Sure, there are cultural differences between consumers in North America and consumers in the UK and Europe. In New York I may greet a woman with a hug, a handshake, or just a smile and a nod. In Paris I may greet a woman with a bise, or a kiss on both cheeks. There’s also a difference between the types of mobile technology infrastructure in each region. I can use a multi-band GSM phone to connect to almost any European network.
However, in the U.S. there are numerous networks that use many different technologies, all incompatible with each other like GSM, iDEN, CDMA, as well as the upcoming EV-DO. Text messaging in Europe is also cheaper than making a phone call, but in the U.S., the reverse is true. By these observations, Europe and the U.S. have completely different mobile marketing environments. But do those observable differences add up to differences in mobile marketing techniques?
Not really, according to Will Hodgeman, CEO of mobile research company M:Metrics. His company measures mobile stats in the U.S., Western Europe, U.K., France, Italy and Spain. “I would say there are more similarities than differences,” he says. Hodgeman points out that while different percentages of people in Europe vs. North America use individual mobile features like ringtones, texting, multimedia messaging, and browsing, the demographics in each region are actually very similar. “Teens for the most part in Western culture are teens. So when you see a preponderance of teens using text messaging in one country, you’re very apt to see the same behavior in other countries,” he adds.
There is also the myth that somehow European mobile marketing is more advanced, and that the U.S. market is slower to adopt more sophisticated practices. And while it certainly is true that marketing via SMS has a head start in Europe due to the economics of cheaper text messaging, it’s too simple to say one region is more advanced than the other. The number of text message users in the U.S. is climbing faster than the number of text message users in Europe.
And while there are more text messaging campaigns in Europe, reflecting the greater number of users, brand spending on text message marketing in the U.S. is actually higher. “[The U.S.] has an ubiquitous environment,” says Laura Marriott, executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association. In North America, Marriott claims marketers can reach “280 million people with one message, whereas in Europe, brands have to create a message per-geography.” That’s one campaign targeting the contiguous 48 states vs. one campaign for Germany, one campaign for the UK, one campaign for the Netherlands, etc.