Marketing and creativity has typically gone hand-in-hand. But many of the marketing folks I know are also innovative — and strike me as far more Silicon Valley than Madison Avenue. 

There's no argument that marketing departments want to get their messages in front of as many people as possible. But they have to be the right people or the whole effort could be a loss. That's where innovation comes in: marketers are always looking for unique ways to share their messages. 

As a child, TV was the primary medium by which I was exposed to marketing and advertising. Then the web came along.

The web slowly and methodically changed everything about advertising and marketing. Once it took hold, we were off to the races. The web gave marketers a new way to get their messages out to ever more targeted audiences and has allowed companies to become far more engaged with their customers — or, even better, potential customers.

The Power of Mobile Marketing

The most successful companies have learned how to dive into massive pools of data, filter out the most meaningful analyze insights and use it to improve on their abilities to provide optimal customer experiences.

For marketers these days, much of the innovation focuses on the magic of mobile. A mobile device in the hands of a customer or potential customer provides the ability to put the most pertinent, meaningful messages directly in front of their eyes. Companies like Google and Facebook have been major players in driving mobile marketing through their mobile applications and demonstrating the importance of the channel for marketers. 

Web behemoths like Facebook and Google are pulling in significant revenue from mobile advertising. Facebook's advertising revenue in the third quarter jumped 64 percent to $2.96 billion — two-thirds of that from the mobile side — year over year. Mobile, which now accounts for 66 percent of Facebook's advertising revenue, is expected to be the primary driver for Facebook's revenue growth moving forward.

Mobile has become ubiquitous, and there's no question that marketers are interested in it. But let's look at the next step in the evolution. Since mobile devices are the gateway to the Internet of Things (IoT), it's reasonable to assume marketers will capitalize on the mutually beneficial relationship between the two.

Making Connections

Messaging applications such as Line, Facebook-owned WhatsApp (which reportedly is poised to introduce a web client for browser chatting), Viber and WeChat, to name a few, were an aspect of the mobile landscape I was not well acquainted with until I moved to Thailand two years ago.

Here in Asia, such apps are extremely popular and blur the lines between messaging and social media. In Thailand in specific, Line is the app that most people use … so much so that it's rare that someone will ask for my phone number. More often, they ask for my Line ID. Originally from Japan, Line is a proprietary application for instant communications on electronic devices such as smartphones, tablet computers and personal computers. Line users exchange texts, images, video and audio, and conduct free VoIP conversations and videoconferences.

Many countries in the region have an over saturated mobile market, as it seems everyone has at least one mobile phone and in many cases, two or more. 

A walk around any retail area in Thailand will reveal more than a few shops that have the QR code to add their Line account prominently displayed. Customers are invited to add them to their own apps to get special deals or messages from the stores.

How popular are they? Once, in the rural northeast part of Thailand known as Issan, I purchased lunch from a food cart attached to a motorcycle. After I placed my order, the vendor suggested I add him on Line so I can check where he is set up at lunchtime every day.

And it’s not just small shops that are taking advantage of the seeming ubiquity of messaging apps. Big brands and celebrities often have their own official Line accounts that allow them to directly reach customers with company news or product promotions, or, in the case of celebrities, with news about upcoming appearances or endorsements for products or services. 

Next Steps

Though messaging apps are already a great marketing tool and deliver a service that has true value all around, there is room for improvement. Being me, with my focus on the IoT, I see that coming in the way of a marriage between the platforms these apps create on the mobile device and the Internet of Things.

A smartphone is the most common gateway to the IoT, so it's really the logical choice going forward, especially as more devices become connected every day.

From a perspective of simplicity and pervasiveness, a good choice would be to start with beacons, small Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices that can send notifications to a smartphone once it’s within range. Such devices are becoming more common in retail environments, allowing customers to receive more interactive and contextual shopping experiences through push notifications. These same beacons could be used to trigger messages on a mobile device from official accounts of brands or products that a customer likes or trusts, giving marketers wonderful opportunities to entice customers at the point when they are within arms' reach of their products or services.

Because beacons share the smartphone as their platform, they're great matches to mobile messaging apps. In addition, users interact with both technologies in the same way. Blending them together on a single platform in a new way would allow marketers to reach their customers — and most customers are familiar enough with messaging apps that the experience would feel comfortable. That comfort level could be decidedly less with a beacon or retail specific app that the customer uses only when shopping.

Integrations with beacons are just the beginning of where messaging apps and IoT can intersect.

As more items become connected as things on that beautifully complex communications network we know as the Internet, marketers will get a more detailed glimpse into our lives and routines. Through the data we generate as a result of those interactions, they will be able to put their messages in front of us in a more personalized and contextual way — perhaps in the form of a few lines of text in a messaging app.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License Title image by npbn.