Mobile Marketing Takes Hold

Barb Pellow

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

The first time someone thought to write on a tablet that could be lifted and hauled rather than writing on a cave wall, print became the ultimate portable media. Today, mobile media devices such as smartphones and iPads have become a primary source of portable media from which we can obtain information and communicate with one another. In fact, the average consumer always has three things with them—car keys, wallet/purse, and a cell phone.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, there were 5.3 billion global mobile subscriptions at the end of 2010. That is equivalent to 77% of the world population, and it represents a huge increase from the 4.6 billion mobile subscriptions at the end of 2009.

Print and Mobile – Better Together

In today’s market, we are seeing a massive drive to get print and mobile to work together. Armed with the right technology, savvy agencies, marketers, and service providers are optimizing print and mobile to reach consumers on the run.

According to an ABI Research Study, more than 7 trillion text messages will be sent worldwide during 2011. It is clear that text messaging will continue to grow and become an integral part of the overall marketing mix. In addition, there is significant growth in the adoption of mobile barcodes. While mobile barcodes have been mainstream in Asian countries like Japan for a few years, it was not until last year that brands in the U.S. and Europe adopted them to provide holistic experiences to customers. A research report by 3GVision reveals that outside of Japan, the U.S. is leading the way in the global growth of mobile barcode usage in absolute numbers. Hong Kong, Canada, and Germany follow closely behind. According to a newconsumer adoption study from barcode technology providerScanBuy, barcode scanning was up 700% in 2010. According to a May 2010 report[1] published by Vancouver-based Mobio Identity Systems, quick response (QR) code use in North America grew by an astounding 4,549% between Q1 2010 and Q1 2011. Primary users are female Generation X-ers between the ages of 35 and 44.

Brands, agencies, and traditional media are finding innovative ways to utilize mobile barcode and SMS campaigns as an effective means of passing product information in-store, bringing static ads to life, and engaging with customers via contests or loyalty reward systems. This integration of offline, online, and mobile allows marketers to provide a holistic experience to their customers. Let’s take a look at what successful marketers are doing to optimize the print/mobile customer experience.

Activating the Mobile Consumer

A number of campaigns are focused on consumer activation. Activation involves obtaining the consumer's permission to communicate with them and learning their digital channel preferences. Activation is the first step in developing a unified customer profile that grows over time to include attributes and other information about the customer. It enables the creation of more targeted, relevant, and higher-response campaigns. Marketers are employing a number of print/mobile tactics to activate new customers and convince them to opt in to longer-term relationships. This section discusses some of the effective examples that the market has seen.

Point-of-Sale Calls to Action

Marketers are promoting offers to join loyalty programs or opt in to receive "special" offers right at the point-of-sale. They are using printed point-of-sale materials to obtain e-mail addresses, opt-in permission, and other details (basic demographics, social media identities, etc.). Retailers like The Gap are using store signage as part of their cross-media campaigns. When customers walk by the window, The Gap asks them to become Mobile VIPs by texting their mobile numbers to a short code to receive news of new product arrivals, coupons, discounts, and events.

Best Buy has taken this idea to a new level by integrating QR codes with product fact tags. The electronics retailer became the first national retailer in the U.S. to embrace this trend in September 2010. Best Buy shoppers can compare key product features in a more visual way, access reviews, and e-mail product information to their friends. Particularly when making complex buying decisions, having the relevant information just a scan away can accelerate the process.

Out-of-Home Calls to Action

Marketers can use billboards, magazines, and radio/television advisements to post calls to action that enable consumers to opt in to mobile marketing relationships. Leo Burnett won a Gold Medal at last year’s Cannes Advertising Festival for its “Hidden Sounds” QR code campaign promoting 14 indie bands (the hidden sounds) for Zoo Records, an alternative music store in Hong Kong. The QR codes were assembled in animal shapes that were hidden in the streets of Hong Kong. Scanning the codes in the animals enabled users to obtain more information about a band and hear their music. They could also purchase the songs directly and share them on social media. The campaign was considered a success based on the volume of sharing on blogs and social networks. Furthermore, more than half of the 14 featured bands experienced album sellouts within the first week.

A Brooks Brothers campaign in a recent issue of Esquire allowed consumers to directly purchase the items they saw in the magazine. The advertorial featured multiple pieces and styles from the latest collection, including shoes and bags. Upon scanning the QR code, consumers were taken to the Brooks Brothers landing page featuring that specific item.

Cultivating the Mobile Relationship

Cultivation is similar to retention. Many mobile marketing programs have fallen apart at the cultivation step because companies don’t continually communicate with the purchaser following activation. Once marketers have established a dialogue with a consumer based on an opt-in relationship (whether surrounding product information, movie times, trailers, or coupons), they must continue to correspond and communicate their brand message. The program should include other offers and calls to action. In addition to maintaining the base of activated mobile customers, continuing the dialogue also builds on the knowledge you have about those customers. This section provides examples of how marketers can use that knowledge for segmentation and more targeted messaging.

Targeted Offers

Having simple demographic information and product preference data can set the stage for offers that can map into loyalty programs, product release/promotion schedules, and other marketing plans. Wakefern Food Corp.’s ShopRite isramping up its mobile initiatives and claims to be the only grocery retailer with a presence across Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and the mobile Web.The technology, powered by MyWebGrocer, enables ShopRite customers to access online specials and create digital shopping lists from their smartphones. Thead-supported applications for iPhone and Android are built specifically for each platform to optimize the user experience.The goal is to help customers save time and money. The Weekly Specials app allows shoppers to browse an online version of the weekly sales circular and add items directly to their shopping list from any Web-enabled mobile device.ShopRite promotes its apps and mobile site by using traditional advertising—print ads, direct marketing to loyal customers, radio and TV advertisements—as well as digital media such as e-mail marketing, searching, and social networks. To promote its apps and mobile site in-store, ShopRite has created point-of-sale materials and shelf-talkers. The company even employs its grocery bags as a tool to drive traffic to its mobile initiatives.As shoppers opt-in, ShopRite can begin examining purchases and ultimately link offers directly to the buying history.

Promotional Sweepstakes

Promotional sweepstakes can be used over time to drive floor traffic and increase purchasing frequency, while helping to build the unified customer profile by requiring customers to answer new questions. Savvy marketers implement localized sweepstakes campaigns that are designed to acquire as many participants as possible. These campaigns blend printed signage, direct mail, and local advertising with a mobile platform that directs SMS text or QR code responses. A “many small” prize approach is typically recommended because it provides immediate evidence of winning. SMS and QR code programs can achieve response rates as high as 30%. These sweepstakes usually require participants to provide six pieces of information upon entry—name, e-mail address, ZIP code, age, gender, and marital status. The firms are also asking consumers to opt-in to receive future marketing messages so they can build out their mobile databases.

Cross-Channel Engagement

Even though circulation numbers are down and the channel may not be in vogue, print outlets reach a wider audience than any channel in the online world. Print focuses on grabbing the reader’s attention with good creative concepts. Combined with new technologies such as barcodes, marketers can transform a channel that has traditionally been one-dimensional to something that is very dynamic. QR codes or SMS text campaigns are a way to enrich the relationship with the customer and leverage print for what it is—a good awareness mechanism.

Retail giant Target is turning to mobile barcodes to help provide customers with a more interactive experience. When readers come across a barcode-embedded ad in a magazine, they can take a picture of the QR code, which links to a video of home stylist Sabrina Soto. In the clips, Ms. Soto demonstrates how Target furnishings and products can liven up home décor.

By including mobile barcodes in print advertising, marketers can use less advertising space but obtain more information while engaging the consumer. Interactions via text message, Web forms, and e-mail can all be driven through a single system based on a unified customer profile, which will facilitate the interaction across digital channels and deliver a one-to-one marketing experience.

Optimizing the Print Mobile Experience

Amid a sea of marketing messages that are bombarding consumers every day, thoughtful and integrated marketing campaigns can cut through the clutter and give marketers confidence that their marketing dollars are being used wisely. Campaigns that optimize print and mobile can help marketers orchestrate campaigns that blend traditional and digital media. Print (signage, advertisements, packaging, magazines, catalogs, direct mailers, etc.) is the primary mechanism to build awareness. Optimizing it with mobile technologies (texting and barcodes) is the right way to combine media and actively engage customers.

[1] The Naked Facts: Whiplash Edition,

About Barb Pellow

Barbara Pellow helps companies develop multi-media strategies that ride the information wave. She has assisted companies in areas such as creating strategies to launch new products, building strategic marketing plans, and educating their sales force on how to deliver an effective value proposition. Pellow brings the knowledge and skills to help companies expand and grow their business opportunities.