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Jun. 15, 2009 – Venturing into the third screen

June 15, 2009
Filed under Features

By Jon Mohr
Contributing writer
It’s Friday morning, floor traffic is non-existent and the service schedule has a lot more holes than you would prefer. Customers are needed now, not next week or next month. But how do you bring them through your doors?
For an increasing number of businesses, the personalized contact and immediacy offered by mobile marketing could be the answer.
Imagine, in the previous scenario, if your company had a database of mobile phone numbers you could send a text message to, offering each of those people a 15-percent discount on service for the next 48 hours.
What other method allows you to reach out to exactly the people you want — former customers and others who have demonstrated interest in your products — and know with near certainty that they will receive your message as soon as you send it? Mobile advertising professionals refer to mobile phones as the “third screen” in advertising, behind television and computers.
“It’s quite obvious that people are tied to their cell phones,” said Chris Brull, senior manager, marketing, for Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. “We’re communicating constantly, and your whole life can really fit in your pocket. [Mobile marketing] gives us a great opportunity to put our messages out there to our consumers as well as those that are considering our products. So you can really hone in and pretty closely target.”
Kawasaki launched a mobile-marketing promotion this April called “Greenlight to Win,” a sweepstakes that will award 10 grand-prize winners the vehicle of their choice. To play, participants must text “GREEN” (or a similar message) to the number 75309 — so chosen because its similarity to the popular 80s song that included the number 867-5309. When they do, Kawasaki is not only able to capture that person’s cell number for future mobile marketing campaigns, the company knows, based on the text message that is sent, where the consumer saw the message.
Kawasaki attaches different codes to each
of its advertisements for the campaign. If a
customer texts “GREEN,” the company knows that person saw the ad on television. If they
text “GREEN1” the person saw the ad in a
particular magazine, and so on.
“You can really start to see the effectiveness of your call to action: when it’s done right and when it’s not done right,” said John Behr, CEO of Converdia, a Minnesota firm that provides mobile marketing capability. “[Mobile marketing] is leading you down the path to that Holy Grail where most communication with the consumer is one-to-one, with relevant, specific content.”
When a participant sends a text message in response to Kawasaki’s promotion, a digital game entry is downloaded to their phones. This “ticket” is actually a scrambled message, reminiscent of a chart in a color-blindness test, and customers must take it to a Kawasaki dealer, where a simple piece of “decoder” film is placed over the phone’s screen to show players what they’ve won.
“It’s really a great way to generate floor traffic for the dealers,” Brull said. “They said to us, ‘We will sell those guys, just get the consumer in the door.’” So far the promotion, which will run through August, has gone well and Brull said Kawasaki has seen “more traffic than expected through texting.”
But mobile marketing can do more than drive floor traffic and advertising ROI information. When text codes are attached to individual products — on hangtags for motorcycles on a dealer’s lot or at a show, for example, it can drill even more deeply.
By letting customers download photos, specs or video of a given bike, simply by texting a code, dealers can not only communicate with customers who don’t like talking to salespeople, or who come by when nobody is around, they can also gauge interest in a given product.
“You take a fleeting contact and you make it a lasting contact by giving them something exciting to take along with them on their phone,” said Dylan Hatch, an operative with Converdia. “[Dealers] know exactly what the customer has done and seen before they make that follow-up call. They can make the most of that contact by having that information at their fingertips before they’re talking to them.”
Mobile marketing allows businesses to build a database that shows what each customer has requested information on, and they can tailor further messages or offers to that customer’s interests. One dealer was even able to determine, based on the time of day when text requests spiked, that his salespeople needed to stagger their breaks more evenly, as a number of customers were on the lot with nobody to help them.
But there are regulations that mobile marketing users have to be aware of regarding unsolicited text messages. Behr says Converdia always provides an “opt out” function for consumers.
And it’s not as though traditional advertising is dead. Behr believes mobile marketing, which can be surprisingly affordable at only a few hundred dollars per month in some cases, will ultimately prove to be an “enabler” and “facilitator” for print, television, radio, etc., rather than a replacement. “Unless there is a way where you have already collected this information and have the ability to talk to that consumer directly, mobility marketing is not going to replace the traditional stuff,” he said. “That stuff is not going away anytime soon.”
However, with the number of mobile Internet users in the U.S. doubling from 2008 to
63.2 million as of January, according to a report by market research firm comScore, nobody can dispute that mobile marketing is here to stay.
“We definitely looked at utilization rates for mobile usage and the time was right for us,” Brull said. “And, quite honestly, in a down economy it is a great time to use a marketing program that has a wide reach that’s done with less cost than typically found in traditional media, like TV.”

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