Monday, January 29, 2007

To bluespam or not to bluespam, that is the question

I've just been catching up on my blog reading and quite a few of my regular reads are commenting about bluespam, or bluecasting if you're being posh.

First off, the Square Group is sending out free video clips from Avenue Q to passers by who happen to have their bluetooth switched on on their phone. The claim impressive results (well if you're in Direct Marketing or Sales Promotion they are). 9,595 active Bluetooth devices were detected and sent messages. Of these, 703 people accepted the offer of the video download – an average of 87 people each day. Seems good on the face of it. I applaud Square Group and Avenue Q for giving it a try. But how targeted was this audience if it was targeting passers-by? [of course, if it was aimed at fans of the show who were inside the theatre, then I could better understand it.]

Ewan shares his feelings about why bluetooth isn't designed for marketing or file sharing and is an, at best, clumsy user experience. Whilst David, from Mobile Marketing Magazine, wonders if these results are acceptable. David continues,
"Put another way, the campaign achieved a (positive) response rate of just over 7%. That, of course, is a response rate that any direct marketer would kill for, But that’s the point. Mobile marketing is not direct mail. It’s more personal than that, and brands that ignore this fact do so at their peril. And while Bluecasting may be legal, to my mind, if 93% of the people you offer a free download to decline the offer, that’s not really a success."

I actually doubt if 93% of people were annoyed at getting the bluetooth message. Some would have been mildly irritated, some would have ignored it completely, some would have left it to sort out later not realising that it was location specific and related to a bluetooth broadcasting system in the theatre, and for some, they may well have clicked on the system and it just didn't work (as in my Casino Royale experience), in which case the logs are likely to be inaccurate. And of course, there would be some people who would be annoyed and consider it as spam and completely evil. We just don't know what the breakdown is.

Putting the legalities aside which I discussed last week in relation to Virgin/Qwikker, I think this begs a larger question of marketing and advertising more generally which Carlo over at Mobhappy also hints at.

It's harder and harder to generate interest in products and services via *any* marketing methods - new or old or mobile or whatever. It's a law of diminishing returns and the youth of today don't understand the economics behind it all - i.e. that advertising has funded the majority of our entertainment for the last 50 years. So what do you do? Of course, there are clearly some wonderful success stories out there, but they are few and far between. If it was *that* easy, then we'd all be rich, but we're not - even when we have fabulous products and services to promote. It's not an easy equation to work out, even when you have the goods to start with.

I also understand why Avenue Q would use something like bluecasting - there's no messaging cost to the network operator. This makes it hugely attractive financially. And it is marginally less intrusive than a text message as your mobile number is kept private. And for any marketing campaign, 7% is a good response rate. And after all, we live in a commercial world and if the maths adds up, then the maths adds up.

But you know what, bluecasting will be an interim technology at best. At some point in the near distant future, we will be always on on our mobiles with wap access, flat rate data charges, pre-installed QR code readers and phones that just work. In that scenario, we won't need bluetooth to file share, we'll just do it over the air, like we do from our PCs. We'll take a picture of a QRcode, it will link us to the wapsite and we'll download away to our heart's content and maybe even share with a friend via the 'send to a friend's phone' link.

So traditional marketers, take heart, we'll still need magazines and posters and audio and video communication in our digital nirvana, it's just we'll be more seamlessly connected so you need to understand how this digital jigsaw fits together rather than looking at channels in isolation. So you could do worse than check out the mobile marketing course next month from e-consultancy.

Maybe I'm dreaming of a future that's 20 years away but hey, a girl can dream. I do know that in the future, we'll also have a lot less tolerance for any kind of push messaging as it will be considered spam and unwanted and will have a negative effect on the brand. And we'll be even better at ignoring it all, which we're already pretty good at as the Avenue Q campaign demonstrates - 93% of the potential audience ignored it.

Right now, we're in a transition phase. The laws are still being worked out. The technology is still flaky some of the time and we're still in a trial and error stage. But try and err you must in order to learn. We're still not quite sure how this mobile game will pan out. But in this 21st Century age of blogging, file sharing, instant access, always on digital overload, there are no easy answers. You will never be able to please all of the people all of the time, but you'd better do your best because if they're unhappy, they're going to tell all their mates pretty quickly with all these new-fangled communications methods flying around.

Ignore new technology at your peril. It really is changing our lives.