As writeups of experiences with the iPhone cover blogs and traditional media today – many marketers will likely be reconsidering what their mobile marketing strategy should be in a world bound to evolve rapidly now that the iPhone is in people’s hands.  John Bell, the head of our Digital Influence group, has a great post about how we have been helping our clients to craft a mobile influencer strategy for some time now.  The promise of mobile marketing has been far removed from what has actually been possible in the past.  The iPhone may bridge some of this gap, with it’s integrated web browser, built in ability to access Wi-fi hotspots, and other features.  The device, however, is not the only thing holding mobile marketing back.  Here are are a few other changes we need to see before marketers can maximize what they get out of mobile marketing.

  1. Time Based Opt In – The way most opt-in’s work is that an individual company seeks my permission to market to me, and once they have it they can send me messages at any time based on their own schedule.  We all know this comes with wastage as many of the messages will likely reach me at a time when I am not interested in them.  For email, this is not as much of a problem as I can just save it for later.   Mobile marketing is about immediacy – and therefore less suited to this model of opt-ins.  What we need is a time based opt-in where I can indicate my status and openness to marketing messages as easily as I change my status on an instant messenger window.  This works for consumers and for marketers – ensuring the messages arrive at a point when consumers are most likely to act on them.
  2. My Marketing Profile – Unfortunately, delivering messages at the right time doesn’t necessarily mean they will be relevant.  Right now, users can create profiles on social networking sites, indicate news preferences to get the most relevant news, and otherwise create profiles on thousands of sites to save their preferences.  What people can’t usually set is their marketing preferences.  Of course, you can opt in to messages from individual marketers, but what about opting into messages from every company in a mall that you frequent, or all middle eastern restaurants in Brooklyn?  Setting these parameters into my profile lets me opt into messages that have the most relevance.  The difficulty is the level of coordination (sometimes between competitors) that would be required to make this work.
  3. Synchronization of Mobile And Retail – As anyone who has ever downloaded a marketing offer to their mobile phone knows, the entire process falls apart if you go into a retail location to redeem the offer and the staff are unaware of the promotion or how to honor it.  This is a large stumbling block and one that will continue to hinder the adoption of mobile as a channel to receive marketing messages.  Consumers need to feel that what they get via mobile is integrated into a real life experience (where appropriate), or mobile marketing will always need to fight the same credibility battle.

We can do effective mobile marketing without these advances, of course, but getting a model for solving some of these challenges will help the industry as a whole to get smarter and more interactive about mobile marketing that people actually want to get.  Hopefully the iPhone is just the beginning of a new era in mobile …