Introducing mobile into the marketing and advertising mix represents the single largest evolution in the past decade of marketing for brands and content owners alike.

Whether the aim is to drive revenues, cross sell products or acquire customers, the potential of mobile is obvious.

However, there are still quite a few challenges that need to be overcome.

Mobile marketing gives brands the capability to connect with consumers anytime and instantly. As such, provided there is permission, mobile technology allows a level of intimacy and interactivity not previously achievable. People have their mobile phones with them wherever they are – at work, at home, at play, letting you build a strong one-to-one relationship with each consumer. However, it is essential you always think ‘customer’ and put yourself in your customer’s shoes when running any mobile marketing campaign.

Technology Constraints

Mobile technology is fast moving. On average, customers upgrade their phones every 18 months, whereas average upgrade time for landlines is every seven years. Nokia, LG, Siemens, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola etc. all introduce new handsets every few months, and each has new features, new operating systems, different screen sizes and different functionality. Some new handsets have a bigger impact on the market than others – the Nokia N95 launched with a bang in 2007 and has become very popular very quickly with 3G and data users. The launch of the iPhone is still causing ripples in the mobile industry. Cameras and color screens are now mainstream, as is Java, which is the technology behind most mobile games and many applications. However, each handset manufacturer handles Java differently so if you produce a game, for example, you will have to make sure it is compatible across a wide range of handsets and tailor the application to make sure it is optimized for that handset.

Marketers and Mobile Marketing

The marketing landscape is already complex, without the addition of email and online campaigns, let alone mobile. Understandably, marketers whose focus has been on a visual brand image were wary about communicating with their customers via text messages. Plain text, limited to 160 characters was not that exciting when you’re used to seeing your brand in a clever, quirky TV advert. However, today’s phones with color screens, cameras, internet access and video capability mean there is more scope to run more interesting, integrated campaigns. However, there is still some hesitancy about mobile marketing, and the perception that text messaging equals spam. There is also a worry about email spam and viruses that make people very wary about allowing access to their mobile phone number in case the same problems arise.

Another concern about mobile marketing is ‘How do you measure it?’ The same rules apply to measuring mobile marketing as other campaigns. There is no guarantee of success just because you use the mobile channel, it is how you use it that’s important. However, when used well mobile marketing does deliver a high ROI, and this is typically higher than direct mail and email. You can measure response rates, for example, how many new people are on the list, how many competition entrants there are and how many repeat entries. You can also measure click through rates and unsubscribe rates. The latter being a useful indication of how well your campaign is being received. Traditional measurement techniques should also be used – researching customer attitudes for example. There’s nothing to stop you calling or texting a sample from your customers to find out what they thought of the campaign. Or indeed soliciting feedback via a simple form on a mobile internet site. There is no magic formula to measure a mobile campaign and it’s up to the marketer to determine what the criteria for success will be and work out what you will measure in order to determine that.

Campaign Planning

Permission is essential for running any kind of mobile marketing campaign. It is often assumed that you need to work with a pre-existing list of mobile numbers before you can do any kind of mobile marketing but this simply isn’t the case, particularly now that we are working with richer media on mobile (mobile internet, music tracks, application downloads etc).However, permission is critical for any campaign involving push messaging, or any continuing relationship with the customer involving a messaging aspect. It is always a good idea to get this checked out with your company lawyer as this area is covered by many rules and regulations. If you stick to best practices when it comes to permission marketing, then it is far less likely that you will be derailed in any way.

Permission works in several ways. Firstly, you can collect your customer’s data in traditional ways e.g. by getting them to fill in forms on the internet, complete a postcard, a survey, their mobile number on an internet site and tick the relevant boxes to explicitly state that they want to receive further marketing messages from you or carefully selected third parties. Finally, when a customer texts in, in response to an advert or call to action, for example if they have seen a poster or are entering a competition on the side of a drink’s can, then you, as a marketer, have permission to reply to that customer in the context of that particular campaign. Depending on how you’ve structured your terms and conditions, you may also have an implied opt-in. You can make it explicit and in the process of replying to the customer, you can ask them if they would like to opt-out by sending STOP. Or you can get explicit opt-in by asking them to reply YES (or other keyword of your choice) to state that they want to receive further marketing messages from you.

From the customer’s point of view

Very often when we receive a message we don’t want, whether or not we’ve opted-in to receive it, we call it spam, or in the case of messages received by post, we call it junkmail. People very often forget whether or not they have opted in to receive anything. They can’t remember every little tick box they have checked or unchecked. How many forms do you routinely fill in on the internet in order to get past a registration page so you can get to the information you actually want to access? And perhaps, you haven’t received any communication from the company in several months, and perhaps you’ve simply forgotten about them and who they are. Or maybe those messages are no longer relevant to you and your life right now. Just because you opted-in to receive messages about acne cream when you were 17 doesn’t mean you still want to get those when you’re 30.

The implication of this is that if you are going to use text messaging as part of your marketing communication, you need to remember that this is part of relationship building. A text message once a year is not going to be effective. If you get customers to sign up to third party campaigns then you need to be a little bit wary of the kind of messages you send out. If the customer has signed up to a mailing list from ACME Inc, even if they’ve ticked the box to get third party messages, they don’t suddenly expect to get a text message from ZEN Ltd who they’ve never had a relationship with before. However, if there is an existing relationship with ACME Inc and the marketing message sent on behalf of ZEN Ltd comes from ACME Inc, then there is a better chance of the message being well-received. But permission on its own isn’t enough to make a campaign successful for any kind of outbound activity. You need at least one other element:

Time & Location

Firstly, we have time or location sensitivity. You can put a text messaging campaign together relatively quickly compared to how long it takes to put together a print mailing, or an email push. In terms of delivery, you can be timely when you send it out as you are not relying on the postal services to deliver your letter, or relying on someone logging into their email at the right time to take advantage of the offer.

With location, you may know the postcode or area where your customer lives, works or plays, which means you can localize the offer to their local restaurant, dry-cleaner, and requires explicit agreement and active look-up. So if you have a time sensitive offer, say a local theatre has some tickets left for Saturday afternoon’s performance and they know you’re local to that theatre, you can send a message on Thursday with an offer for discounted tickets.


Entertainment is a category in itself on mobile with the advent of mobile games and video. But don’t forget that this is a small screen and people using their phones probably have a limited amount of time as well as a limited amount of battery life. So think of entertaining someone for a few minutes, while they’re waiting at the bus stop or at a train station, between shows on the television, a short distraction during the working day. What your customer finds entertaining will be very subjective but some examples include branded games, a WAp-site telling you about a new book that’s out (including a synopsis, author biog and some quotes), or a funny video clip.


Let’s not forget that the mobile phone is primarily a communications device and as such it’s a twoway street. Long gone are the days when you could send out text messages without a reply path, not least because you need to allow customers to unsubscribe easily by replying STOP to any text message they receive from you.

Customers enjoy being asked for their feedback, and they do expect to be heard. So with any mobile messaging communication, you have to allow customers to reply back to you and you need to reply back to customers promptly, so send that text message link back as quickly as you can!


One of the things often forgotten about with a marketing campaign is the actual relevance to the customers and their daily lives. There is little point sending out any direct messages to a customer, by SMS, email or post even, unless it is relevant. E.g. don’t send football related messages to a non-football fan.

Value Add

Overall, you need to add value to the customer. There is little point in sending out a message saying ‘come to my shop because it’s lovely’. There needs to be a deeper reason why you have sent a message to encourage them to visit your store. That could be offer based (discount, buy one get one free, gift with purchase) or event based (sale on this week, product launch, drinks party).

So put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about how they will feel on receipt of the message. If you haven’t been able to include some time/location sensitivity, if you haven’t been able to entertain them, if there’s no interactivity, if there’s no relevance or you haven’t added any value, then you need to rethink your campaign until you can tick at least one of those boxes.