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August 22, 2014

Germany Harnessing 'Silent Texts' to Locate Cell Phones

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In Germany, police and intelligence agencies have been using ‘silent’ SMS messages to locate cell phones without their owners’ knowledge. Details of the covert practice emerged after a parliamentarian expressed alarm at the escalation of secret text dispatches; the government responded with an admission that 125,000 such messages were sent during the first six months of 2013 alone. That number has increased this year, with 150,000 silent SMS messages sent between January and June. 

The text messages are not displayed on cell phones, but when sent en masse to a single device, can be used to precisely locate the user and observe their movements within a network. Parliamentary approval is required before each individual can be tracked.

But Andrej Hunko of the Left party raised alarm at what he termed ‘spy-SMS’ messages, prompting the government to reveal the number of German residents who had been targeted by the dispatches. According to the figures, domestic intelligence agency VfS had sent nearly 53,000 secret texts during the first half of 2014. Federal police had sent almost 69,000, and the Federal Criminal Office – Germany’s investigative police – had sent more than 34,000. The figures did not include silent text messages sent by foreign intelligence agents, customs officials or the army’s intelligence service.

However, the government did disclose details about surveillance, admitting that the Federal Criminal Office – or BKA – had eavesdropped on 704 separate calls, emails or text messages during 2014 so far.

The international community has expressed some surprise about the revelations, especially in light of the recent scandal regarding U.S. surveillance of world leaders. Surveillance is understandably a very sensitive issue in Germany, and many feel government has acted hypocritically with the use of clandestine SMS tracking technology. We await the full figures for 2014 with interest…

August 14, 2014

Is Beacon Technology Going to Change the Retail World?

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Beacon technology incorporates the power of consumer-targeted advertising with location-based mobile marketing by installing small pieces of low-cost hardware within the shelves of retail stores. When customers enter a store with Bluetooth-enabled mobiles or tablets, the business can send customized advertisements directly to their devices thereby enhancing their shopping experience. While Beacons have only recently begun to appear in shops, the technology itself is already part of Apple devices since the 3rd generation of their products. And reports from the tech blogs are starting to take notice of the Beacon technology’s capabilities.

Mass Potential

Apple’s beacon system, called iBeacon, is automatically installed in all devices that use their current operating system, iOS 7. This means that, even if a mobile user knows little about how the iPad or iPhone works, they still have the infrastructure in place to benefit from Beacon technology. There could be as many as 190 million iOS devices currently capable of accessing iBeacons. Undoubtedly, this number showcases the unbridled potential of Beacon technology.

Current Barriers

There is a bit of a curve to this technology, though. An almost equal amount of the mobile and tablet markets use non-Apple products, which are less integrated with the Beacon infrastructure. Because the operating systems of non-Apple products tend to require updated versions of their OS, mobile marketers cannot rely upon these technologies for their Beacon-based advertising strategies.

Furthermore, Beacon technology requires mobile users to “opt in,” in a manner of speaking. First of all, customers will need to download the appropriate app for the business in question, and then they will have to activate it before entering the store. In addition, Beacons require ranging technology to function, which works in proximity of the devices using a mobile’s Bluetooth. The mobile will not receive any pushes or notifications, however, if a phone’s location is cloaked – the customer must allow the appropriate app to access its location for the Beacon to function properly.

The Future

In truth, Beacon technology is only beginning to get a foothold in the physical advertising space, and once it gains some traction, it will be here to stay. The unrealized potential of mobile location-based marketing is burgeoning, just waiting to be deployed. In the near future, we will witness customers taking advantage of flash sales and contactless payment options, as well as living in automated homes where temperature and lighting may be adjusted directly from mobile devices. The rule books have yet to be written. We do know that the key to capitalizing on Beacon technology will rely on corporations’ creativity and connectedness: sharing real-time information with customers to a mutual end and appealing to the changing temperaments of these individuals, all the while motivating these loyal customers in a direction – according to when and where – they want them to be. 

August 09, 2014

Six of the Best: Reasons to Use SMS

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Despite the appeal of other emerging forms of communication, text messaging via SMS is still the most popular choice for mobile users. Four billion people around the globe use SMS, sending upwards of a trillion messages each year. Due to its popularity it’s no wonder that mobile marketers agree: pound for pound, SMS allows for the furthest reach to the widest audience. But why is SMS the best selection for a mobile marketing campaign? Here are several reasons:

1)Popularity

As mentioned above, SMS is the most popular form of mobile communication. At least 70% of the world’s populace uses a mobile phone, and of those subscribers, 80% of them use text. With reach like that, mobile marketers will want to incorporate SMS into their marketing strategy.

2)Permanence

First off, text messages can be sent at anytime to anyone. Even if the receiver is offline, they will receive the SMS once they are back online. Messages do not expire, and will be read as soon as the recipient is free to read it.

Furthermore, SMS users tend to remain SMS users. Many different communications platforms have been developed since the late 20th century: fax, email, IM, as well as the more recent platforms of apps, multimedia messaging, Facebook and Twitter. Consumers choose text messages due to their widespread availability and the low cost. Also, practically everyone knows how to send and receive text messages. For years, SMS shall go head-to-head with the mobile user’s other most common type of communication (voice calling).

3)Capability

SMS-style messages have numerous capabilities. They can include binary data, pictures, music, logos, animations, and coupons/vouchers. Information can be exchanged between applications. And in fairly recent news, SMS is able to utilize mWallet services – an invaluable asset to have in today’s mobile marketing landscape.

4)Dialogue

Text messages are a two-way street, allowing for back and forth communication between users. From a marketing standpoint, this paves the way for feedback, comments, and join-in promotions using SMS. Many marketing campaigns ask users to send them photos within messages. In one example, BBC radio ran a picture-messaging campaign for the MDA that was wildly successful – to the tune of over forty-thousand picture messages in a 24-hour period!

5)Payments

SMS promotes the use of reverse payments, where the recipient may opt to pay for the message. In the case of valuable mobile content, this is the most common method to receive payment. Also, charities have utilized SMS’ payment capabilities, providing a channel and a means for eager donors.

6)Economy

Certainly, bulk SMS messages can be costly, but they are cheaper than the Post Office. Also, since the messages are short, they are more likely to gain the attention of busy mobile users. And clever retailers can do a lot using only 160 characters.

Perhaps one day there will be a way for advertisers to break through the noise, creating targeted cross-platform advertisements that reach every mobile user available. Since SMS is the most widespread and powerful mobile marketing tool currently available, be sure to incorporate text messaging strategies into your marketing campai

August 06, 2014

The Future of mHealth Technology

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Every day the technology of our mobile devices continues to improve, and every day there are new applications for it. The healthcare industry is poised to take advantage of this technology by providing access and mobility to its customers around the world.

This particular market called the mobile health market, or mHealth, has yet to reach its full potential. Currently, doctors and patients can interact through texts, email, and apps, as well as through sharing pictures and video. But this is just the beginning. Mobile devices have given us opportunities for real-time communication and collaboration, which is a boon for the medical industry. Also, there are increasing opportunities for improving access to quality care through mobile access (as soon as the powers that be approve these mobile accessibility apps). In the meantime, healthcare organizers are looking for short term solutions.

With over 140 million smartphone users in the U.S. – and another 60 million projected users in the next five years – mobile marketers are looking to take advantage of the need for mHealth technology improvement and engagement.

So far, customer desire for mHealth technology has had a slow takeoff. Only about 10% of the U.S. population has ever used these technologies. In addition, there are many obstacles for mHealth to grow: the traditional channels of medicine include solutions for banking, insurance, and travel, whereas mHealth must find new solutions to these hurdles.

On the other hand, several new technologies have managed to appeal to the public. Digital hospital rooms, virtual medicine kiosks, and mobile e-health devices are providing physicians with crucial information on their patients, aiding them in the process of diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. Remote monitoring of clients has proven to be very useful to both the medical industry and patients, as well. Also, mobile devices have access to Electronic Health Records and patient information from remote locations, offering call scheduling, training and education, as well as communication for appointments and reminders. Finally, as wearable technologies are beginning to catch on, new mHealth technologies may be incorporated into them, allowing the user and their doctor(s) to track their progress and recovery.

The lack of engagement in mHealth comes from the lack of standardization in these new technologies. There are currently too many types of mobile platforms to have a standard mobile app, and several of these competing apps provide many of the same functions for the consumer. Also, the legal ramifications of using the technology are dictated by HIPPA, so there must be new laws in place to ensure compliance. By developing real-time apps where patients and physicians can share information concurrently, consumers will more-than-likely see the value in adopting these new technologies.

In years to come, we will begin to see healthcare consumers embracing mHealth for the future of their own healthcare. They will likely expect more of their healthcare provider (since consumers are experiencing higher out-of-pocket payments for medical services). The key will be to provide high-quality, low-cost health care by eliminating as many middlemen as possible, thereby restoring the doctor-patient relationship. With mHealth, a consumer will have more access to medical professionals and, in turn, medical professionals will be more responsive to their patient’s needs. There will be a welcome competition in the medical industry in the future according to these factors, and the incorporation of mHealth technologies can give individual businesses an edge over their fellow medical practices.

August 03, 2014

Hispanic Market Growth Reaches New Heights

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Though we are still in the early days of mobile marketing, new technologies are allowing businesses to share their brand in revolutionary ways. Reports about new advertising techniques and ways to reach consumers on their mobile devices are flooding the blogosphere. But are advertisers paying attention to the changing face of the mobile marketplace? The real news flash: The Hispanic Market represents the fastest growing segment in the U.S.

This information from the Census Bureau and Nielsen is not really new. Marketers have been watching for years as this minority has grown into a significant force in the advertising world. Currently about 1 in 6 Americans are Hispanics. By the year 2050, however, Hispanics will represent one-third of the entire American populace.

These statistics are even more significant when we look at buying power. Hispanics command over $1 Trillion dollars in spending capital. The media have been aware of their buying power for a couple of years now: in 2012, the U.S. media spent $7.9 billion in advertising dollars that target Hispanic consumers.

Market analysts have been mining this data to find out what makes Hispanic consumers tick. The average age of Hispanics is 28 years old, and nearly 8% of Hispanics use their mobile devices to seek out content. Neilsen studies have shown that Hispanics outpace all other ethnic groups in mobile downloads of music and photos, and they are more likely than others to watch video on their mobile phones. Most Hispanics age 18 or older spend about 4.5 hours per day using social media. About half of Hispanics use social media during purchases, in the form of product reviews, the best deals, and to share their own shopping experiences. By incorporating this data into their strategies, mobile marketers have the opportunity to take advantage of how and where Hispanics spend their money.

Hispanics are also heavy phone users. On average, they send and receive more than 900 texts per month – more than any other ethnic group. Also, they make an average of thirteen calls per day, which is 40% more than the average U.S. consumer.

Hispanic consumers have a history of committing to certain brands. They are 25% more likely to follow a brand than the average U.S. adult. In a recent survey, 38% of Hispanics admitted that they generally select certain brands when they have customer loyalty programs. In a similar fashion: Hispanics are 18% more likely to follow a celebrity. 

According to Nielsen, Hispanic video viewers are 68% more likely than non-Hispanic White viewers to watch video on the Internet, and 20% more likely to watch video on their mobile phone. This may be due to the fact that Hispanics are less likely to have internet access at home than the average U.S. consumer (14% less likely, in fact).

There is a wealth of data available surrounding customers in today’s fast-paced world of mobile marketing. Knowing the ways that Hispanics choose to do business can give you a leg up against the competition. By approaching the Hispanic population with a mobile app, service, or direct mobile marketing, marketers can successfully target a consumer base that practice brand loyalty and constant engagement. It’s time for mobile marketers to wake up to the thriving Hispanic market.

August 01, 2014

Hospitality Industry Divided Over Mobile Marketing

 

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New research from Omnico indicates that UK consumers are less likely to use mobile devices to engage with hospitality service providers when compared with other industries. Just 13% of consumers said they would use mobile to interact with hoteliers and travel agents.

This reticence is understandable when examined from the consumer point of view. People ultimately want a better user experience, but with so many metrics to consider when booking a holiday, it’s possible that small screen devices are given short shrift. Filling in multiple fields – car rental, flights, hotels etc – is a hassle even on a desktop. Even on a mobile-optimized site or app, there’s simply too much information to divest for a quality user experience. 

Thankfully for the industry, the point of purchase is just one step in the process. There is still plenty of scope to create a compelling mobile marketing campaign that simply hands off to desktop at the point of sale. 

And despite the apparently-negative data collated in the UK, mobile usage has been steadily increasing in the world of hospitality. A Forrester survey from last year identified a 450% increase in mobile bookings since 2009. Some analysts predict mobile sales will be worth $26 billion by the year’s end. That’s one in five online travel dollars! 

The biggest mobile marketing strides have been made post-purchase, with 75% of travelers using a mobile device to shop and book activities while on holiday, according to Forrester. Clearly, this is where the hospitality industry is benefitting most: reaching consumers who are already on vacation and for whom smartphones and tablets are the only readily-available web-connected device.

If you’re trying to create a mobile marketing campaign that works, focus on enriching the entire experience, not just selling vacations. Offer portals for booking restaurants. Provide information on local tourist sites. Gather user reviews that could help future customers. Break your mobile marketing strategy down into three key practices:

  • Promotion. Offer last minute deals, hotel discounts or coupons. Mobile – and especially SMS messaging - is perfect for issuing time-sensitive information.
  • Loyalty Rewards. Offer loyalty points with personalized incentives attached. Track data to give reward customers with the things they like. If they’re clocking up thousands of miles, offer air miles. If they use the same hotel chain around the world, try to partner with that hotel to offer discounts.
  • User Experience. Keep customers up to date on new destinations. Send weather forecasts, or travel directions. Stay engaged throughout their trip and solicit feedback in the form of reviews.

A balanced mobile marketing strategy is of vital importance in an aggressively competitive industry. The beauty of mobile is the ease with which you can subdivide customers according to personal preference, so even if your primary booking platform is your desktop website, stay plugged in to mobile and you’ll reap the long term benefits.

July 31, 2014

Beyond Marketing: 4 Unexpected Uses for SMS

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SMS messaging has become a key component of any mobile marketing strategy. It’s use as an advertising tool has been well documented – not least on this very organ – but there are all sorts of weird, wonderful ways to leverage the power of text. Schools, community groups, churches and even emergency services have begun incorporating SMS into their processes. We’ve cherry picked our favorite unusual uses of SMS messaging outside of the mobile marketing realm…

Finding Lost Pets

Companies like MobiPet are helping pet owners locate lost furry friends. When notified of a lost animal, they send photo alerts by text message to registered vets, animal shelters and pet owners within a 30 mile radius. Animal lovers have rallied round the idea which, unlike microchip implants, is non-invasive and requires no equipment apart from a camera-enabled mobile phone with text message capability.

Donating to Good Causes

Text-to-donate has proven highly effective at engaging people who don’t donate to charity by other methods. In 2007, a Super Bowl commercial raised $10,000 within seconds for the victims of the recent tsunami in Asia. The Haiti earthquake relief effort also benefitted from a text campaign, with the Red Cross eventually pulling in $32 million for victims. The success of text-to-donate is owed to the simplicity of the process. People too busy to go through the hassle of visiting a website and uploading credit card information can simply reply to a text message and have their donation applied to their phone bill.

Emergency Alerts

Closer to home, Hurricane Sandy – the second costliest hurricane in the US since records began – had a devastating impact on local businesses, but SMS proved to be a true survivor in the face of infrastructural collapse. Businesses and emergency services used SMS to keep residents up to date on the weather and how the damage it caused would affect them. 

Talking to Home Appliances

‘Smart appliances’ allow their owners to control them remotely via text message. Appliances are programmed to respond to a series of commands, so if you have an unexpected guest coming to your house, and you don’t have time to go home and clean, you can send a text to your robotic vacuum cleaner or mop. Intelligent SMS systems are also being used in fridges to tell owners what they need to pick up from the store, and even suggest recipe ideas!

July 23, 2014

SMS Isn’t Spoiling Grammar

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Since the dawn of the text message, there has been an overarching fear that SMS would spell doom for the grammatical climate of the future generations. But apparently, this is not the case.

In a recent study at Coventry University in Britain, researchers examined both the text messages and the grammar tests of over 240 students from elementary school, high school, and college. This study was designed to show the rate of change (if any) over the course of a year of texting and testing, and it produced some surprising results.

Initially, the participants were asked to submit their texts from the last two days, verbatim. Naturally, the text messages were missing proper punctuation and capitalization. Words were omitted here and there, others were enjambed as in the case of “hafta” and “tryna,” and within the texts there were several instances of initialisms (e.g., lol, smh). The participants were also asked to complete a series of tasks to show their skill levels in grammar and spelling.

After a year had passed, this entire process was repeated.

The research group found little or no correlation between the grammatical violations in text messages and their test scores. On the contrary, they found that students’ abilities to go back and forth between their “textisms” and actual correct grammar evidenced their enhanced literacy skills. The researchers, Nenagh Kemp, Clare Wood, and Sam Waldron, found that primary and high school students actually had faster spelling development.

College level students also proved to have better spelling after a year. Unfortunately, the lack of capitalization and proper punctuation presaged poorer performance on spoken and written grammar tests for these students. The correlation was too weak, however, to attribute this deficiency to texting alone.

The results of this test shouldn’t be that surprising, though. Previous studies have shown that when young students “play with language” they tend to have stronger reading and spelling skills. Also, studies have proven that when students choose to break tradition with grammatical convention, they consequently strengthen their grammar skills.

All in all, this study shows that grammatical violations in text messages do not reveal a decline in knowledge of grammar for people of any age. Even the youngest students in the study recognized the difference between “textisms” and actual writing. For the time being, there is no need to fear—provided everyone remains aware of the difference between these texting exemptions and grammatically-correct writing.

July 21, 2014

3 Effective Negative Marketing Strategies

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Though it must undoubtedly be tempered by positivity and come attached with something of real value to the consumer, ‘negative marketing’ can be one of the most compelling ways to engage an audience. Whether it’s self-effacement, common enemies, or simply a list of the wrong way to go about things, spinning the ever-sunny face of web and mobile marketing into a scowl can work wonders for driving traffic.

Almost every industry should consider using it as part of their mobile marketing tactics, but many companies are hesitant to adopt such a potentially risky strategy. Last week we looked at the reasons why negative marketing, when done right, is so effective. Today, examine a few specific negative marketing methods…

1) Negative Titles

One only has to spend five minutes looking at clickbait headlines that pepper the web to spot two common patterns. One tactic is something we like to call ‘Inducing Incredulity’ – those titles that read ‘You Won’t BELIEVE What Happened After This Cat Ate Spaghetti’ or ‘This Free Weight Loss Method is HATED By Doctors.’ The pot of gold promised at the end of those link rainbows is always profoundly empty, and you’re left kicking yourself for trusting any content with such a profligate attitude to capital letters.

The other common – and far superior - approach to headlines is to present articles from a negative angle. Let’s say there’s a news piece about crime statistics in the United States, and you have a choice of two headlines: i)’Most Crime-Free Cities’ or ii)’Worst Cities for Crime’ – the content is precisely the same, but guess which title will generate the most clicks? It works just as well for lifestyle advice articles. Instead of ‘How to Roast the Perfect Chicken’ go for ‘How to Get Roast Chicken Wrong’. It may not be the most flattering comment on human nature, but the fact is, negative headlines translate into more clicks.

2) Shared Experiences

Creating brand loyalty relies on bonding with your audience, and one way to do this is by sharing negative experiences with them. If you can tap into an emotional touchpoint in an unexpected way, your reader will think of you as less of a corporate powerhouse and more of a friend. This is an especially effective mobile marketing strategy to launch your campaign with, as it puts you on an even footing with consumers, letting them know you share their pain. However, once you’ve created that bond based on shared negative experiences, it’s important to shift the tone to more positive, solution-oriented content.

3) Self Effacement

Nobody likes a braggart. That’s as true for businesses as it is for individuals, and whilst every company needs to ‘big themselves up’ in some way, a touch of self-deprecation is a really attractive way to get attention. Sharing your mistakes will make you seem more human, plus, if you do make a slip up, you can be the first to condemn yourself (before the blogosphere pounces). As long as your product or service is unimpeachable, you can afford to poke a little fun at your logo, CEO, or recent advertising campaign. 

July 19, 2014

From Zero to Hero: How Mobile Revolutionized Planet Marketing

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Mobile marketing has gone stratospheric since the advent of the smartphone, but it’s been around in some form or another for more than 20 years. SMS messaging gave marketers a whole new channel to pursue during the 90s, when cell phone ownership first became widespread. Now, with text messages the most commonly read form of communication, advertisers are cautiously rediscovering the possibilities of SMS marketing.

But mobile marketing is about much more than SMS. The smartphone age has seen to that by putting the power and connectivity of a desktop computer into the palms, pockets and handbags of almost everyone in the western world. Some inroads were made into serious, non-SMS mobile marketing tactics during BlackBerry’s first flush of success in the early noughties, but when the first iPhone hit stores in 2007, marketing execs really sat up and began to take notice. 

As developers clamored to create apps to go along with Apple’s devices, the first wave of modern mobile marketing tactics began to take shape. The focus was very much on volume, and publishers relied largely on getting high app store chart rankings in order to gain visibility. Marketing efforts were all about short-term gains, with the main objective to generate as many downloads as early as possible in order to climb the charts. Quantity reigned supreme over quality.

These early years of app/mobile marketing were dominated by incentivized downloads – something Apple continued to allow until April 2011, despite the obvious credibility problems. Tracking performance was problematic. Platform regulations were loose, and developers took full advantage; it was essentially a land grab, the Old West of app and mobile marketing. 

By 2012, developers began thinking about the possibilities of quality and performance tracking. CPI-based campaigns gathered steam and, and better quality tracking was sought. For their part, Apple tightened its rules, clamping down on people accused of gaming the chart system by using bot farms to generate inauthentic downloads.

Around the same time, publishers became more data-focused, integrating in-app analytics software to collect metrics like usage, engagement, retention and monetization potential. There was a growing focus on high-quality user experience – but mostly with the objective of retaining customers for the medium-term.

That all began to change over the last 18 months, as a new climate took hold in the tech world. The shift is now overwhelmingly moving in the direction of stellar quality, as mobile marketing campaign managers realize that acquiring new users, even for a pittance, is not sensible unless they are retained, engaged, and monetized. Against that backdrop, some unlikely transactions have taken place – such as the $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook – but there is no doubt that the app world has raised it’s game. With GPS technology and other location-based tools fast improving, the future of mobile marketing is unpredictable, but undeniably exciting.