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How to combat the confusion around mobile marketing?s definition?

By Bryce Marshall

The online marketing universe is filled with discussion about mobile as an emerging direct digital marketing channel.

Despite all the discussion, many marketers are unclear about what mobile marketing really means or they have vastly different working definitions.

The myriad meanings are justified because the term ?mobile marketing? generically describes marketing interactions with an individual consumer through the technologies found on a mobile device. The more technologies that are found, the more ways there are to describe ?mobile marketing.?

Combating confusion around the definition requires a high-level breakdown of the various mobile marketing subdivisions and strategies.

The goal is to understand the tactical opportunities and create a mobile campaign strategy based on marketing objectives and the target audience ? not based on the technologies alone.

Mobile marketing includes many ways of delivering targeted communications to a mobile device, and each tactic has a predominant audience that requires a specific strategy to maximize reach.

There are four mobile marketing tactics that are currently more widely adopted by marketers and consumers alike.

After voice, SMS is the most common tactic within mobile marketing.
Nearly all U.S. consumers have a mobile phone of some type, and nearly all mobile phones feature SMS technology.

More and more carriers are offering low cost ?all-you-can text? plans, too. This means there is a possibility that SMS will exceed Internet access when it comes to identifying the broadest possible reach in digital channels.

SMS is the most utilized mobile technology across every age group ? following only the digital camera.

Sixty-five percent of mobile phone users consistently interact with SMS, and the rate jumps to 75 percent for the preferred advertising demographics, consumers ages 26-42.

Mobile Web
The mobile Web supports direct digital marketing tactics such as SMS, MMS and emails containing a mobile-friendly version viewable as a Web page.

The challenge for mobile Web folks is developing pages that function across mobile browsers and devices so the experience is consistent for the greatest possible consumer base.

The investment in creating a mobile Web experience becomes valuable once it is established that a significant percentage of the target audience is visiting the traditional Web site from a mobile device.

Applications were made famous by the iPhone and the App Store, but other companies are now getting into the act such as Research In Motion with its Blackberry AppWorld, Palm by making its Palm Software Store accessible from its mobile devices, and Google with its Android Market.

Applications are fantastic for providing a rich user experience that far exceeds what is possible with a mobile-browser-friendly Web page.

However, because applications serve a dedicated audience only, the rich functionality and consumer experience possibilities must be balanced against the relatively limited audience of all mobile devices that can use the application.

While iPhone applications get the most buzz, iPhones still represent only a portion of the overall smartphone market.

If extending reach is a marketing goal, it makes sense to develop iPhone and BlackBerry applications in parallel.

Add to this equation the emerging Palm Pre, and the realization sinks in: to get in front of 75 percent of all smartphone owners it is necessary to support three applications.

Mobile advertising
While mobile advertising is one of the more complex mobile tactics, mobile ads fall into a couple of primary categories: mobile banners and mobile search.

Each is a spinoff of the established online ad channels with virtually the same roster of ad partners creating alternatives for consumers browsing and searching the Internet through a mobile browser.

Ad space is also for sale within some mobile applications.

However, the mass audience still is not present for mobile advertising and it is not clear yet if consumers will stay engaged with the mobile experience or if the mobile Web really supports conversion events that well, including mobile commerce.

To make the best use of the mobile channel and its various tactical opportunities, the strategic plan must consider the value of the content to the consumer and the context of time and place.

SMS has to be a part of any mobile strategy where reach and convenience are part of the marketing equation across demographic groups.

Bryce Marshall is director of strategic services at Knotice, Akron, OH. Reach him at .