While “old media” advertising, such as network television, radio, magazines, and newspapers, may be hurting in this economic downturn, marketing via mobile devices such as cell phones and PDAs continues to be one of the bright spots.
With mobile marketing you can market a business or product simply by sending a text message via cell phone or handheld device to consumers or by running an ad asking customers to send a text to receive information or promotions for a product.
We have all, of course, come to rely on these devices like never before. In fact, in the United States alone, there is an estimated 270 million mobile subscribers. Estimates now have mobile devices outnumbering TV screens by more than 2-to-1 and desktop Internet users by nearly 3-to-1. According to the international trade group the Mobile Marketing Association, there are now more than twice as many mobile phones in use worldwide (2.4 billion) than landline phones.
Along with the rapid expansion in mobile usage has come a bounty of mobile marketing opportunities for the largest marketers as well as smaller local businesses. Estimates put the global mobile advertising market at some $4 billion last year. The research firm The Yankee Group reports that of the more than 350 billion text messages (also known as SMS) sent every month, more than 15 percent are marketing messages.
In many parts of the world, including Spain, France, and Japan, a majority of mobile users are receiving ads on their mobile gadgets. In gadget-crazy Japan, a reported 44 percent of mobile users actually go one step further and respond to these ads.
Web usage via mobile devices has seen especially explosive growth. The research company comScore, which tracks digital-media usage, reports that a staggering 22.4 million mobile users now use their devices to visit the Web every single day, fully double what it was a year ago, largely due to the dramatic surge in sales of smartphones.
But it’s not just the tremendous growth in mobile Web usage that’s driving the mobile marketing business these days. Downloadable mobile applications, or “apps,” are also leading to an increasing amount of interest, and business, in the mobile marketing arena. So-called “app-vertising” is, in the view of many analysts, the future of mobile marketing. As the U.K.-based digital marketing company Direct Traffic Media puts it, apps promise to “finally harness what has always been a tantalizing but frustrating potential of mobile advertising.”
Likewise, the marketing and media trade magazine Advertising Age calls advertising via mobile apps “the great white whale of digital marketing: forever on the horizon but perpetually out of reach.” It adds, “We’ve only begun to scratch the surface.”
Leading the trend are the incredibly popular applications for the Apple iPhone. In only nine months since its launch, Apple’s App Store has registered a staggering 35,000 different downloadable applications, with more than 1 billion apps served to users, according to reports.
And Apple is only the beginning. Nokia, which accounts for a reported 40 percent of global smartphone sales, recently announced the creation of the Ovi Store, a marketplace for some 20,000 downloadable apps. And as online news source AdvertisingAge reports, other major names in digital media, including Microsoft, BlackBerry, and Palm, are following suit.