Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sept 08 - Going mobile

At the time of writing, I have sitting on my desk a call for entries for a mobile marketing award. Having recently returned from a trip to Japan, where the mobile market is infinitely more progressive than ours, I couldn’t help but wonder what Japanese marketers would think of our mobile marketing.

They’d probably shake their heads in disbelief. Virtually every mobile phone plan is Australia is primarily focused on phone calls and text messages. An allowance for data is rare and generally very expensive.

I believe the high cost of mobile web access has held back mobile marketing in this country. Which is why I was so excited by the arrival of the 3g Apple iPhone a few weeks back.

It seems our telcos have finally woken up to the future and introduced phone plans that actually encourage you to go online. Well some of them anyway! My plan includes a very generous data allowance. Sadly competitor plans do not.

So will the iPhone finally give our local mobile marketing industry a much needed boost? I think it will. As long as you have a plan with a decent data allowance.

Over a million iPhones were sold around the world on the weekend the phone was launched. A million! It took almost three months for the first generation iPhone to hit that sales target. Here in Australia, as we all know, it sold out across the country on the day it was launched.

So what are people doing with their iPhones? Well I can’t speak for everyone else, but since I got mine I regularly go online, as well as checking and replying to email when I’m out of the office. I would never have done this before, because the cost of doing it was prohibitive. Now it doesn’t cost me a cent!

If I’m behaving in this way, I’m pretty sure a hell of a lot of other people are too.

And in the same way that Apple kick started digital music with their highly successful iTunes Store, they’re doing the same thing for mobile internet with their App Store, which was launched on the same day as iPhone.

For those who are not familiar with it, the Apple App Store has literally hundreds of applications developed specifically for the iPhone. These range from games to widgets to useful business tools.

Some Apps you pay for, some are free, but I’d imagine every iPhone owner has downloaded something from the Store. In fact, over 10 million of them were downloaded over the launch weekend alone!

One of the most popular Apps is the iPint. This is a no-charge branded application developed by English ad agency Beattie McGuinness Bungay for their beer client, Carling.

This fun little app has literally thousands of people spending time having fun with the Carling brand and a virtual pint of the product. Who could have foreseen this kind of brand messaging even as recently as just a few months ago?

Asked about the iPint, and being seen an a first mover in the branded apps market, Carling’s marketing director, Nic Young, said, "Innovation is at the heart of the Carling brand -- through product developments like an indicator on our can that turns blue when it is perfectly chilled -- but also through emerging new technologies.”

Writing on the Financial Times’ blog, tech commentator Richard Walters also talked up the iPint; “It looks like Beattie McGuinness Bungay is the first to have cracked the code for using Apple’s new App Store as a vehicle for corporate sponsorship.

The free game it produced for Carling has made it into the top ten list of most-downloaded free apps. That puts it ahead of things like Google’s new mobile search application and MySpace.You can bet that every adland tech geek with a taste for the viral is even now switching his or her attention to the latest Apple toy.”

He’s not wrong either. Within ten minutes of me downloading and playing with the iPint, I was already thinking of an idea for an automotive client. All I need to do is get them interested in the idea. Which won’t be easy, given the slow take up of mobile internet use in this country.

English blogger the Bubbler believes that, “Many in the technology industry see significant potential in the iPhone as a standalone computing platform.” He writes that, “Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the investment firm, has set up a $100 million fund purely for investment in iPhone-related software companies.”

With that kind of money floating around, you’d imagine the mobile marketing industry will be rubbing their hands with glee, as after many false dawns, they finally start to see their industry becoming a key channel in the marketing mix.

Richard Walters
The Bubbler
The App Store


Jay said...

We will see a big jump in Iphone applications when(if) a Flash player is built for the iphone.

Curerntly Apple and Adobe have been unable to come to an arrangement, some say they never will if Apple attempts to protect and promote it's own development standard - a very un-apple thing to do if you ask me!

Stan Lee said...

Good point Jay. Very un-Apple like. However people are currently developing iPhone apps like crazy at the moment. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Gavin Heaton said...

That is not un-Apple like! Apple are well known for proprietary software. The app store is a big step forward, but it still has some way to go before it really gets a world of developers really tapping in. That is when the iPhone will really begin to go head to head with the BlackBerry.

You would have thought they had learned their lesson by now -- open beats closed. That is how IBM/Microsoft trounced a superior platform before. And it can easily happen again -- no matter how cool the product. Metcalfe's law still wins.