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Mobile marketing: Mayberry or the Wild West?
|01 июля 2009|
Protect consumers and you protect the opportunity. That maxim applies to mobile marketing, where U.S. expenditures on mobile marketing for 2009 are $ 1.7 billion, according to MMA research. This prediction is expected to grow by about 26 percent to $2.16 billion next year.
Like any other booming industry, mobile marketing is attracting hordes of newcomers, some of which don't know or don't care about the rules designed to protect consumers. In the process, these companies risk ruining both the user experience and the market opportunity.
Today the mobile marketing industry is at a crossroads. One path leads to the electronic equivalent of Mayberry, a boom town where consumers gladly shop along a Main Street free of hucksters. The other path leads to the Wild West, a backwater where con artists outnumber consumers and reputable merchants.
Here's an example of the latter: A company sends unsolicited text messages offering a free ringtone to recipients who click on a link in the message. They get the ringtone--and a nasty surprise: By clicking on the link, they've unwittingly subscribed to a $9.99 per month service that sends daily horoscopes and jokes.
When their cell phone bill arrives, they see the charge and try to figure out how to cancel the service. Assuming that they can even find the company's contact information, there's also a good chance that by then, the company has closed its doors and reopened elsewhere under another name.
The choice is clear: community policing now, before problems get out of hand.
Law of the land
It would be cliché to say that there's a new sheriff in town because he's been around for several years: the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), making the mobile channel safe for consumers and brands alike by publishing references such as U.S. Consumer Best Practices (CBP) Guidelines for Cross-Carrier Mobile Content Services.
Industry-standard rules have two main benefits: First, they enable self-policing, where reputable brands, marketers, software developers and other companies use the guidelines to ensure that they're protecting consumers. The rules are particularly handy now because of the way that the mobile channel is rapidly evolving, creating new opportunities--and risks--almost weekly.
The second benefit is that a single set of rules makes compliance easier, faster and less expensive for all members of the mobile marketing ecosystem. Rulebooks such as the MMA's Consumer Best Practices literally put everyone on the same page in terms of guidelines for cross-carrier mobile content services such as text messaging (SMS), multimedia messaging (MMS), shortcode programs, mobile Web and interactive voice response (IVR).
In March 2009, the mobile marketing industry took another major step toward the Mayberry ideal when the MMA announced an industry-first agreement with the four largest U.S. wireless service providers--AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless--to consolidate their individual mobile marketing guidelines and codes of conduct into a single document.
Known as "carrier playbooks," the individual sets of guidelines provided brands, agencies and other members of the mobile ecosystem with valuable recommendations and requirements for using a particular carrier's network. The big catch is that mobile marketing campaigns typically span multiple carriers, forcing companies to master and implement multiple sets of rules.
That process is complex and time-consuming and often is the gating factor in a mobile campaign's roll-out--not a viable option if the campaign's timeline is dictated by something else, such as the release date for a new album or cross promotion with a movie debut. Following multiple, disparate playbooks is also expensive because it requires more resources, such as additional staff responsible for each playbook's implementation.
For example, some carrier playbooks required the term "Standard Message Rates Apply," while others use "Standard Data Rates May Apply." Consumer Best Practices frees brands and agencies from becoming experts in each of the four largest carriers' minutiae by allowing them to use standardized language such as "Message & Data Rates May Apply." In the process, consumers encounter consistent language, instead of having to wonder whether one carrier's phrase means something different than another's.
Although that example might sound like a minor issue, it adds up to a major headache when multiplied by hundreds of similar requirements and multiplied again by four carriers. By consolidating the four playbooks into Consumer Best Practices--beginning with the 4.0 edition, published this June--the industry will achieve operational efficiencies upward of $200 million annually.
Just as important, consolidation minimizes some of the kinds of problems that can set the stage for the Wild West: an ignorance of rules or indifference developed out of the frustration trying to figure out which ones apply when and where.
Self-police or self-destruct
By agreeing on and adopting industry-standard rules, mobile marketing is avoiding the Wild West environment that other industries created by failing to police themselves. Banking is one cautionary tale. In 1999, the Treasury Department blasted banks for selling customers' personal information to telemarketers in return for a commission on sales.
"While it might be unfair to burden an entire industry with legislation aimed at curbing the poor conduct of a few institutions, the persistent failure of the industry itself to address abusive conduct creates a fertile seedbed for legislation," John D. Hawke, Jr., the Treasury's comptroller of the currency, said in a speech to bankers.
It's equally important that industries be forward-thinking when self-policing. For example, today's cell phones and smartphones have advanced browser capabilities, and they run on networks that provide broadband speeds. All of that creates the opportunities for mobile marketing campaigns centered on the mobile Web.
Hence the need for industry-standard mobile Web guidelines designed to protect consumers and ensure the optimal user experience. The MMA website also makes it easy for consumers to report suspicious campaigns, which the MMA then investigates.
All members of the mobile marketing ecosystem have a vested interest in identifying and heading off practices that could jeopardize the consumer experience. The alternative is the Wild West, where reputable brands stay away--an alternative no one wants.