Sunday, September 19, 2010

Canada and the Role of Location - Mobile Media World Conference

Day Two of the Mobile Media World Conference in Toronto focused on mobile marketing, yet one of the early speakers declared "Nobody wants advertising". His continuing remarks highlight the overall theme of how to be effective in mobile marketing, "Nobody wants advertising, but they do want content. And the difference is relevance."

The day's sessions covered a lot of ground, but I believe the most important issue discussed is how mobile can greatly improve the relevance of content.

It is, however, important to first point out, as a speaker did, that mobile media is not monolithic. Mobiles actually comprise several channels, such as:
  • audio (voice and music)
  • video
  • photography
  • mobile Websites
  • mobile apps
  • text messaging
  • text documents
  • email
  • geographic positioning.
There are lots of different mobile mediums, but a presenter cautioned that each has its place - and geography.

The data that can be provided by a mobile user or their device about their context can help make content, whether marketing material or otherwise, useful to a person's immediate situation.

The implicit privacy concerns were raised but as one presenter declared he was careful about what data he releases and notes that "if I give up my privacy I want them [mobile applications] to learn about me and give me useful recommendations". Most presenters were agreement that Canada hasn't seen a lot of great examples of this due to our small market and the data limitations imposed by carriers. (The presenters today weren't carriers and there was a much more open blaming of uncessary data caps for limiting mobile development and adoption in Canada.)

There were a couple good Canadian examples raised. Well, Metro News' links with the mobile app Foursquare (the first newspaper in the world to do so) was touted as exemplary. Having been "friends" with Metro News for months now on Foursquare and having not once encountered any of their content, their success to me appears to be overrated.

Another success story came from RIM and their usage of their text messaging service (BBM) to capture and hold the youth market. They used the medium at cultural events and festivals to build a relationship with their new and current users. Another example was an ad program that used geographic positioning for microtargeting. By determining the location of people within an 8-block radius of Toronto's Pride Festival, targetted, relevant advertising was delivered on specific mobile websites.

Bad examples were also raised. Despite the hype that Starbucks earned for being one of the first big companies to embrace Foursquare, a presenter noted that the ubiquity and popularity of Starbucks in major urban areas rendered their campaign more annoying than successful. She noted that no matter where you go in Toronto you are near a Starbucks, so whenever one checks into Foursquare a Starbucks promo will also pop up as a nearby deal. As the deal was only limited to one extremely frequent customer (the"mayor") this offering was not relevant to almost everyone.

Foursquare has been the subject of my research focus for the last few months. There was a lot of excitement at the conference at the potential of Foursquare. Few felt it was currently delivering on its potential anywhere, and even more so in Canada.

Overall, the conference did offer vision for the future of mobile marketing. One presenter noted that advertising needs to move away from preconceived stereotypes based on demographics, and instead use the data provided by mobile users and their devices to tailor individual messages to people. Achieving this successfully has a good potential return on investment as people are present and motivated.

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