Last Updated: November 23, 2020

When advertisers first began experimenting with text messages, many people worried that their cell phones would soon be assaulted by spam, just as their e-mail accounts had been.

Fortunately, cell-phone providers recognized this threat as well. They decided to police their own networks, establishing guidelines and best practices for mobile advertising. As a result, cell-phone users throughout North America and Europe do not have to deal with mobile phone spam. Mobile text ads are generally opt-in, and users can text STOP to any message they’re tired of receiving.

This development has not only been great for consumers, but for marketers as well, since it increases the value of the advertising that does get through. The ads that reach customers on mobile phones are actually read—or at least acknowledged—and not just virtually “thrown away.”

What is mobile marketing?

Mobile marketing encompasses all those activities which connect advertisers to consumers through mobile devices and networks. Mobile devices include phones, PDAs, media devices, portable gaming consoles, tablet computers—and, of course, those devices which function as all of the above. Some mobile devices may only be open to a few advertising channels (for example, a basic cell phone can receive text messages); while other devices support many additional possibilities, including mobile Internet access, video messaging, and the ability to actively initiate and interact with advertising (for example, by scanning a QR code).

Who implements mobile marketing?

As mobile devices become increasingly common, more companies are engaging in mobile marketing. The Mobile Marketing Association, a global trade association that promotes mobile marketing, represents more than 700 members, including service providers, advertisers, and brands from a variety of industries.

Some examples of companies and industries active in mobile marketing include:

Mobile Marketing Methods

  • Short Message Service (SMS)
  • Multimedia Message Service (MMS)
  • Quick Response (QR) Codes
  • Location-based Services (LBS)
  • Push notifications
  • Mobile advergaming
  • Google, Yahoo, and other internet-based companies
  • Technology companies such as Microsoft and Apple—indeed, Apple’s iProducts have been directly responsible for much of today’s mobile computing environment
  • News media companies, including CBS, the New York Times, and the Washington Post
  • Sports media companies, including ESPN
  • Retailers, including Best Buy and Target (at Best Buy, you can walk down the aisles scanning QR codes to access online information as you shop)
  • Brands, including Proctor & Gamble and Coca-Cola

For what kinds of customers is mobile marketing effective?

As of April 2012, mobile devices were in use by some 234 million Americans (out of a total population of 312+ million), with 107 million of these using smartphones. The class of smartphone users—about a third of the U.S. population now, and projected to be more than half of the population by 2015—are not defined by demographics (age, race, or class), but by shared behaviors.

At the top of shared behaviors is media “snacking”—users tune in frequently for short periods of time (such as while waiting in a line), and are quick to change from one usage to another whenever there’s a dull moment. This pursuit of instant gratification (not just for entertainment, but also for completing practical tasks, such as getting information on a product) results in an increased consumption of content—and therefore, more points of contact for marketers.

Fun Facts About Mobile Phone Users

  • 74.1% use text messaging
  • 50.2% download apps
  • 49% use a web browser
  • 36% access social networking
  • 33.1% play games
  • 25.8% listen to music on phone

Source: comScore, Inc.

Meanwhile, iPad users number some 50 million. The most common age group of users is 25-44, divided nearly evenly between men and women. Additionally, iPad users tend to make somewhat more money than the average population, and those users tend to be regular travelers who often use their iPads on airlines, trains, and buses.

Smartphone and iPad users respond differently to mobile advertising. For most mobile device users, being informative was perceived to be the most important quality in an ad, followed by relevance. In contrast, iPad tablet users are more likely to pay attention to interactive ads with striking colors and place less emphasis on content.

How is a mobile marketing campaign developed?

When developing a mobile marketing campaign, marketers should develop multiple channels, while keeping their message consistent throughout (See also Integrated Marketing). The easiest channel to start with is short message service (SMS)—basically, texting customers. SMS—and its souped-up companion, multimedia message service (MMS)—is an opt-in service, so companies already know their marketing messages are viewed by a receptive audience.

About 98 percent of all SMS messages are read (95 percent within 15 minutes), so this is a very receptive market. But SMS messages must be extremely targeted and brief to meet text size limits (usually 160 characters). Copy must communicate:

  1. What is the product/service?
  2. What is the benefit for the consumer?
  3. How does the customer take action?

In order to keep an audience receptive, businesses typically make the message interactive. For example, you can take a poll on upcoming products or offers, to find out what the customer is most interested in—and customers like providing feedback. Also, keep track of your opt-out rates: opt-outs may be a signal that you’re messaging too often (or conversely, an absence of opt-outs is a signal that you can increase your message frequency). Start with two to four messages each month, and then adjust according to customer response.

QR Code Example

Outside of SMS messages, mobile marketing has also begun to incorporate newer technoloqies. QR codes (an example of which is featured to your right) are symbols that can be scanned by mobile devices to take them to specific content. Such content can be primarily informational (perhaps describing the features of the product), but can also include a persuasive call to action. Remember, if the customer has scanned the QR code, he or she is already interested in the product.

What career titles work with mobile marketing strategies?

Marketing Manager

What do they do?

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Manager
    Median annual pay: $116,010
    Top 10%: $187,199+
  • Advertising Manager
    Median annual pay: $87,650
    Top 10%: $186,630
  • Software Developer (Applications)
    Median annual pay: $89,280
    Top 10%: $136,490

Source: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • identify opportunities for mobile messaging, and pitch/promote mobile campaigns to their client(s)
  • initiate and evalutate market research about mobile advertising channels, and use that data to develop marketing strategies
  • create and assign teams to take charge of various mobile messages, including SMS services, mobile web pages, and QR landing pages
  • coordinate the efforts of various teams to maintain a consistent marketing message
Education and Skills

Marketing managers must have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or business management, and be current on technology trends in the business. They should have at least three years’ experience managing teams in advertising, sales, or related fields. If it doesn’t already, managers’ educational background should include classes in marketing, market research, consumer behavior, and business management.

Advertising Account Manager

What do they do?
  • pitch creative ideas for individual mobile marketing accounts
  • write copy for SMS services, and/or prepare media for MMS services
  • design advertisements for mobile web browsing
  • design promotional pages accessed through QR codes
Education and Skills

Advertising account managers typically require a bachelor’s degree in advertising, marketing, or sometimes journalism. Their educational background will also encompass communication methods and technology, visual arts, and multimedia, as well as market research and consumer behavior. Account managers often begin their careers as interns while still in school.

Software Developer - Mobile Applications

What do they do?
  • design a variety of applications for mobile platforms
  • develop applications to enhance consumer shopping, such as programs that locate places of interest, provide promotional information, or share reviews
  • ensure that applications are functioning as planned throughout implementation, and make necessary modifications
  • coordinate programmers working on a project, and manage communication between the programming team and the client (or with a liaison who works as the go-between between the IT and marketing departments)
Education and Skills

Software developers tend to have degrees in computer science, software engineering, or a related field; as well as a background in their target industry (i.e., finance if developing programs for banks, or marketing if developing marketing applications). They also must have a background in programming, and keep current with the programming languages common to their industry.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

Effective mobile marketing requires an understanding of a continuously evolving market, and its interactions with customers, communication, and technology. A marketing program will prepare you to enter this changing world and contribute to its growth.

A marketing program will train you in how to better understand how customers make decisions, and how they interact with market messages—which are increasingly delivered through mobile devices. Courses in market research will teach you how to segment consumers and identify changes and opportunities in customer demand. Courses in consumer behavior will train you to predict how customers will respond to different communications and incentives, and how the communication channel (print, internet, mobile, etc.) impacts the communications content.

Communication is a core skill of all kinds of marketing, and therefore a significant component of a marketing program. You’ll learn how to use verbal, graphic, and multimedia messages to communicate clearly and persuasively, under a variety of different situations and constraints (such as a 160-character limit).

A marketing program will also teach about aspects of business organization and management, including product development, distribution, pricing, and promotion. You’ll learn the basic leadership skills required to coordinate and manage teams, and how to align goals so that marketing messages remain consistent among all the teams being utilized.

To learn more about what a marketing school can do for you, request information from schools with degrees in marketing, and opt in to an exciting and lucrative future.