Then there’s Type B, the Pragmatists. For Pragmatists, mobile marketing is a means to a concrete, measurable goal. Often, mobile will be an experimental part of a media mix that is firmly grounded in a traditional interactive media buy. The Pragmatist has entered mobile not because it is cool, but because it has the potential to achieve certain marketing goals that other media miss. The Pragmatist is likely to have a limited budget and a low tolerance for risk. Results will be scrutinized and mobile’s contribution will be compared to the contribution of other channels. It is hard to make a mobile program work for the Pragmatist, but it is often worth the effort, because success is built on a solid foundation of measurable results.
Which kind of marketer are you? There’s a mobile niche for each type, and determining your niche depends on where you stand in relation to the Gee Whiz Gap. The cold hard truth is that despite the coolness factor and the CTIA hype, relatively few Americans have the types of phones that allow them to accomplish advanced mobile tasks like downloading complicated applications and viewing mobile video. Of those that have phones with these capabilities, the percentages of consumers who actually use those functions is even smaller.
The numbers are increasing, but if you are looking for mass reach, you will find yourself in the Pragmatist camp, and will want to stay away from advanced mobile applications that require downloads or videos. Simple text messaging remains the single best tool of the Pragmatist marketer. There is a wide variety of very cool promotional tactics open to you using simple text messaging, including alerts, voting, and interactive quizzes. And enough Americans now have and use text messaging that, as a Pragmatist, you have a good shot at getting the reach and results you crave.
And if you are, in fact, a Cool Kid, the Gee Whiz Gap is your friend. There has never been a better time to experiment with cutting-edge technology. The wave of innovation unleashed by the boom in mobile will work to your advantage. Technology companies will compete for your business, and they will engage in a virtual dance-off to demonstrate that their wares are the coolest. The Cool Kids may still use text messaging as the core of a mobile promotion, but they may just as easily create “mobisodes,” short video clips optimized for viewing on a mobile phone.
The real marketing dream, however, is the rare effort that manages to straddle the worlds of the Cool Kids and the Pragmatists. If you are really ambitious, this is how to shoot the mobile moon: Starting on the Pragmatist side, select a mobile technology that is just far out enough that it would also capture the imagination of the Cool Kids. If you find the right balance, then your promotion will hit the sweet spot on the consumer’s adoption curve, just like Apple did when it launched the Ipod. Such successes may come only once a generation, but if it happens anywhere, it could well happen out on the mobile frontier.