Drive adoption through integrated campaign

In spite of vendors’ conviction that their products or services are truly the “killer app” for carriers, the road to the Holy Grail of shared revenues is littered with corpses of yesterday’s launches, from mobile markets in London to Delhi to Tokyo.

What can be done to raise the rate of adoption by the fickle mobile consumer? The answer lies in partnering with carriers for the “integrated campaign”, done over not a month or a quarter, but over at least a year.
Carrier value-added service (VAS) or marketing departments are overwhelmed by their pipeline of products and services and monthly launches. It is no surprise that many such departments are filled with managers with FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) experience, like Nestlé or Procter & Gamble. Without quick and continuous subscriber adoption after a “launch” a new product or service will be dropped and no amount of a vendor’s entreaties to the carrier will revive it for a second round.
The vendor must do homework first: develop a subscriber segmentation study and act as a social anthropologist, not a technologist. Find out what a mobile consumer in a particular market does when waking up. What portals does he go for info? What social networking service applications do they use? What bloggers do they read? What are the barriers to downloading or purchases and how to overcome them? Where are the main malls or shopping areas for certain segments? Sometimes the subscriber segments “align” with the carriers’ research (if they will share it with vendors) and this is best, since carriers have already substantial data on the market niches.
Also, the vendor must assemble a variety of programs to reach the targeted consumer segment. The list may include social networking sites, bloggers, creating their own website or mobile ads or developing games, point-of-sale training for retail shops, and even educational skits at malls and universities. This “integrated campaign” execution plan is reviewed with the department and a shared budget confirmed, then a marketing agency selected -- the best are those already working closely on the carrier’s in-country campaigns.
Programming or budgeting is done with the agency and it is not completely the case that more sophisticated the market, the more web- or mobile-based programs. Appealing to professionals at IT firms may involve ads at “geek” tech portals, like Celpassion in India. For simple applications like games or music targeted to students and youth, a series of university campus roadshows may be effective like at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Emerging markets have opportunities for mass marketing like at marketplaces and vernacular newspapers, and enormous up-side adoption for carriers like driving SMS rates in Bahasa-speaking regions in Indonesia previously without SMS revenues. The irony is that in my experience, point-of-sale mass programs done in emerging markets were transplanted successfully to mature markets like Japan and Western Europe. 

The other important key is to review the results of adoption rates in a country every month with the carrier, and to change the mix of programming. Since each segment is different, it is best to see what works and what does not. If mobile ads are driving adoption faster, then the budget must be changed immediately to focus more on mobile ads.

Ultimately, the vendor’s dream is to create a viral universe of consumers promoting the mobile product or service to each other without any incentives. Mobile branding and adoption is in the early stage of becoming more science-based than art.

One is reminded of the old adage: “Good advertising you pay for, good PR you pray for.” But if a vendor does its research thoroughly and executes at targeted segments in an integrated campaign, the results may be startlingly positive.

Ray Tsuchiyama used to head global marketing for Tegic Communications/ AOL/Nuance and now has several projects with startups and large multinationals