Beware of Mobile Marketing Stew
Written by Kelly McIvor
Mobile Marketing can be complex but be careful not to overcook it. Sample the stew created by one real estate company and follow the steps to find that just-right mobile balance. Don't waste time, invest in some education on mobile at www.DoMobileNow.com.
One of the students in the Mobile Media class I teach at the University of Washington was super-enthusiastic about mobile. After a semester of talking about the mobile ecosystem, mobile marketing, and doing case-studies on the types of things being done with mobile media he turned in a final paper on how he would integrate mobile media into his fictitious retail business. His enthusiasm had clearly steamrolled right over any sense he may have had for what would be reasonable or merely sufficient for a mom-and-pop retail shop. It was a veritable stew of mobile; everything was in there. He had included SMS reminder alerts and coupons, a mobile-optimized web site, an augmented reality concept, of course an iPhone application, and even plans to do some joint marketing with one of the big wireless carriers. This student was smart and had real-world business experience - it is a graduate class - but didn't know when the right balance of mobile integration had been achieved. Sadly, this is true of many efforts to integrate mobile and traditional marketing.
I was driving through my neighborhood where there are quite a few homes for sale. More and more, mobile is being incorporated into residential real estate sales so I usually check the for-sale signs for evidence of mobile. I had to slow to see it but the house on the corner seemed to have some 'mobile' goin on. You may have seen some For Sale signs with a smaller message that says: "Text property ID ABC123 to code 123456." Then, after sending the ID to the code you receive a reply with additional details on the property such as, "Price 489,000 Bd 5 Ba 3 5918 SqFt Robert Hart XYZ Realty 123-456-7890 std/rates other chgs apply." Sometimes these messages also include a short url to click on and get even more info. This is a great use of mobile leveraging the impulse of the shopper and the out-and-about nature of the house hunting experience. Plus it is not really that complicated. That is, until Microsoft got involved.
To get a better look I backed into the driveway of this house so the driver side of the car was closest to the for-sale sign that had two secondary danglers, neither of which offered a property id I could text in for more info. One of the signs, however, had a picture of a cell phone and hinted strongly at some sort of mobile option but I couldn't read it from inside the car, which was parked only 6 feet from the sign. This was the first problem. In the Seattle rain I now needed to get out of my car, which I did but only out of professional curiosity.
Once I got a little closer I saw what appeared to be a QR-code - an image that looks a bit like a scrambled bar-code. The general premise of these codes is that you take a picture of the code in order to get more information about what it is attached to. So the first thing I did was take a picture of the code with my phone's camera assuming that I'd find instructions on where to send it via MMS. Nope. It wasn't that simple. Now within 24 inches of the sign I could finally read what it said, "Get the free app for your phone at http://gettag.mobi." This was turning into quite a process.
So now I needed to close the camera on my phone, open a browser, type in the url, download the app, open it and aim it squarely at the code lining the image up with the application cross-hairs. Who other than me or perhaps one of my students is going to do this? The most probable answer is: no one. This is a mobile stew with too many mystery ingredients: an odd-looking black and white image, a free application for my phone (should I worry about viruses or my privacy?), and how long will this take, anyway? For the love of all that is wet in Seattle why isn't there a property ID and a shortcode that I can read from the car? The resulting text message could just as easily link me to the exact page that the Microsoft Tag ended up directing me to. On the bright side, the .mobi site automatically detected my phone and took me right to a download page for Microsoft's Tag Reader application, which worked very well in detecting the tag and directing me to a good, mobile-optimized web page with all the details. Still this was way more complicated that it needed to be.
Here's better way
Many companies are looking at how to integrate a mobile element into their marketing efforts and some are super-enthusiastic, like my student, but success will hinge on a few key factors:
In the case above where Windermere (or perhaps just this agent) chose to use the currently free tag service from Microsoft we see only the last of these three factors and the effort will almost undoubtedly be a disappointment.
- Ubiquity - Can most cell phone users participate? Requiring application downloads or specialized handset-based functionality means many people can't participate even if they want to.
- Ease of Use - In a mobile environment participation should be easy and obvious. It should capitalize on existing user habits whenever possible such as sending messages and taking pictures. Not to mention dialing a phone number.
- Mobile-Appropriate - Does the interaction capitalize on the out-and-about nature of mobile by allowing the user to be impulsive and not requiring them to remember to do something later, like visit a web page?