Thursday, April 23, 2009

Keeping it Simple, Stupid

I do a lot of reading on mobile marketing. Some evangelists like to spout off about the newest technologies: QR codes, proximity, iPhone apps, widgets, multimedia messaging, GPS coding, etc etc. Technology, we are told, will make mobile marketing successful.

Recently, a small business owner asked me how he can get his retail business involved in mobile. And if he should be thinking about all these new technologies that are available.

I told him - yes he should be thinking about them. But not for now, for the future.

As we know, other parts of the world are way ahead of where we are with mobile marketing. But why is that? Why can't we use the same technologies to attract consumers that they use in Japan? We have the same phones, the same networks, the same hardware capabilities.

The answer, as I explained to my friend, is that the consumer is not ready for those technologies. Yet.

But why is this, exactly? Let's examine.

When cellular phones were new in North America, the cost to pick up the phone and make a call was significantly less than it was elsewhere in the world. We payed pennies a minute to make a call. Other areas payed dollars a minute.

When text messaging became available, consumers in other areas took to it as a way to save money. Here, not so much.

And in terms of consumers coming to understand their phone as more than a phone, but as a complete mobile communications device, text messaging is the first step. North American consumers have only recently woken up to text messaging. But that's as far as most consumers have gone.

All the other technologies are nice to know about. Especially as marketers, since we need to be aware of what's coming down the pipeline.

But the answer to my small business friend, is that the best way to get started in mobile is with bulk text messaging. That is the lowest common denominator, in terms of enabling consumer access to your brand information. The fancy new technologies available right now are much too advanced for the average consumer.

So keep it simple. Start with text messaging. Worry about all that other stuff later.

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