Jun 17, 2008

Email Marketing, Mobile Devices, and Spam

I recently attended an AiMA event about mobile marketing. It was a nice event, where marketers seemed really excited about all the possibilities with mobile. The panelists were from Google, Yahoo, Air2Web, and XOsphere. The moderator was from Weather.com.

Anyway, when the event began, the moderator asked the audience what kind of questions we wanted the panelists to address. People shouted out about UPC codes, coupons, and geo-location and such. I so badly wanted to ask them to address the dreaded "s-p-a-m" issue, but decided not to spoil the party (I’m glad I didn’t, because it was such a positive event).

But my concerns have always been about mobile spam…

Yes, I know mobile spam is inevitable. More specifically, I wanted insight into whether or not the infrastructure is in place to deal with spam. It took a while for ISPs to refine their process and get feedback loops in place. How far along are the wireless providers? What are the laws? I’ve received lots of calls from mobile marketing vendors who want to partner with us. But none of them can give me a straight answer about the spam issue.

Laura Atkins has some interesting insight into mobile email marketing that I had never considered before. We all know the FTC has got their CAN-SPAM rules to govern email marketing over the inter-tubes. But did you know the FCC has their own rules for marketing wirelessly? Find out what that means for ESPs and marketers…


Back to the event. The moderators had some great case studies about mobile marketing. My takeaways were that UPC codes sent to mobile devices are cool, but most of the laser scanner thingies inside stores can’t scan through your glossy cell phone screen. It was either Google or Yahoo that recommended you take a simple text-only approach like, "Mention the word MOTHER at the cash register for a 25% mother’s day discount."

Someone else mentioned a promo from a whiskey company that put an ad on the bottom of their drink coasters at a bar. You’d text them a message, and they’d send you back a dirty joke, or pickup line or something. Can’t remember the specifics, but it was creative.

Most recommendations were along the lines of "keep it simple" and "keep the download size small" and "try plain-text" and "keep it targeted and relevant." Reminds me of the early email marketing days, and the even earlier banner ad days. Mobile marketing is history repeating itself. It’s an exciting time, but it seems like it’ll take some time to iron out all the wrinkles.

Windows Mobile HTML email renderingIf you’re toying with mobile marketing campaigns now, and you’re wondering how they look, you can preview them in MailChimp’s Inbox Inspector. We just added Blackberry, Windows Mobile 5, and Windows Mobile 6 previews to our screenshot service.