Friday, April 21, 2006

MMA Global - Why Spam Doesn’t Have to Happen on Mobile Devices

Why Spam Doesn’t Have to Happen on Mobile Devices Date: Wed, 07-Sep-2005 Section: Privacy & Spam By Peter Fuller, Founder Industry Jump Spam and privacy, the two “third rails” of marketing, threaten to take down the mobile marketing industry before it gets fully off the ground. From USA Today to CNN and countless other e-zines and newspapers, opinions abound on how spam soon will infect millions of cell phones—devices considered to be the last frontier for marketers. It’s true, mobile marketing is growing in popularity. In Asia, eMarketer reports that 39 percent of mobile phone users have received SMS messages from advertisers, 36 percent in Europe and only 8 percent in the US. These figures point to a strong and growing trend among advertisers to embrace mobile marketing in other parts of the world and for consumers to be fairly receptive to it. Although technical impediments to US mobile marketing have slowed its growth, fear of “mobile spam” and the hype that surrounds it has forced brands, advertisers and carriers to approach the US market with much trepidation. Unfortunately for those in the mobile marketing industry, a confused press corps has not adequately defined the difference between mobile marketing and “spam.” Journalists combine stories of marketer behavior in Japan with predictions that mobile marketing will be an “$8 billion” industry to create the impression that consumers here soon will be bombarded with unsolicited marketing. I recently spoke with a reporter from a national newspaper who thought all 12 billion SMS messages sent in the US are “spam.” This misinformation about the industry and its intentions has created a confusion and subsequent perception about marketing in consumers’ minds that must be addressed quickly. To do that, mobile marketers are facing two primary problems: 1) distancing themselves from a word that has at best, a very dynamic and personal definition: spam; and 2) devising a system to stop it before it starts. Distancing Marketing from Spam Before marketers can move away from spam, they have to know what it is. In most legal terms, spam is defined as any unsolicited marketing message sent via electronic mail or to a mobile phone. Legal definitions, however, may save you in court, but not in the marketplace. In fact, much of the e-mail spam can be traced back to an actual consumer opt-in and thus technically is not spam. The trick marketers use is the little “partner marketing” button or small print that accompanies many newsletters and corporate promotional sites. A consumer who buys a big-screen TV, for instance, may be excited to begin a relationship with the manufacturer and signs up for its newsletter. A month later, that person is receiving e-mail from marketers they’ve never heard of pawning DVDs for $1. That marketing is perceived as spam, even though legally it is not because it came from a “partner” of the big screen manufacturer. So, what is spam? Spam is what the consumer perceives as an unwanted or unsolicited marketing. Unwanted. Marketing materials can become unwanted any time and it is impossible for marketers to control the whims of consumer acceptance. Here are a few key factors that contribute to marketing becoming unwanted: Frequency. When a customer opts-in to receive information, it is not carte blanche to hit them up for anything at anytime—regardless of what the attorney down the hall wrote in the legal fine print. It’s also necessary to consider how the message will be considered in light of all the other messaged a consumer receives daily. Less is more; just because you can market to them, doesn’t mean you should. Relevance. Cross-promotional programs are fine through as long as they retain relevancy. Control. Consumers no longer have control over their e-mail. Hundreds of marketers target them, most of which have opt-out policies. Can we really expect consumers to opt-out to every site they visited? And would that work if they could? The answer to both questions, is no. Confidentiality. Sure, the “partner” button on the opt-in page may seem like a good idea, but in reality, it’s best not to share the information a customer gives you. Unsolicited. Consumers may perceive messages they didn’t directly opt-in to receive—like “partner” marketing—as unsolicited. The best way for marketers to distance themselves from “spam” is to give consumers choice, control, constraint and confidentiality while insuring that they only receive relevant information. Doing so will address the perceived definition of spam and enhance consumer satisfaction with the brand in the process. But can it be done? With e-mail, the answer is no. Too many nefarious advertisers roam the open gateways and too many legitimate brands have sold their lists to too many partners. In mobile marketing, however, the future is much brighter. Devising a System to Stop Mobile Spam Before it Starts In mobile marketing the opportunity is ripe to stop spam and keep the medium safe for relevant messages the consumer wants to receive. Learning from the mistakes made in e-mail marketing, the Mobile Marketing Association is developing a Code of Conduct for content providers, advertisers, brands, technology partners and carriers that is engineered around the perceived definition of spam and includes technology enforcement mechanisms that will give the industry the power to self-regulate. The Code of Conduct is broken into the Six C’s of privacy: Choice: mobile marketing is acceptable only to consumers that opt-in to receive it. Control: consumers who opt-in must have any easy way to opt-out of all mobile marketing. Constraint: consumers should be able to set limitations on messages received. Customization: analytical segmentation tools will help advertisers optimize message volume, ROI and relevancy to the consumer. Consideration: consumers must perceive value in any mobile marketing campaign. Confidentiality: Privacy policies must be aligned between the carrier and the brand. In addition to the CoC, the MMA’s Privacy Committee is also reviewing cutting-edge industry-wide mechanisms for enforcement. First, a certification program may be built to certify brands, carriers, advertisers, content providers and technology partners that agree to comply with the industry CoC. Second, the committee is reviewing the merits of creating national opt-in and opt-out databases for mobile marketing. These national systems would give consumers a single point of access for all mobile marketing. From them, consumers will manage which brands they interact with, how many messages they want in a given period of time, and what interest-based information they opt-in to receive. The consumer would have complete privacy through various technology mechanisms under consideration. Fighting the Perception Together It’s true, mobile marketing may become an $8 billion industry by 2005; spam, however, doesn’t have to be part of that revenue stream. In fact, eMarketer reported that 65 percent of US consumers were willing to give personally identifiable information in exchange for relevant mobile marketing. By learning from the mistakes made in e-mail marketing, everyone in the mobile marketing paradigm—from the brand to the consumer—can benefit. But it can’t be done with just a few players. The only way to fight the perception of spam and stop it from becoming a reality in mobile marketing is for the industry to come together and embrace an aggressive Code of Conduct backed by creative enforcement mechanisms and technology that closes private carrier gateways to unsolicited marketing while opening them to messages consumers want to receive. Together, the industry can make mobile marketing a reality and mobile spam a figment of everyone’s imaginations. This Case Study comes from MMA Global The URL for this Case Study is: Copyright (c) 2006 by MMA Global

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