Some do, for sure. Take Turkish operator Turkcell. Last time I looked, its database of subscribers who had positively opted in to mobile marketing campaigns numbered 7.6 million. Brands can target offers at the database, and, in return, the subscribers receive a little free credit, though not much. Turkcell says the main incentive is that they will receive targeted offers that are relevant to their needs and preferences.
Elsewhere, however, I’m not so sure. At a round table event hosted by Airwide a few weeks ago, Mike Short, a senior and highly respected executive from the UK operator O2, revealed that the company had its own opted-in database that it was in the early stages of marketing to brands. This made me sit up and take notice, and I asked him for more details. He referred me to his colleague who runs this part of O2’s business, so I sent him an email asking for more information. This was almost three weeks ago. So far, no reply, despite a follow-up email on the same subject.
This makes me wonder if O2 is somehow embarrassed about the practice of selling its subscriber details to brands. If this is the case, I have to wonder why. So long as it has been open and transparent with the subscribers about what they were doing and what they would get in return, there’s surely nothing to fear. If, on the other hand, the subscribers on O2’s list are opted in on the basis that they didn’t opt out, that would be a different story, and one which would make the list pretty much worthless.
All this, of course, is pure speculation, but when the company you need to talk to in order to find out the truth won’t respond to your enquiries, what else can you do but speculate?
Looking beyond O2, the prevailing attitude of the UK operators towards mobile marketing seem to be that it’s a bit of an annoyance, something that might generate revenues one day, but for the moment, not a patch on what they make on voice and text.
People I speak to tell me that things are changing, that some of the operators are starting to take mobile marketing more seriously. But then others who have services deployed with operators elsewhere in the world tell me that the reason they are not live in the UK is because the UK operators are hard to deal with, or slow to try out new things.
Brands are moving inexorably towards mobile as a marketing channel. The networks can be a part of it, or they can become the “dumb pipe” they all deny they will ever be. In one direction lies the potential for a deep and ongoing relationship with the customer, in the other, commoditisation and even higher churn rates than they already endure. I know which I’d choose
David Murphy is the editor of Mobile Marketing Magazine (www.mobilemarketingmagazine.co.uk)