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Marketing Goes Mobile

(February 2010) posted on Tue Jan 26, 2010

Smartphones offer marketers direct, personal access to customers

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By Andrea Southcott

Reward loyalty: Starbucks recently launched a mobile loyalty program in Mexico that achieved a 60-percent coupon redemption rate. In-store signage includes a mobile “call to action” offering various discounts and upgrades. At the same time, the company is targeting new customers with a buy-one-get-one-free offer via postcards handed out in malls, universities, and retail outlets.
Make it easy: Designing an application specifically for mobile devices makes good sense for companies wanting to stimulate usage. The car-sharing service Zipcar ( announced a new application that allows members to find, reserve, honk, lock, and unlock its vehicles—all from an iPhone or iPod Touch.
Care about what the user cares about: AT&T found an innovative way to cement relationships and stimulate usage while providing a valuable service. AT&T Social Net acts as a “social mission control,” providing a live connection to popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Visiongain Research predicts mobile social network-related revenue will reach $60 billion by 2012 and, in the US, mobile-only social networks such as MocoSpace, Mig33, and Peperonity are gaining traction.
Communicate in real time: Minnesota’s Mall of America now offers a new text-messaging service called MallCall, giving shoppers real-time information about deals and promotions. Consumers must opt in to the service and receive texts only during mall hours. The service lets retailers target potential customers already in the mall, driving traffic and making bargain-hunting easier for shoppers.
Look for times of special relevance: Honda launched its hybrid Insight vehicle to coincide with Earth Hour, a specific time when people around the world are particularly aware of environmental issues and therefore likely more interested in a hybrid vehicle. The mobile element of the campaign included opt-in alerts reminding people of the Earth Hour event by time zone. This simple but effective campaign allowed Honda to provide a service to consumers while building its brand.

Don’t neglect to build relationships
Because mobile devices are highly personal, they must be treated with respect. Getting permission from the user is imperative, partly because of privacy legislation and also because sending messages without permission destroys brand trust. Spam sent to a mobile phone is particularly offensive because the consumer pays for the cost of delivery.

Marketers who look to the future are building opt-in databases of consumers who genuinely want to be in touch. And forward-thinking marketers are increasingly looking for ways that mobile can give them the creative edge when it comes to building their brand relationships.

Andrea Southcott is president of TBWA\Vancouver (, a full-service advertising and media-planning company in Canada. This article first appeared in The Globe and Mail, and is licensed from CTV globe media Publishing Inc.