Over the past three years, mobility has exploded, creating an attractive advertising channel. 2013 was truly a tipping point, with more than 61 percent of all Americans and over 1.4 billion people worldwide now owning a smartphone – and research firm Ovum expects the number of mobile messages (think text messages and those sent over third-party apps like Snapchat, iMessage, BBM and Facebook Messenger) “transacted” to cross 70 trillion by the end of 2014. As consumers increasingly spend time on smartphones and, specifically, mobile messaging, marketers are faced with the opportunity and challenge of how to seamlessly get their brand in front of such a large and active group of users. Unfortunately, according to a study done last year by Forrester for mobile ad network TapJoy, current strategies are not providing much value. The study revealed that 70 percent of people found in-app ads "interruptive" and, of those who pay attention to the ads, only 12 percent found them engaging. Clearly, marketers are not making the best impression with current strategies.
In 2010, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said “mobile advertising really sucks,” but, with the exploding popularity of mobile messaging, it doesn’t have to. Interestingly, Ovum also found 2014 will be a “tipping point” for mass adoption of mobile messaging, firmly replacing traditional phone calls and even email as the most popular way of communicating. As advertisers search for how to reach consumers over mobile, messaging likely holds the key.
Here are three ways companies can leverage messaging apps to seamlessly integrate their brand into the mobile experience:
- Mobilize Your Content
The rising popularity of emoji and stickers cannot be ignored. One mobile messaging company based in Asia, Line, revealed in August it is bringing in upwards of $10 million per month from the sale of sticker packs to its users. Companies and apps like Kik, Facebook and Viber have also taken to the trend, releasing their own free or paid custom sticker and emoji content. These converging forces –the mass movement of consumers towards mobile messaging and the growing popularity of stickers and emoticons –present an enormous opportunity for advertisers.
Think about it: brands are everywhere from the clothes on our backs to how we decorate our homes. Tapping into the affection consumers have for branded items, marketers can find their way into mobile messaging by leveraging their own content, without disrupting the user experience. Some brands and entertainers are already thinking creatively about the opportunity - Paul McCartney has taken advantage of messaging apps to market his music; he recently joined LINE to promote his newest album, offering users exclusive McCartney stickers.
- Revenue-Sharing Partnerships
WeChat, another popular messaging app in Asia, shows an additional avenue for advertisers to reach consumers over mobile messaging. Some well-known brands like Starbucks, Nike, Intel, and Louis Vuitton, have formed revenue-sharing partnerships in which WeChat users can make real purchases via the app. Marketers should consider these types of smart tie-ins that raise visibility of the brand and contribute directly to sales and the bottom line.
- Make it Official
To invoke WeChat again, some messaging apps have started to embrace marketers by courting their brands through custom, integrated channels. In August 2012, WeChat launched “official” accounts, allowing companies to message users directly through targeted push messages. Over the channel, companies are sending news, coupons, offers and promotions via mobile messages, creating a “VIP” cluster for consumers on the receiving end. Creating official accounts on messaging apps offers advertisers an effective way to reach their target audience while giving consumers the choice of whether or not to view that channel. Instead of “spammy” direct messages, consumers can choose to pop in and out of the brand channel, getting the information when, where and how they want it.
According to the Ovum research cited earlier, the number of users on mobile messaging is expected to cross two billion by the end of this year, fueled primarily by third party apps, opening a window of opportunity for marketers. But, that window will start closing as more brands warm up to the opportunity at hand. Moving into 2014, mobile advertising finally doesn’t have to suck -It’s up to brands to take advantage of the chance in front of them.