Just Because You Can…

A few years ago when Bluetooth hit the market, there was a buzz in the advertising industry. How great would it be to have an ad jump on your phone when you are in the proximity of the product, service or business? I can see advertisers salivating now!

bluetooth campaignThis is an image I found on Portfolio's site that explains the process.
As someone comes within the proximity of an advertising spot, a users' Bluetooth-enabled cell phone pops up a message for an ad.

No wonder Advertisers are salivating over it – you have the four P's of marketing all in one: product, price, promotion and place! IMHO, you're missing the new and most important ‘P' of marketing, though… Permission!

The number of advertisements that the average American sees on a daily basis has exploded to an overwhelming 3,000 messages a day. So many, in fact, that we've added verbiage to our dictionary for unwanted messaging – starting with email and now widely accepted as any intrusive advertising – SPAM.

Americans are sick and tired. We forced our government to do something about it, creating the Do Not Call Registry and the CAN-SPAM Act over unwanted email. The CAN-SPAM act, ironically, has simply made spamming easier from spammers and tougher on permission-based emailers.

Stop emailing me! Stop calling me at dinner! Stop! If I want your product or service, I will find you! I'll look you up online. I'll ask my friends for recommendations. I'll read blog posts about you.

Bluetooth marketing has already evolved. Michael Katz has penned the phrase, Adverjacking, describing the practice of your competition hitting you up with a competitive message while you're in the proximity of the competition. Ouch! Imagine buying a car and getting a message via Bluetooth from the dealership next door telling to you to come over immediately for $500 cash!

Advertising is a lot like a virus (in more ways than one!). As a consumer is exposed to a virus more and more, their ability to resist that virus increases until they are eventually oblivious to it. As advertising gets more pushy, consumers become more resistant to them. Keep going after more intrusive advertising techniques and you're only going to hurt yourself – and the industry.

Why would people do it then? Because it works! For 1,000 people that you can send the message for $500, 5 might respond. The ROI on that for simply pushing a Bluetooth message is in the thousands of percent. And the folks you really anger weren't going to buy from you anyways, so who cares?

The problem is that this is short-sighted marketing going after instantaneous results with no long-term strategy. The damage that you are doing is difficult to measure because it only impacts results much further down the road. By then, your VP of Marketing or Advertising may be long gone and sucking their next business under.

The bottom line is that if you don't give the fifth ‘P' – Permission – some attention, you're more apt to do major damage to your long-term marketing. In other words, just because you can use a push technology such as this, doesn't mean you should.

I'll even go all out and say that this is the type of advertising that evolved from the technology, and not vice-versa. The founders of Bluetooth weren't sitting around one day and saying, “Man, I wish there were a way we could push advertising to a cell phone as the person walks by!”.


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    It’s just the typical example of how most people spend far more time thinking about how they can extract value rather for an existing pie and be damned about anyone else, rather than how they can inject value based upon what others actually want.

    People have always done this but in the days before the always-connected Internet it wasn’t nearly as obvious. Now because it costs so little to impose one’s desire to extract value on such a huge number of people we’ve reached a point where, unless things change. we are all going to be under constant stress and so overwhelmed that things are going to break down in ways we can’t even yet imagine.

    OTOH, and here’s my hope, that people start to realize that no only does injecting value give them good karma, it will also gets them much better returns over the long haul. Will people actually become that enlightened? Only time will tell…

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    As a direct mailer, I?ve often been asked if things like email, and now texting, have hurt direct mail. It hasn?t. If anything, it makes it more popular, because a lot of people actually still like receiving new product information and bills via mail, rather than email.

    However, we are rare in the direct mail industry, because we actually encourage people to cut back on the amount of direct mail they send out. I don?t want people sending out more to lots of people who don?t want to get it; I want them to send out less to the people who are more likely to buy, more interested in hearing from them, and less likely to pitch their envelope without looking at it.

    I also wrote about do not call lists on my own blog

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    I’m rather surprised at the seeming short-sightedness of this article and most of the comments. No, the good people at Bluetooth weren’t sitting around trying to devise alternate methods of advertising when they created their product. But then again I’m sure the inventors of television and radio weren’t trying to do that either. Yet somehow, decades later, it is a widely accepted medium for marketing.

    If you really think about it, Bluetooth marketing is more permission based than TV, radio, and print. You don’t have a choice most of the time when viewing ads from big media, but every single Bluetooth device out there will prompt you for approval before receiving any content (as your illustration clearly points out). And what if you don?t want to be prompted at all? Great! Simply disable Bluetooth on your device, or set it to ?invisible? mode.

    Now we all know that big media is a sick and/or dying industry, and I agree with your assessment of advertising being like a virus. People are sick of seeing stupid messages from companies they?re not interested in? and on now on my mobile? Outrageous! But where would we be if we let old ideas kill the new ones? Of course we don?t want traditional advertisements on our mobile. That would do to this new medium what it did to the old ones. But if I?m sent a ringtone, an advergame, or a cool screensaver? pssh sure, hook me up. That?s the greatest part about these new technologies: the choices for content are virtually boundless. As Mike Schinkel pointed out, these industries only need to be educated on how to inject value. If marketers keep that in mind and distribute engaging and interactive content, not just a 10% off coupon for Starbucks, then they are doing their job. If things are kept relevant and interesting, I think it?ll help their industry and their company, not hurt it.

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    Hi, I have just been using AreaBluetooth Light and I?ve had a overall good impression about the software. I´m using the demo vesion but considering to buy the $99 license.
    They also gaev me a 25% discount coupon for Google checkout ?blue4less?
    For more info their site is http://www.areabluetooth.com/en/

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    Hi Douglas,

    I’ve created a post about the 6 ‘P’s in bluetooth proximity marketing partly inspired by this post. I feel permssion is almost taken a read in the sense that you need to execute any campaign correctly and in accordance with best practice.

    From experience i’ve found the most important ‘P’ in proxy campaigns to be promting. I’ve given some figures to demonstrate this.


    Best regards


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