Mobile advertising and lasting consumer engagements through mobile marketing

We live in a mobile world.  We live in a world where the majority of the global population carries with them a mobile phone or wirelessly enabled mobile terminal.  It is estimated that nearly 60% of the world population, around 4 billion people, now have a mobile phone, and in the United States, mobile phone penetration has reached roughly 75% of the country’s population, or 232 million individual mobile subscribers.  The mobile phone is considered by many to be the most effective channel for direct and indirect marketing and advertising.  

Advertising is a critical activity within the practice of marketing.  As marketers it is our job to communicate, deliver and exchange value with our audience and advertising, including mobile advertising, is a key tool that marketers can leverage to fulfill this mandate.  Many marketers, however, consider mobile marketing and mobile advertising as being the same thing, and they’re not.  This article provides a definition for mobile advertising and emphasizes the need to create a persistent and lasting mobile strategy alongside mobile advertising experiences in order to enhance the possibility of long-term, sustainable, value exchange between marketers and their audience.

Mobile marketing is practice of communicating, delivering and exchanging value through and with the mobile channel.  It encompasses all marketer to mobile subscriber engagement activities, including direct, proactive, permission-based voice and messaging engagements, the mobile enhancement of tradition and new media, as well as mobile advertising. 

Mobile advertising, simply stated, refers to the practice placing a marketing message, a call-to-action, within any of the many media paths of the mobile channel.  There are many benefits of mobile advertising. Marketers benefit from mobile advertising through the generation of brand awareness, the prospecting for new customers and leads, the generation of new sales and the stimulation of community.  Publishers, the owners of mobile media properties like SMS groups and mobile web sites, and content owners employ mobile advertising as a means of revenue generation or cost abatement.   Finally, consumers benefit from mobile advertising by being able to access content for free simply by being willing to receive the ad, rather than having to pay for the content.   Advertising may also provide consumers the benefit of being exposed to products and services they may value that they otherwise may not have had the opportunity to become aware of.

The two most common methods of mobile advertising that comes to mind for most people when they think about it include the insertion of an ad within an SMS message and banner placement within mobile web sites and applications.  However, there are many other paths and that can be leverage for advertising within the mobile channel, including:

  • the voice and messaging paths, short message service, multi-messaging service, automated integrated voice response channels
  • Local frequency proximity paths, specifically Bluetooth and WiFi
  • Data paths, Carrier portals, mobile web sites, content (e.g. radio, mobile TV, games), downloaded and device resident applications, and the idle screen of the phone
  • Search, organic and paid searchas integrated within mobile web, application and related services

Each of the above paths is illustrated in the mobile advertising ecosystem figure below.

The figure above also highlights a number of key industry players and channels that are worthy of note.  Marketers and their agencies leverage and partner with these players, since without them mobile advertising would not be possible.  These players include:

  • Wireless Carriers, the providers of infrastructure and services.
  • Mobile Ad Networks, like JumpTap, Millennial Media, AdMob, Yahoo! and Google, to name a few, who enable the mobile ad marketplace and bring publishers (The Weather Channel being one of the most successful in the market) and marketers together in order to support the buying, selling and serving of ads to the mobile phone, not just through the wireless carrier networks, but also over WiFi (many new WiFi enabled phones, like the iPhone or Palm Pre, and dedicated devices like the PSP and the Apple iTouch generate a significant amount of mobile advertising traffic and consumer engagements via WiFi connections)
  • Mobile Ad Aggregators play the important role of aggregating mobile ad inventory from multiple ad networks in order to amass ad inventory to fulfill demand, and Aggregators provide the message traffic connections between the other players and the wireless carriers
  • Mobile search providers, these players enable organic and paid search
  • Application service provider, these players provide all the application services, such as text messaging, mobile internet site development and management, content delivery, voice and related services.

Mobile advertising is a powerful consumer engagement tool, however, marketers are often missing out on a tremendous opportunity.  The majority of leading brands and marketers have not considered and/or executed on the development and maintenance of a persistent mobile presence, or they may think that enough consumers have phones that can visit a broadband web site.   This is evidenced by the fact that most company web sites, for example, are not mobile Internet ready and very few consumers, less than 10%, have phones that have any chance of providing a reasonable experience with an untailored site.  Company web sites that are not tailored to provide a compelling and lasting consumer experience when visited by a mobile phone leave consumers with a  bad experience, they sees garbled pages, non-functioning menus, poor navigation and are left wanting.  These companies are missing a huge opportunity by not having a persistent mobile presence as a foundation for any and all mobile advertising campaigns they may run.

For example, when marketers run mobile web banner advertising campaigns they’ll drive traffic to a landing page the provides the details surrounding a specific promotion or program, a brand awareness generating sweepstakes program for example.  In this context, marketers will often run the program for a limited period of time and once the campaign is over they will turn off the site and shutdown the campaign.  What these marketers may neglect to consider however, is that if the campaign was successful consumers will want to come back and engagement the brand via mobile. For instance, the consumer may try going to the brand’s web site on their mobile phone. But, if the brand’s web site is not mobile ready the consumer will be left wanting and left with a poor experience.  This poor experience may drive the consumer away, at best may minimize the impact that the campaign may have made and at worst have a negative and lasting affect on the consumers impressions of the brand.   

To this end, successful mobile marketing and long-term consumer engagements through mobile require more than simply running mobile advertising programs, they require a long-term strategy and approach, an organized commitment to customer relationship building and a focused approach toward the communication, deliver and exchange lasting value with one’s audience.