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Brands starting to get mobile: ThinkMobile panelists

NEW YORK - Brand marketers are finally discovering mobile as a medium for building unique strategies for one-to-one user engagement. The channel is a new opportunity to have real creative engagement.

A panel of speakers at MediaBistro's ThinkMobile Conference and Expo in New York talked about their strategies and experiences in leveraging the mobile channel. Mobile Marketer's Mickey Alam Khan moderated the panel.

"Some brands get mobile and others still need to test and learn the channel," said Jeff Arbour, senior vice president of North America, The Hyperfactory, New York. "The ones that got into it earlier on are doing well."

Hyperfactory works with brands like BlackBerry, Toyota and Coca-Cola.

The travel industry, quick service restaurants and the automotive companies are the leaders in the mobile space, according to Jamie Wells, mobile director, Ignition Factory, OMD, New York.

"More than 75 percent of the brands we work with are starting to ask about mobile," said David Bear, executive director of mobile and social media at Atmosphere BBDO, New York.

Mr. Bear stressed the importance of educating the agency people on mobile.

"If they don't understand the mobile platform, the ideas won't get to the client," Mr. Bear said.

The mobile phone was never intended to be a marketing tool, according to Brad Vettese, executive vice president and managing director of ipsh West, Los Angeles.

Now it is so personal that brands would like to be invited in.

Applications are the Holy Grail of mobile, the panelists all said.

However, there are some challenges when developing an application and it is even more daunting to try and get the word out.

An audience member asked the panelists, "How does one go about getting the application downloaded?"

This is where mobile search engine optimization comes into play.

Keywords in the application's description will help get the application found.

"Branded apps make sense," Mr. Wells said. "Branded apps have great interactive options."

Lead generation through applications is also impressive.

"Applications are a great way to create a branded experience and an emotional connection with the consumer," Mr. Arbour said.

Mr. Bear said that because the mobile space is still so new, brands should be looking at what their competitors are doing in the space. This information should drive decision making.

"Think about what you want the user to experience and then figure out how to make it happen," Mr. Vettese said.

The panelists agreed that 2009 will be a ground-breaking year for mobile commerce.

Brands like Marriot and Papa John's are proof that mobile commerce is well on its way.

"It's complicated because there is a limited value-proposition," Mr. Wells said. "Markets with mature payments systems in place will not be too excited by mobile commerce. But less developed markets are going to be really excited about it."

Because of the economic slowdown, brands are using mobile more for direct response and less for branding purposes.

"Engagement is key," Mr. Vettese said. "Brands are really trying to get consumers to take action and do something."

The panelists gave examples of successful marketing campaigns they created for their clients in an effort to show that mobile works.

"What's great is that clients have low expectations for their mobile initiatives so it isn't really hard to blow them out of the water," Mr. Bear said.