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Are brands starting to see value in mobile?

By Christian Louca

So are brands finally starting to sit up and take notice of the mobile medium, integrating it into their marketing strategies? It seems so.

At a recent Mobile Marketing Association event in London, this was just one of the many positive things that I heard from the brand and agency speakers, including Steve Wing from Guardian News and Media, who gave us this gem.

From our experience creating, implementing and managing mobile marketing campaigns across Europe for companies including Kraft Foods, Nike, Mercedes-Benz and Coca-Cola, we are seeing an increasing trend towards the integration of mobile into brands' overall marketing plans.

If we look at the entire marketing spectrum -- print, radio, television, online and outdoor -- it is clear that mobile has the ability to interweave and link with all channels, and to make traditional campaigns truly interactive and measurable.

In an era of time-pressed consumers living life on the go and with economic pressures imposing on brands everywhere, there is a growing need to establish cut-through in the market, and to create an easy dialogue of interaction with the consumer.

As budgets tighten and brands look for ways to reduce cost and increase ROI, mobile provides the solution to these issues. It is a unique marketing tool, allowing brands to specifically target communications to the consumer, tailoring and personalizing offers and achieving a higher rate of conversion.

Mobile represents the one communication channel that lets the consumer control, encourage and define the interactions with their chosen brand, wherever and whenever they want.

So how is mobile going to develop over the next few years? What are the key areas to look out for?

In my eyes, location is going to emerge as one of the key trends in 2009.

Successful marketing campaigns need to take context into consideration: location provides the ultimate context.

Making advertising and services location-aware opens up even greater opportunities to individually tailor offers to consumers -- it is the best targeting mechanism around.

Off-portal mobile Internet will also grow quickly this year as more consumers demand content on-the-go via the mobile phone.

According to Nielsen Research, BBC Weather, Sky Sports and Gmail have a greater reach on the mobile Internet than they do on the wired Internet.

Whilst wireless carriers have done a fantastic job at being the main source providing consumers with compelling content just like the Microsofts, AOLs and Yahoos were online back in the 1990s, we will see a much bigger world open up beyond the walled gardens.

Another area that carriers and handset companies have been working on is how to turn the real estate of the mobile screen into a viable advertising channel in its own right.

New touch-screen handsets allow users to customize their phones with applications and widgets. This is another way to deliver highly targeted marketing.

For brands, this is an opportunity to create their own widgets, letting them have a dialogue with their audience that's totally interactive and unique to mobile.

Mobile vouchers are also on the increase and look set to develop in this time of heightened economic tension, with Juniper Research recently publishing a prediction that money saving coupons issued via mobile will increase by 30 percent over the next two years.

Such mobile vouchers have proven to be an effective and very tangible way of getting consumers to respond, and brands such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's are already using them as part of their international campaigns. They are very flexible and scalable and when done well, the results are very impressive.

According to ABI Research, mobile marketing revenues will increase to more than $24 billion worldwide in 2013, stimulated by flat-rate data plans, advertising-supported mobile search and content services.

Looking at mobile advertising separately, CCS Insight believes that by the end of 2009 annual mobile advertising revenue in Western Europe will amount to ?236 million, with mobile search and off-portal advertising representing the largest proportion of this sum.

Clearly, mobile offers brands the five pillars of success: reach, targeting, engagement, virability and transaction.

As the tools and applications used to deliver mobile marketing campaigns become more advanced, customers will be able to participate in a feature-rich, personal and immersive brand experience.

As Chris Carmichael from British Airways said at the same MMA event, "The market is there for mobile and it's getting stronger every day."

Christian Louca is U.K. country manager and head of publishers at full-service mobile marketing agency The YOC Group, London. Reach him at .