Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sibling Rivalry?

My very smart sister commented on one of my posts below (Location-based Mobile) with some intelligent questions. Rather than answer as another comment, I have made it into a new blog post for everybody to read.

Wendy said:

The idea that my mobile phone would suddenly introduce me to a potential eligible bachelor while I'm gormlessly standing in the coffee queue (and his mobile meanwhile is introducing me to him) is excruciating...(oh, and who in their right mind would shop for JEANS of all things on an early date?)

You mention that you have complete control over your bluetooth settings, but that might mean you can't necessarily control who from the dating agency can spontaneously spot you... I mean you might specify that you don't wish to be located, but a pirate dating agency might ignore that...and I'd end up getting stalked by some weirdo...

So my question is how will and should these new marketing abilities be regulated, and by whom?

My response:

All good points.

To address the last one first; in Canada, large-scale text messaging is regulated by the Canadian Wireless Telecom Association. A company needs to apply to the CWTA for a shortcode. The process, which takes 6-8 weeks, includes written descriptions about intended use. Any misuse will result in withdrawal of shortcode, and of subsequent messaging from that shortcode. And the cost for shortcode application, plus integrating the shortcode and associated keywords into the systems of my company currently stands around $5000.

So it's not like email. Anyone with a computer and an internet hookup can send out bulk spam emails as much as they like. Clearly this is not the case with text.

As for your own personal controls, systems have not yet been developed. Most of what I have posted here has been a crystal ball exercise, looking into the near future. Generally speaking, people will have complete control over their mobile content - which is what will make mobile such a valuable tool for marketers AND for consumers. The logistics and associated systems to enable people to have that control will be developed over time. Those systems will very likely be web-based, where you sign in with a personal identification and then select your preferences. So in my sister's case, she wouldn't be interested in text-message notification when a eligible bachelor is in her near vicinity, so she wouldn't opt for the option of receiving that notification. However, she could opt to receive messages only from men who are 6' or taller, or only from men who have no tattoos. Or men who are 6' or taller, AND who have no tattoos. The options for preferences are nearly endless.

As for a nefarious dating agency that ignores consumer wishes not to receive messages - this is highly unlikely for several reasons. First, as someone who chooses not to receive proximity-based notifications, she probably wouldn't even supply her mobile number. That aside, a dating agency that sent unsolicited messages would very quickly earn a bad reputation amongst consumers and wouldn't be successful. Plus it could face losing its shortcode from the CTWA.

When a text message is sent, somebody has to pay. In this case, it might be the Wendy it might be the potential bachelor, or it might be a 3rd party that also supplies an advertising message that the consumer agrees to receive. The model will probably be tested several ways by several companies, and the winning format will eventually emerge. But whether it's Wendy, the potential bachelor or a 3rd party that pays, nobody will be willing to pay to have an unwanted message delivered.

Of course, that dating agency, when sending proximity notifications of potential suitors, would never share the mobile numbers of those two people with each other. Consumers simply wouldn't participate in that. Notifications would likely include basic profile information (first name, age, profession, interests, etc) and an attached image of the person.

As for shopping for jeans on a first date; ok point taken. Perhaps instead they receive bluetooth coupons for 10% off ice-cream cones as they walk by the ice-cream store.

I think consumer control over their own mobile content is what makes mobile such a powerful tool. Consumers only receive the information that they want. Marketers are able to engage consumers who are actively seeking interaction with that brand. It's a win-win situation.

(Wendy - what the heck does 'gormlessly' mean?)

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