Mobile marketing fits in across a wide variety of marketing disciplines and can be a channel in its own right. It was first used most frequently by sales promotion agencies as a very convenient way to manage a competition – the ubiquitous ‘text and win’ promotion.

With the advent of mobile marketing, there is no need to deal with sack loads of mail and the data inputting post-campaign to allow for a follow-up campaign which means that smart direct marketers can step in and take advantage of the opportunity.

There are also various types of mobile marketing campaigns. These include:

Text to Win

A very convenient way to manage a competition or prize draw. A number is published on a pack, poster, magazine, TV or email and the customer is asked to text in a word, lucky number, answer to a question, or their own details for a chance to win a prize.

It also means that you are able to do a follow up campaign as this is also a convenient way to kick-start building your own list and you can do reporting and analysis by measuring repeat entries, times and date of entries etc.

Voting and Participation TV

Programs like American Idol and Big Brother have been enjoying soaring popularity and savvy marketers saw the massive opportunities when tied with mobile marketing which voila resulted in the birth of voting and participation TV via mobile phones. Polling, voting and ‘ask a question’ via text message on more serious programs such as the BBC’s Question Time have also become common. In addition, most national and regional newspapers use text messaging, and in particular voting and polling, as a way to engage customers in a simple dialogue. Again, it is a good way to build a customer database list as well as encourages participation. Similar analysis can be done as for a text and win promotion in terms of numbers of people who participated and when, repeat usage and so on; and in carrying out this analysis you may be able to pick up on patterns of usage and create cluster groups to help with further relevant marketing and promotions to those customers. But be cautious: good planning and good customer service is essential. So, be clear with your terms and conditions and check these with a lawyer, e.g. opening and closing times/dates, how much it costs, the criteria for entry, what money [if any] is going to charity and any additional network charges that may apply.


These are eternally popular as seen with the proliferation of quiz formats on television, the popularity of the pub quiz and ever popular personality profiling. Quizzes work very well on mobile phones using either text messaging or a Java application. The benefit of using a text messaging format is that everyone can use that on their mobile phone. But on more sophisticated phones, a Java quiz application can be developed which allows a deeper level of interactivity than text alone as graphics and sound can be incorporated and with a link to a WAP-site or website specifically designed for mobile. This means that new questions can be uploaded on to the phone at the click of a button. The typical way to start a quiz is to text in a key word to a central mobile number or short code and a question is sent to you by return. The quiz can be as long or as short as you like. Typically, the questions require an A, B, or C answer or a single word answer, to keep the data handling simple.

Mobile Content - pictures, ringtones, video

The mobile content industry is huge and has sprung up from literally nowhere. Many people have changed their ringtone from the standard ringtone setting and experimented with pictures on their phone to personalize it. Brands are now capitalizing on the popularity of mobile content and are using it as part of their marketing effort. A picture or ringtone can be a second or third tier prize in a free prize draw or other competition, the content based around the brand itself. Many brands and companies employ this tactic of rewarding customers with content for their mobile phones as it’s an easy way to reward customers without dealing with complex handling of sending out small prizes in their hundreds or thousands.


Mobile games are so popular that they are now an industry in their own right and all the major players in the games industry have a mobile games division. Nokia produced the N-Gage which is a mobile phone specifically designed for playing games which competes directly with Nintendo DS and DS Lite and Sony PSP which have internet, file sharing and multi-player gaming capability. Adding mobile connectivity to the mobile internet allows customers to engage in multi-player gaming wherever they are and also allows live updates to the game and the ability to load their score on to a leaderboard. In some cases, gaming can be customized according to location so they can challenge real players in their vicinity whether that’s using the location service from their network operator, by using a service like Jaiku or Buddyping or using Bluetooth at a specific location. Mobile games are also a popular reward for customers, although more expensive to produce and deliver than a simple ringtone, picture or even a full audio track. As technologies improve, the cost of production will for sure come down as a large chunk of the cost is down to having to customize and test for a multitude of phones. Many companies are also advertising their brands via these games or platforms.


This is currently still a relatively unexplored area for mobile marketing but has potential. Applications can be fun or useful and are typically Java-based to reach the mass market, although higher-end business phones such as the Sony Ericsson P800 and P900 range and the Nokia N-Series use Symbian which is a more powerful platform for applications. The application can be almost anything you want it to be. It can keep you up to date with stocks and shares if you’re a broker or it could be a horoscope application that gives you your daily reading in the morning.
Development, distribution, billing [if required] and delivery would be similar to handling a mobile game. It should be noted that as soon as you start asking customers to download an application to their phone, that can act as a barrier so it’s not a given that you will get penetration as quickly as you might like it. That said, both Google and Opera have had great success with generating full, successful downloads of their mobile email, mapping [Google] and browser [Opera] products.


Text messaging in particular is a really useful element of any Customer Relationship Management (CRM) initiative. It can be used to keep customers up to date with what’s new and offer them last minute or exclusive offers. Text messaging is more expensive than email for this kind of activity, but is potentially quicker to run, as you don’t have the creative design and build to consider [unless you’re planning to do MMS]. Costs per text will vary depending on the volumes you put through the networks and also the cost of any application you use may also be included in the per text cost.


Interactive Voice Response (IVR) has typically been used by large corporations to manage incoming calls e.g. press one for yes and press two for no. It is also used to pay for mobile content and for premium rate services off the television screen and in the back of magazines.


Multi-media messaging is becoming more popular and more readily available on handsets. Most new phones have a camera function as standard and will also have the capability to send and receive multi-media messages. A MMS message can contain pictures, video or animation, a sound clip [which can be used as a ringtone] and formatted text [using color, size and bold]. It could also include a barcode that can be scanned at point of sale. The typical message size is 30k for outbound campaigns. But the user sending in to you can have varying size of MMS depending on what their handset and their network operator allows.

Direct Response Campaigns

One of the simplest ways for an advertiser to engage with a customer via mobile is to have them text in to a short-code as a method of direct response to an above the line advertisement. We are seeing these campaigns on posters, in magazines and on the television already. This is also a straightforward way to build your own mobile mailing list for future text campaigns. Some media owners are branding their short-codes and running direct response campaigns for their advertisers as well as their own promotions and competitions from those numbers. Viewers or listeners understand that if the message has come from a particular short-code, it belongs to the radio station or the TV station and is part of their branding. For example, the short-code for BBC Radio 2 is 88291 which is the same as their FM frequency 88 to 91 FM.

Text to WAP or mobile web site

Here, a customer is encouraged to text in and in return receives a direct link to the advertiser’s mobile web site whereby they can find out more about the product or service, enter a competition or opt-in to receive further information. Now the mobile internet experience is improving, more of this activity is occurring. It is more effective than asking a customer to type in a URL directly into their browser that is fiddly to do and the majority of mobile customers are unlikely to know their way round their browser in order to do this unless they’re a medium to heavy mobile web user.

Text to screen

This describes the ability to text in your comments to a screen – be that the TV screen or a screen in a shopping mall or nightclub. It uses the same software that drives text chat services and is generally very popular. It is often a charged-for service (as seen on television where viewers are asked to text in their comments or questions to TV programs). Advertisements or sponsored messages can be included in the replies to customers to confirm that their messages have been received on the system. Intelligent analysis of this data would also help to find out more about the customer base, when they’re engaged, what they’re talking about and how frequently they interact with you. So you can gain useful information for segmenting and targeting your customers.

Text to email

Describes the ability to respond to an advertisement with your email address. Once you’ve sent in your email address, an email is automatically generated, with full graphics, attached PDF file and is sent straight to your inbox. This means that you can give a customer more information than you would be able to in a text message. Arguably, this should be secondary to a text to website service as part of the mobile marketing USP is the immediacy, as the chances are that someone who interacts via mobile wants instant gratification. However, there will be times when this is an appropriate mechanism where very visual and detailed information needs to be distributed, or where the customer wants to bookmark something to check out later when they have more time.

Text to post

Similar to text to email, with this method, you can text in your postcode and your house number and the system uses a Postcode Address Finder to work out your full address and send whatever it is to your home – be that a brochure or free product sample. This is typically used by travel companies to send out their brochures and for sales promotions where sampling is a major part of the campaign.

Text to mobile content

Refers to a customer who sees an advertisement on television, hears it on the radio, or sees it in print and texts in to receive a piece of content back to their phone such as a ringtone or a money-off coupon. This is typically received as a WAP push link and a SMS message and means that the customer is one click away from the content rather than having to search a mobile web portal for that piece of content.

Mobile Barcodes:

Businesses are sending ‘paperless tickets’ to mobile phones which are then redeemed via in-store EPOS systems. They can reduce production and distribution costs associated with traditional paper-based ticketing channels, overcome security problems associated with paper tickets such as ticket touts; and increase customer convenience by providing a straightforward, instantaneous way to buy tickets and eliminate the need for long queues. A popular example is a concert promotion, where fans see print or online advertisements for the event, text in to a short code or long number and receive a text or picture message containing a barcode and details about the concert. They turn up at the event where their text message is scanned and validated by a member of staff and they are allowed entry to the concert. Companies such as Mobiqa, Swiftpass and Trinity Mobile have been pioneering mobile barcodes and they are now widely used in the retail, transport and leisure  sectors.

Quick Response Codes (QR Codes)

These are 2D Barcodes developed by Japanese company Denso and were released in 1994 with the primary aim of being easily interpreted by scanner equipment in manufacturing, logistics and sales applications. In comparison with other Barcodes, QR Codes combine several advantages:

  • They can hold a very large capacity of numbers or letters in any language
  • Their printout size can be very small
  • They offer high speed reading
  • They can be read from any side (omnidirectional or 360° scan)

Japan’s highly developed 3G network and high usage of mobile internet prompted the networks (NTT DoCoMo, J-phone), handset manufacturers (Panasonic, NEC, Sharp) and service providers (Denso, MediaSeek, 3G Vision) to work together to bring QR code readers to mobile phones. They decided to turn a camera phone into a barcode scanner that would deliver encoded information, as well as URLs that could connect directly to the mobile internet. A user with a camera phone with the correct reader software can scan the QR code image, which can cause the phone’s browser to launch and redirect to a brand’s mobile internet site. There is no need to text a short-code or enter a URL by hand. High spec phones such as the Nokia N95 have QR readers pre-installed, but QR codereading software is available to install on camera phones which do not have a reader already in place. QR codes are now recognized by over 90% of Japanese mobile phone users, and used by over 50% of them for quick, easy access to information. In fact more people in Japan surf the web using a mobile phone than a PC. QR codes are found on magazines, posters, packages and vending machines throughout Japan, thoroughly assimilated into the marketing and advertising mix.
This technology has a wide appeal for marketers and public alike – introducing interactivity into what was a traditionally passive medium. In the housing industry, buyers could walk past a for sale sign, and instantly scan the barcode to find more information about the property; brand managers in the car industry could include a barcode on outdoor advertising, enabling car enthusiasts to watch a video clip of the car in action, etc.

WAP Portal or Mobile Internet

Currently the network operators have the largest portals in terms of traffic, but media owners are now looking at WAP to extend their reach. Each network has its own WAP portal – O2 Active, Vodafone Live, Today on 3, Orange World, T-Zones and Virgin Bites. The network operators are proud of their portals and have invested a lot of money in them, but as customer acceptance and usage of WAP grows then more players will come into the market to be a customer’s gateway to the mobile internet.

Java or On Device Portal [ODP]

Java portals are also growing in acceptance as a gateway to the Internet. The reason being, that Java is a technology embedded on the majority of mobile handsets already and gives a relatively speedy user experience – hence its wide usage for mobile games.

The term Java Portal describes a hybrid of WAP and Java. You download an application on your phone, which is a template that can be updated with news, information and links via WAP. This means that it is not memory hungry, as it does not keep lots of information stored on your phone. But also, you can keep up to date with whatever it is you want to know about. An analogy is an empty magazine framework that fills up with the latest articles when you click a button. The benefit of this is that the user experience for browsing content is improved, as it’s not solely reliant on WAP and the brand is stored on the phone to be looked at any time.

More people are using Java portals, particularly now that 3G penetration is rising and the browsing experience is getting better. The advent of the iPhone also shifts the focus back to browsing and mobile web; as the only applications allowed on the iPhone are browser based. Therefore, they don’t affect the handset operating system and cannot inadvertently, damage the phone in any way.