Marketing of products and services through text messages is intrusive – this was the collective opinion of experts present at OgilvyOne’s Digital Summit ‘Verge’, which was held in Mumbai on February 7. Experts, however, agreed that the use of SMSes to vote for one’s favourite Indian Idol or use of such innovative concepts was interesting.
A panel discussion on ‘Mobile Marketing – Intrusive or Interactive?’ saw experts discussing the whether mobile marketing was intrusive or interactive. The panel was moderated by Kent Wertime, CEO, OgilvyOne, Asia Pacific, while the speakers included Naveen Chopra, Chief Marketing Officer, Hutchison Essar Ltd; Lloyd Mathias, Director Marketing – India, Mobile Devices, Motorola India; Raj Singh, Executive Director, ActiveMedia Technology; Upendra Namburi, Vice-President, Product Head-eBanking and Non Branch Delivery, ABN AMRO; and Neville Taraporewalla, Director and Country General Manager, Yahoo! India.
Hutch’s Chopra agreed that consumers looked at unsolicited text messages as an irritation, but also emphatically maintained that in many cases the service provider was blamed for someone else’s wrongdoing. He explained that Hutch was doing its bit by giving full page advertisements on their commitment to their consumers as well as respecting the consumer’s right for a ‘DND – Do not disturb’ facility.
Namburi of ABN AMRO said that most of the SMSes for marketing were sent by local retailers and players and that this should not be overlooked. Taraporewalla showed that mobile marketing could be interesting when he gave the example of ‘Oye Bubbly’. He added, “We are a very responsible media house. We haven’t been intrusive and at the same time, have come up with promotions for clients that have worked.”
Wertime, who moderated the proceedings, posed the question to the speakers whether most of the clients possessed the expertise to utilise the medium responsibly and effectively, to which Taraporewalla replied, “We are extremely protective of our database and are aware that a slight error in the nature of the communication can lead to brand dissonance. So we are watchful while dealing with our clients.”
Motorola’s Mathias felt that it was high time mobile was treated as a separate medium in itself. While quoting an example of how the medium could be used interestingly, Mathias said, “In due course, marketing will have to look beyond SMS as the only way to use mobile for marketing, and one of the next big thing can be a case of cricket scores or news or stock information being received through the mobile when it is idle as per the user’s preferences. This would not be a paid service and would be a great example of how the mobile can be a live interactive device.”
Overall there was agreement that SMS spam was an issue with consumers and that the legislation should soon do something about it. That the industry is also taking initiatives in this regard was assured too. The key, according to Mathias, would be to use the medium effectively without irritating the consumer.
Interesting comments from the audience included the possibility to skip or block messages similar to what is possible in e-mails and television through TiVo, but whether this would be possible is left to the technology experts to work on. ActiveMedia Technology’s Singh also maintained that clients had a mentality of buying reach and this boiled down to databases and that was where the problem lay. According to him, “The content team should develop embedded messages in new ways that don’t disturb the consumer.”
Taraporewalla explained that the more responsible brands did respect consumer sentiments and responded accordingly. With Hutch’s DND mechanism in place, Chopra said that there should be a certain sense of responsibility shown – which exists but not as much as is needed. Drawing an analogy between Hutch and a pipe, Chopra said, “We would like to keep our pipe essentially clean.”
Taraporewalla gave his assent saying that database sharing was a very dangerous trend and should be checked. Chopra also cited the example that Hutch had started cricket alerts, which would be interesting to the consumers while overall everyone agreed that the game to be played would be of relevance to the consumer. Namburi pointed at an interesting situation wherein a mobile could become a wallet and a payment mechanism would be possible through it.
In a nutshell, clients using mobile as a marketing medium surely need to make the communication more interesting so that the consumer lifts the ‘DND’ order and looks forward to the message with interest. ‘It’s all about being relevant and being responsible to the consumer’ – in short, that was the message beeped and it made sense to everyone.