Just ‘Cause You’re Marketing To Mobiles Doesn’t Make It Any Good

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I went to buy some lovely Full Sail LTD 03 beer at my local liquor megamart the other week, and was greeted with the above sign pasted on the front door. Being the adventurous type, I figured I’d turn on my Bluetooth and see what they were up to… but my Bluetooth was already on and by the time I finished that thought, I’d already gotten their first message (I’ll skip over the “What Constitutes Opt-In?” debate).

That first message? A business card with the store’s address and phone number:

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I’ve never called my local liquor megamart, never had the need to and thought “if only I had their phone number!”, nor do I foresee such a need arising in the future. But thanks anyway, I guess. I then got a second message:

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Sweet. If only I liked vodka and/or Red Bull. The targeting isn’t poor, so much as non-existent, but what I really didn’t get was how this was any better than setting up a display of this brand of vodka in the front of the store, just past the entrance, touting the offer. Wouldn’t that have actually been better? That way, it’s not limited to the small subset of folks who bother to turn on their Bluetooth, it doesn’t irritate those whose BT was already on, and didn’t want the message, and anybody who’s interested doesn’t have to go searching through the store for this particular brand of vodka and then find the Red Bull.

What is it about mobile marketing that makes people forget so much of what they know about marketing in general? It’s as if people get so besmirched with the idea that they’re doing something really cool by sending messages to peoples’ mobile devices, that any good sense goes out the window.

I see this quite a bit here in Vegas, and it perplexes me. The casinos spend so much time mining customer data and tracking behavior and all sorts of things through their loyalty cards and direct-mail programs. They’d never think of sending out some sort of promotion that they couldn’t track through their traditional methods, since they’re constantly trying to figure out the most effective ways to get consumers to put more money in their machines. But when it comes to mobile, very few of them do any sort of tracking, or really, do anything very useful.

For instance, I signed up to receive text offers from one major strip casino, and received an SMS offering a 2-for-1 drink at one of their bars. First, this was at 8 in the morning. Second, paying for drinks isn’t that big an issue on the Strip, assuming you’re gambling. Third, if you are the sort of customer who will be lured in by such an offer, how much value do you offer to the casino? Finally, they don’t know anything about me, and don’t have any way to track the responses. Furthermore, I can simply forward the message to anybody who’s interested in some cheap drinks. Perhaps the point for the casino is that any additional traffic is good, which at this point in their business cycle, might be true. But it’s hard to see how effective the message will be — not that the casino has any way to really measure it.

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