Supercharge Your Mobile Marketing

Despite the worldwide economic slowdown in key markets, mobile spending-as a means to deliver effective marketing messages and campaigns to acquire and retain customers-is unquestionably on the rise. Indeed, from simple display ad campaigns aimed at boosting brand awareness to more ambitious cross-media strategies integrating a mobile call to action, brands and media companies have never been more active in mobile.

This massive shift from experimentation to execution was a key takeaway at the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) Forum in London last October. "We realized that brands and agencies are our primary audience," Paul Berney, MMA CMO, told me in an interview. Thus, the industry at large no longer needs convincing that mobile is an indispensable part of the marketing mix. Now brands and agencies have to get down to the work of developing effective mobile marketing strategies that will allow them to achieve key business objectives and drive real results.

It's well-worth the effort. A raft of recent reports and ad network data show that key factors, such as smartphone penetration, mobile internet usage, and unlimited data plans, are aligned to move mobile marketing forward across the globe.

Another indicator that heralds healthy mobile marketing growth is the decision by major companies to dedicate more budget funds to mobile. The numbers are sketchy, but a survey developed by Jumptap, a provider of targeted mobile advertising in conjunction with publisher DM2 Media, points to an upward trend. The first "State of Mobile Advertising" survey (released March 2011) aggregates responses from nearly 350 mobile advertising executives including brands, agencies, publishers, and technology enablers.

Among the findings are the following:
• Mobile takes a bigger slice of the pie: For those with near-term mobile marketing plans, 60% intend to draw their mobile budgets from their current online budgets. An additional 20% said that mobile will be an entirely new line item.
• Opportunities in mobile CRM: Advertisers were evenly split between direct response and branding campaigns with 51% citing awareness/loyalty and 49% citing customer acquisition and retention.
• New verticals emerge: Entertainment is the category that publishers expect to generate the most mobile ad revenue in 2011, followed by technology and automotive.

Fortunately, the interest of brands and media owners to harness the mobile channel is in perfect sync with the willingness of consumers to interact with this content (and advertising) on their mobile phones. They are not just hungry for content; they have a growing appetite for campaign perks such as coupons and alerts related to special offers and discounts.

As a result, mobile marketing, once the territory of global consumer-focused brands, is now a main focus for industry verticals including retail, automotive, and travel. Aptly titled "Vertical Explosion," the December 2010 S.M.A.R.T. (Scorecard for Mobile Advertising Reach and Targeting) report from ad network Millennial Media confirms and quantifies this mega-trend. It features insight and analysis delivered from campaigns running on Millennial Media's mobile advertising network. Globally, the financial services category grew an eye-opening 802% year-over-year (for the period 3Q 2010 versus 3Q 2009). In the meantime, retail and restaurants jumped up 745%, and telecommunications was right behind with 719% growth. Travel was up 411%; Armed Forces was up 372%; and entertainment was up 315%.

Clearly, more verticals are harnessing mobile to achieve objectives, but they are also changing the nature of the game, moving from one-off promotion campaigns focused on brand awareness to ongoing campaigns aimed at driving customer engagement with offers and content. This mindset is almost overdue as more reports are identifying mobile CRM as an untapped opportunity for brands and media companies. Hipcricket, a mobile marketing and advertising company headquartered in the U.S., released the results of a consumer survey in December 2010 suggesting consumers have a strong interest in approaches that incorporate loyalty mechanisms (clubs, communities, coupons).

Specifically, the Hipcricket survey found that 57% of consumers would be interested in opting in to a brand's loyalty club via a mobile social networking application such as Facebook. The survey also found that 80% of respondents stated that they still have not been marketed to by their favorite brands via their mobile device.

If you connect the dots, you'll see that consumers are open to being involved in mobile programs that deepen engagement and drive loyalty. Now it's up to brand and media companies to incorporate mobile in their marketing strategies. In a world where mobile is at the center of all we do, their campaigns and content should do more than simply boost awareness. They must wield mobile to entice consumers to have a more engaged relationship and a more valuable connection.