I’d like to talk about mobile marketing. Not the telephonic buzz-builder (egad, how I loathe those emetic ringtones and the inanity of text messaging). Rather, I am talking about the use of special vehicles (usually of the 18-wheeler variety) that crisscross the country for PR value. This is an area where PR and marketing overlap, and I am claiming the shared territory for the PR world.
Mobile marketing is not a new concept, per se – the oldest known mobile marketing promotion involved the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, a hot dog-shaped car first introduced in 1936. Variations on the Wienermobile have been presented over the years and it is still on the road. The Kissmobile, a large truck featuring three humongous Hershey’s Kisses, is perhaps the second-best known mobile marketing vehicle. Both the Wienermobile and Kissmobile turn up at scores of special events annually where their respective product lines are being promoted. These can include urban centers, suburban malls, and even college campuses.
What are the core ingredients for a successful mobile marketing campaign? Let’s ask an industry leader to share his brainpower on this subject.
"The first ingredient is a good, solid plan,” says Larry Borden, CEO of The Borden Agency, a Philadelphia company specializing in mobile marketing. “My good friend Confucius once said: Failing to plan is planning to fail. You must identify what it is you want to accomplish, how much you are willing to spend and how many people you want to impact and once you impact them, what you want them to do. Once established its time to put the plan together.”
Many PR professionals (who only know traditional let’s-call-the-press ploys) have no experience here, so a bit of outsourcing might not be a bad idea.
“Although it sounds simple, mobile marketing is quite complex,” continues Borden. “For this reason, we recommend hiring a mobile marketing consultant or an agency to objectively review your plan and offer several solutions that will help you achieve your plan. A good agency will listen to you, offer several solutions, budgets, vehicle designs and program components. They will also be able to show you how their ideas will tie back into your goals and objectives.”
Mobile marketing requires a considerable number of tools, not the least being the vehicle itself. Factor in the costs associated with transportation (including fuel, insurance, personnel), it might seem that mobile marketing is too expensive. Or is it?
“It depends on how creative you can be,” adds Borden. “I’ve seen local printing companies retrofit small trailers so they can take their print shops to their customers, dentist’s outfit UPS-style vans, boutiques take their wares to the state fair and on and on. Yes it can be costly, but so can anything else.”
So what can mobile marketing offer that other traditional PR approaches cannot? “I would not look at mobile marketing as what can ‘it’ offer that traditional ‘PR’ cannot,” diplomatically comments Borden. “Rather, I would look at it as ‘How can mobile marketing help boost my PR initiatives?’ Mobile marketing is the sacred pill that if done properly can ‘boost’ results.”
Borden toots his own mobile marketing horn with a successful case study of his own creation: “For example, Avon does an enormous amount PR and they get good results from it. Their products are consistently in magazines and they occasionally receive television hits. The Avon Let’s Talk Beauty Tour (a mobile marketing tour coordinated by The Borden Agency) is receiving three-to-seven minute in studio segments, in major markets to discuss nothing but Avon. The tour and its components are more unique therefore more compelling then a static press release. It’s an actual event. It’s perceived by the media to be of importance due to the grandeur of the program, the uniqueness of the program and the offerings of the program. In conclusion, a mobile marketing campaign can enhance a PR campaign, break through the clutter of press releases and show perceived value to an editor or producer looking to fill space and time.”
Furthermore, mobile marketing isn’t just for consumer goods. The B2B crowd can have 18 wheels worth of fun, too.
“Business to business marketers can benefit tremendously with mobile marketing,” states Borden. “Not only can it double as a tradeshow exhibit, PR machine, buzz builder and hospitality suite. It can also become a sales generator. For example, our client General Electric built a mobile marketing program to support their sales team across the country. Instead of having potential buyers travel to their offices, they brought their offices to them. At one stop, they parked the vehicle in Wal-Mart’s parking lot. Everyone from the CEO to the VP of Finance came into the vehicle for a sales pitch and they walked away with an order that would make you fall out of your chair. Could you imagine how long it would take to get the entire executive team at Wal-Mart to come to your offices? But take your offices to them and watch the sales come pouring in.”
(Phil Hall is the former president of Open City Communications, a New York PR agency, and former editor of PR News. His latest book "The New PR" will be released later this year from Larstan Publishing.)