Leverage mobile for viral marketing

Mobile moving from functional to social engagement tool for consumers, and brands can tap mobile word-of-mouth to carry out viral marketing, note industry watchers.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

COMMUNICASIA, SINGAPORE--Mobile is changing "digital relationships" between people and since the device is "fundamentally" linked to word-of-mouth, it is well-primed for viral marketing and must be carried out in the "right emotional context", note industry insiders.

Adhering to the latter would mean building trust with consumers, for example, by offering opt-in processes and apologizing when mistakes are made, they add.

Discussions on mobile have hitherto encompassed "reach, response and engagement" with consumers, and "love is really the added step", said Nic Hall, consumer insights director at TNS Singapore, during his presentation at the mobile marketing and advertising conference track held here Wednesday at CommunicAsia.

He highlighted that as markets and mobile technologies develop, digital relationships between people--and between people and their devices--will also change.

As more people increasingly share their lives with their friends and family online with ease via mobile, their view of that device shifts from that of a functional to an engagement tool--to "build relationships, to love", Hall explained.

For those who already using their mobiles to build and maintain social bonds, they are the "influencers who are going to be your [brand's] advocates" and the right people to speak to on mobile, he said.

This goes back to mobile being fundamentally linked to the word-of-mouth, and therefore, suited for viral marketing, he noted.

He gave the example of T-Mobile's flash mob dance at Liverpool Street Station, which was part of an ad campaign that encouraged people to share the news through mobile word-of-mouth.

Context and caution
Hall highlighted that when advertising on mobile, businesses should also keep in mind the "right emotional context".

Since the role of word-of-mouth varies across product categories, so will mobile engagement strategies, which are driven by how involved customers are and the level of risk involved with product or service, he explained. For instance, toilet paper is low on both involvement and risk compared to chocolate, which is associated with high involvement but low on risk, he said.

Hall advised that the right emotional approach must also be taken into account, which means looking at the "underlying dynamics" of the needs of the digital consumer.

For example, the digital ad could either enlarge or condense a user's world by being a gateway to all products and services, or bringing these closer to the consumer. It could also increase a user's affiliation with others or his own individuality, he said.

While he noted that industry voices espouse the "positive" of mobile advertising concerning user reach and engagement, Hall said "mistakes" can also been made.

"Love sometimes goes wrong…so use [mobile for] viral marketing but do it cautiously," Hall said.

This is where "saying sorry is so important", he noted, pointing to SingPost's apology when one of its viral marketing campaigns where six post boxes were spray-painted with graffiti in 2010, triggered much public wrath.

Another speaker at the tradeshow, Fabrizio Caruso, vice president of business development and Asia-Pacific general manager for Out There Media, said any mobile marketing strategy will result in brands entering a "social contract" with users, engaging them in the same way they interact with their friends and family.

Hence, building "trust" is essential, Caruso said, emphasizing that companies should provide opt-in processes which request the permission and consent of users to receive ads on their mobile phones.

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