Many people use mobile marketing and mobile advertising as synonyms. Even I’ve been caught taking the shortcut and lumping the two together. However, they are not. And that’s an important distinction.
Mobile Marketing, or the act of using mobile to market your product or service, is definitely here and doing well. This is the activity that (at least in Chicago) I’m starting to see pop up everywhere. I was out for Mexican food on New Years Eve, and the waitress tried to get me to sign up for their mobile coupon club. It’s at the barbershop, grocery store and lots of the little boutiques that dot my neighborhood. Mobile is really good for this type of activity; a close, personal interaction directly between brand and consumer.
Mobile Advertising, however, is still in its infancy. I read a great article about why that is and the pitfalls we should avoid as usage grows. The big stumbling block is two fold: fragmentation (as each carrier has different standards, along with the multitude of phone models available at any given point in time) as well as compelling creative standards (there’s no equivalent of the banner ad).
The two activities have polar opposite advantages and disadvantages. In mobile marketing, the marketer owns the relationship but reaches a smaller audience initially as they grow their own database of phone numbers. In mobile advertising, someone else owns the relationship but the marketer gains access to a much larger network of people faster.
While the road may be a little slower, it would be my recommendation that businesses looking to experiment with mobile take the path of mobile marketing and build their own database while controlling the relationship. Not only does this prove (in my mind) to be the better longer term solution, but also avoids all the uncertainty and growth pains that mobile advertising is going through.