In mobile, push marketing is a myth. For the first time, we're approaching a form of marketing completely reliant on pull. Power rests in the hands of the people — literally. It's opt-in for real this time. Despite the notion that brands can beam ads to consumer's cell phones, marketers have work to do before consumers willingly open up this highly personal communications channel to them.
Spam currently accounts for an estimated 80 percent of email, but only 1 percent of text messages in the U.S. What's the statistical subtext? If mobile marketing were easy, everybody would be doing it. Yet even spammers are having a hard time penetrating text messages.
Mainstream marketers haven't yet figured out what mobile marketing really is and can do for their brands. To get there, first they'll need to make a conceptual leap. Secondly, mobile demands that marketing departments make structural changes.
Conceptually, marketers need to grasp that online, opt-in was and is arguably illusory. True, when it comes to email, in particular, there are compliance standards for corporate marketers — the same CAN-SPAM protocols that also protect consumers from unsolicited messages on mobile phones. Yet email marketing only accounts for 1 percent of total online ad revenues in the U.S., while other forms of online marketing — search, display and video ads — represent the other 99 percent. Those other forms require no opt-in policy.
Mobile marketing extends across a number of platforms and applications — such as social, search, apps, video and location-based marketing — yet SMS remains the most common format. If consumers don't opt-in, marketing in these channels ends up just spam.
Structurally, for brands to succeed in this scenario, a diverse mix of skills and strategies are needed. For the first time, brands must blend the brand marketing experience of a traditional marketer, with the technical expertise of a digital marketer, with the segmenting insights of a data-driven marketer.
No easy task. Before mobile, these disciplines would have been managed by individual teams in separate silos with the traditional marketers handling TV spots;the digital team tackling web and social;and the data crunchers charged with direct campaigns. Mobile requires all three specialties, not only to execute and produce a strategy, but just to get it. Traditional brand marketers sometimes struggle to get grounded in the technology;digital experts may find it difficult to persuade consumers to move beyond the opt-in barriers;and the data-driven marketers may lack the tactical expertise.
Additionally, because mobile is a blend of all three, organizations don't know where to put it, so it often ends up orphaned. Marketing departments tend to be overstretched across the board, and it's rare that any group willingly volunteers to tackle a new platform without a clear mandate from top management. When mobile doesn't live anywhere, it has no budget. At the end of the day, nobody has the time or resources to take on more work — and nobody wants the career risk that comes from tackling and taking responsibility for an unfamiliar technology.
Without any commitment in terms of time, resources or ownership, companies end up pursuing only limited tests and trials. Dribs and drabs. And when those tests are run by people who don't get all three areas of marketing — and pursued as an afterthought, a distraction from their day jobs — it shouldn't come as a shock if the outcome is underwhelming. Even positive results may fail to be fully understood or appreciated because, again, the person responsible for the evaluation is locked into a narrow focus of functional thinking.
Fixing this isn't going to be easy, but there are two things companies can do to get started. First, they need to start the education process — from top to bottom — of what's possible, what the objectives are, and what's being done. Second, they will likely need to lean on agencies that already have those three disciplines under the same roof and that have experience in mobile. Companies might not be able to change their culture and structure overnight, but they also can't afford NOT to start moving into mobile.
Jeff Hilimire is president and chief digital officer at Engauge. Follow him on Twitter @jeffhilimire or on his blog.
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Engauge is a full-service marketing agency for the digital and social age. We help grow our clients' businesses by leveraging creativity and technology to connect brands and consumers through the most relevant content and channels. The proliferation of content and channel opportunities for both consumers and brands has forever changed the communications landscape. But - what haven't changed are the fundamentals of marketing: The ability to richly understand a consumer, to derive a thoughtful insight, and to create a big idea. For years, Engauge has helped lead its clients by staying true to those fundamentals, while focusing on talent, technology, innovation and building a dynamic range of capabilities - from the tried and true, to social, mobile and whatever's next. Today's marketing is assuredly more complex, but to us the premise is still quite simple: Listen to the client, listen to the consumer, and deliver big ideas at the right time and place. And, most importantly, engauge.