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SXSW: Making the case for marketing-as-a-service

By Doug Stovall

In the past two weeks I attended Mobile World Congress and South by Southwest (SXSW). While many of the same players were involved in both shows, the contrast in focus for the two events was evident.

MWC is about the ?what? of mobile marketing. SXSW is about the ?how.?

SXSW is certainly a show for doing things such as using 3D printers to make edible cookies. But more so, it is a show for asking questions and getting answers. In the sessions I attended, there were two major questions on marketers? mind.

When does marketing become creepy?
With keynotes from Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, and a 60 Minutes CBS expose of data brokers that aired March 9 night, it is no surprise that a major question of the show revolved around privacy, Big Data and its impact on mobile marketing.

Brands and agencies are wrestling with the question of when personalized marketing based on consumer data crosses the line from relevant and helpful to creepy and intrusive.

With more consumer data available than ever before, marketers feel a responsibility to use that information to deliver content that is tailored to a specific individual.

Mobile marketing can deliver content directly to a specific consumer based on her immediate needs, actions or location.

But when does that tailored message cross the line from helpful to Big Brother?

Can marketers present content that is so specifically targeted that consumers find it creepy and disengage from the brand?

There was no set consensus on this question.

Hipcricket COO Doug Stovall sits on a Team Detroit-sponsored panel discussion on marketing as a service

Many presenters offered an understanding of consumer behavior that indicated that most do not even register the ?creepy factor.?

In fact, many were of the opinion that the more information that a consumer provides, the greater the level of tailoring they expect from brands.

Like the content itself, your mobile marketing strategy needs to be tailored to fit each consumer.

Use the data you have to make the determination of how tailored the message should be. Is the consumer likely to be receptive or hostile to highly tailored content? This way, you can engage the consumer on his or her terms without fear of crossing the line into creepiness.

Who has the power in brand-consumer relationships?
Mobile gives brand marketers a direct path to the consumer. It also gives consumers direct access to brands and the ability to quickly compare information between companies.

With these new dynamics, who holds marketing power: brands or consumers?

As much as it might hurt our egos, we need to realize that we marketers are no longer the master. The customer is the master.

Mobile has fundamentally shifted the balance of marketing power and loyalty. Customers no longer serve brands. Brands serve customers. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Brands now have the opportunity to become more deeply engrained in consumers? lives because consumers have been invited them in.

To capitalize on this opportunity, brands need to revision their marketing to be marketing as a service.

Marketing as a service can mean many things depending on the brand. But, in general, it means that if you do nice things for people, someone will buy your product or service. It is about providing utility and value to your customers.

Kellogg's advertisement used to demonstrate an outdated concept of loyalty

A great example discussed in a March 7 panel hosted by Team Detroit is Kellogg?s. The panel showed an old Kellogg?s ad that highlighted the now- outdated sense of customer loyalty. That was contrasted with Kellogg?s current mobile marketing efforts.

Kellogg?s mobile app provides great utility to the customer. It provides meal plans and full shopping lists to help customers achieve their goal weight. Customers know exactly what to get, how to make it and how it will affect their overall diet efforts.

Combine this with Kellogg?s mobile-based rewards program and the consumer gets value and Kellogg?s receives loyalty. Once the consumer is invested, they cannot live without the service.

These two questions go hand-in-hand.

MARKETING AS A SERVICE only works when brands collect and correctly analyze customer data to provide personalize and relevant content. How they handle that data and how personalized they make the content determines the level of customer loyalty and engagement.

No one at SXSW had all the answers.

But the fact that we are now asking these types of questions, as opposed to questioning the simple purpose of mobile, shows how important mobile marketing is. It is a sign of market maturation and an omen of good things to come.

Doug Stovall is chief operating officer of Hipcricket, Bellevue, WA. Reach him at .