?’ Mobile purchase decisions are typically made for those products that consumers want to get immediately and that are easy to buy. I would not sell new luxury cars with a mobile app. I might invite people for a test drive with a mobile app but that’s it. But I could easily use mobile marketing to advertise fast car repair service or petrol. ‘Is my ad optimal for mobile marketing?’ Don’t just copy our print or web ads to mobile. Most of today’s mobile banner ads are unfortunately like that. With those you can get a lot of impressions but not much increased revenue. Remember that consumers on the go have just a couple of seconds to decide if they are interested in your product or not. Shorten the ad title and make it very easy to read. Have the key message very short. Have a simple picture of the product. Are your processes capable of mobile marketing? A few months ago I met the management team of a large restaurant chain. They were thinking to improve their mobile marketing efforts and they wanted an external opinion of various options. They had chosen one trusted advertising agency to provide that expert opinion. However, the ad agency already had business with the company and recommending anything else except their current advertising set would mean less business to that ad agency. Well, you can guess what their recommendation was. Exactly. To continue with the existing ad set even though all the numbers showed different. Today they have a few thousand consumers covered with their existing mobile marketing solution whereas their biggest competitor did mobile marketing properly and have now a million consumers covered with their mobile marketing. Identify your internal and external conflicting interests to mobile marketing. Remember, mobile marketing is not rocket science – it is a natural part of our everyday life and very effective when done properly.


Editor: Mikko Lietsalmi, CEO of Oikian Solutions Ltd (