Mobile devices are the key media channels of the future. The mobile is a direct, personal, interactive and targeted com-munication channel that stays with the consumer everywhere he goes. Text messaging has added a further dimension to the attractiveness of mobile phones for the youth market. Texting is now a recognised cultural phenomenon.

But as a marketing channel, the mobile is undeniably a medium in its infancy. And most brands and advertising agencies are still not using it to its full benefit. In order to gain consumer acceptance, mobile marketing campaigns must follow some key rules:

Permission - Mobile communications are very personal exchanges and, unlike e-mail, are largely disassociated from work. It is peer-to-peer communication in its purest form. Any unwelcome intrusion into this personal space runs a very strong risk of rejection.

Thus, permission-based marketing is not only best-practice but rather the only effective strategy when using mobiles as marketing channels.

From day one, a key area of concern around mobile marketing has been consumer protection and spamming. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) was set up precisely to ensure the industry developed in a positive way and that consumers' data was used in a responsible manner. Three sets of regulations come into play with mobile marketing: the Data Protection Act, the MMA code of conduct and the New Electronic Communications Directive to come in force in June 2003.

The Data Protection Act requires companies to treat consumer data fairly.

Companies must be upfront about the use and purpose of the data. They should clearly indicate to consumers how often they will be communicating with them and also what type of messages will be sent. In addition, all consumers must have an easy method to opt out (IVR, web and SMS). The key guidelines of the MMA code of conduct state that consumers must have given explicit consent to receive messages prior to any communication being sent, and all communications must clearly indicate who the message is from and how they can opt out.

The New Electronic Communications Directive will make it mandatory by June 2003 to have full opt-in consent of the consumers. Consumers will also need to have a free opt-out route.

Targeting - Campaigns must be targeted and tailored to the audience. The mobile phone is an extremely personal device and the make of phone, the fascia colour, its size and its ringtone are all extensions of an owner's personality. Therefore, messages sent to consumers via the phone must be extremely relevant and targeted.

It is incumbent on companies such as 12snap to continue to refine the information on its customers and provide clients with the best possible profiling. Not only will this deliver the client the most cost-effective campaign but also ensure the customer receives truly relevant messages, increasing customer satisfaction and enhancing brand allegiance.

12snap will continue to gather information on their current database through direct communication and by profiling through Mosaic or Prism for implied lifestyle data. We seek to protect the consumer from unwanted messaging while providing the client with the optimum response rates.

Value added - The communication must be relevant and must add inherent value to the consumer. This can take the form of entertainment or exclusive access to goods and information.

Interactive - Mobile marketing should engage consumers in a true two-way dialogue. 12snap's research and practical experience have demonstrated that consumers love to talk back. The youth embrace brands in a new deeper way and are happy to display commercial logos on their phone as a sign of loyalty. But this new brand relationship implies the right to talk back to the brand.

Mobile marketing mechanics must be very simple. If the consumer does not get it the first time, he/she will never participate in the promotion again. Text messaging never came with a long list of instructions: it took off because it was intuitive and easy.

Running effective campaigns requires creativity and consumer focus. Too many companies are relying on the novelty of the medium and generate very weak one-way push text campaigns with no creativity or interactivity.

Instead we should be integrating IVR, voice- and text-based games, images and sounds to simple push campaigns!

There is no doubt that the mobile is a viable marketing channel for several target audiences. At 12snap, we believe we now have a responsibility to push the boundaries and live up to the full potential of the mobile.

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