Any organism or organisation that grows will have its own growing pains, problems that arise as a result of increasing size and complexity. As with any maturing industry, mobile marketing has come up against its own growing pains – limited infrastructure, issues of measurement, and so on. Steps are being taken to address those issues, but the one thing that stands in the way is a lack of industry cooperation.
This is unsurprising. Like any other ecosystem, every separate part of the mobile marketing industry is intrinsically selfish. After all, the first priority for any business is to continue to exist, before even considering issues of profit or expansion. Looking out for number one is a natural enough instinct, particularly in the competitive world of business. As the saying goes, it’s a dog eat dog world out there – so it pays to be aggressive, bark loudly, and bite if you have to.
But even in nature, different parts of the ecosystem may find reasons to work together, for mutual benefit – or, in some cases, to prevent extinction altogether. It looks like this is true for mobile marketing as well.
Stress points exist. Brands want to reach out to Singaporeans, but in order to do so, must find a way to negotiate not with one telco, but with three. Each one has information about its own subscribers, and can provide access to the same, but would they cooperate with the other companies to allow for a coordinated, nationwide campaign that ran across all the networks? The same is also true for other parts of the ecosystem, even as the different levels (brands, agencies, ad networks, service providers, and other vendors) work together.
Information-sharing, too, is another pinch point. Marketers would love to have access to the data that service providers hold, but are limited by laws and policies about consumer privacy and data protection. Even aggregated demographic data would greatly ease the targeting of marketing material, but that requires a level of sharing that is currently not happening within the industry.
Companies are already aware of their obligations to the societies within which they operate. Called Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, many companies have schemes or programmes where they give back, through donations of time and money or otherwise, to the community, helping to improve the lives of the less fortunate among us. Perhaps the time is ripe for something new – for companies to think about their Corporate Industry Responsibility, their obligation to help the industry as a whole move forward.
This would involve new levels of cooperation, perhaps putting aside consideration in return for a longer-term benefit that would help everyone. Sharing of information would make measurement efforts much easier, for example, as would making access to networks a little more transparent. Perhaps permission-based data gathering would benefit consumers, who might then enjoy not having spam, but instead receiving much more informative and valuable marketing information.
The possibilities are many, and getting there will be far from easy – there are many frameworks that need to be set in place, as well as concessions and agreements that need to be made. But if companies can work together, whether from different parts of the ecosystem or whether they are direct competitors, then perhaps the industry as a whole could move forward.
That is one function of the Mobile Marketing Association, to act as the space for continuing industry dialogue, and perhaps as neutral ground where companies can come together to exercise some of their CIR. The annual Mobile Marketing Association Forum is one of many venues where these conversations happen – and the next one is the MMA Forum Singapore, 23-25 April at the Grand Hyatt Singapore.
With any luck, corporate industry responsibility will kick in – already, companies are working together with the MMA on issues like standardized measurement, so there is definitely hope for the future.