Is mobile marketing is the next big thing? Or is it the next big annoying intrusion?
That is the question.
The answer may come from Google. (Of course.)
There is an increasing amount of chatter about the so-called GPhone. It is reported to be in prototype stage and not likely to debut for at least another year.
Here's why this is interesting: It seems Google doesn't intend to innovate the handset like Apple did. Google has its sights set on reinventing the very business model that underpins the mobile phone market.
Recent news reports suggest Google intends to disrupt the category by introducing an advertising driven service - e.g., free calls in exchange for ads on your phone. Central to Google's strategy is its goal to create the software for a new open-source mobile operating system that will challenge Windows Mobile and, over time, wrest control from AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, et al over the software and services that can be installed on our cell phones. (Think about it...the current model is akin to HP or Dell restricting the applications you're allowed to install on your laptop.)
Can Google succeed against huge established players? (I don't know...let's Google "AOL" and see if that offers a clue.)
Will people tolerate ads to get better service for free? (I don't know... but perhaps some of the nearly 100 million folks on My Space and Facebook have an opinion on this.)
Here's what I do believe: Mobile is here. It's going to get smarter and bigger. Marketers cannot ignore it.
So what can marketers do in the meantime? At a minimum, design a mobile element into every every campaign -- e.g., a simple invitation in each ad -- "text 1234 to get the inside scoop." When you think about it, there's a strong likelihood that people have their phone by their side while reading a magazine, waiting at a bus shelter, having a beer in a bar, walking through an airport, listening to the radio and watching TV. Why not replace the obligatory website call to action with a mobile call to action? (Who by now does not know how to find a company online?) This simple adjustment has the power to turn off-line media into opt-in, interactive media.