April 13, 2010
 

Mobile Media Ringtone Marketing!

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Alicia Keys is on the phone for you!

Oh wait. That's just your ringtone.

You may have gotten that tone from your wireless provider. Or maybe you joined Jamster -- and for 10 bucks a month you get 6 ringtones, 10 graphics and 4 games. How about Unlimited Ringtones? Same price, but all 500,000 ringtones are yours. (How long would that take to download?)

These companies are aggressively on the lookout for customers. They would be good ones to watch if you're a marketer tentatively stepping into new media. Note the different offers and see which company blinks first.

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Think about it. Who were the first companies to make money on the Internet? Was it Amazon? Was it Pets.com? Home grocery delivery companies?

Of course not. It was guys running the porn and gambling sites who figured out how to make the Internet pay. Literally. They found ways to get real money out of some poor schlub's checking account -- and into their own -- by moving bits and bytes around.

Big companies like Coca-Cola or GM don't have a way to find new customers on the Web -- in fact, finding new customers that way probably doesn't make sense for them. They look for ways to engage their current customers in a safe way. So it's now possible, for example, to download a Sprite game to your phone if you've gone to the trouble of finding the company Web site.

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But if you're not marketing an enormous Fortune 100 company, you might want to find new customers some way besides Super Bowl commercials. (Yes, I pick on Super Bowl advertisers a lot. It's like a reflex. I can't help it.)

If you aspire to grow, you might want to pick up on the tactics of fringe players like the folks who sell ringtones . . . the people who market via SMS . . . the hungry affiliate marketers . . . the marketers who live by their wits, not their well-established brands.

These are the companies that live on the margins. They rely on the infrastructure of bigger players. Ringtone sellers depend on wireless service providers and handset manufacturers for their platforms. They get in and work every angle as hard as possible -- before the fad passes away or someone bigger sees they're making money and grabs their niche or (sometimes) before legal issues crop up.

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They are street smart in a way no big brand can be anymore. So, if you're thinking about ways to take advantage of new media, for example, these are the people to emulate.

Of course, fringe players -- the ones who skim along the surface of what bigger companies have built -- aren't the only early adopters of new media. It makes sense if you're building a new company from scratch. That's when you have the opportunity to implement a new business model. And you can use new and different ways to market yourself, too.

Consider Netflix. They had a great idea for renting videos and they rewrote the rules by using what was, at the time, new media -- the Internet. They built their distribution system from the ground up (unless you count the US Postal Service) and rocked Blockbuster to the core.

Insurance companies like GEICO didn't use any new media. But because they rewrote the rules, and sold direct instead of through brokers, they freed up cash to buy the old media that traditional insurance companies couldn't make pay.

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Got any ideas like that for mobile marketing? Now's your chance. Take your shot. You can't always play it safe. No matter how big or small you are.

Spyro Kourtis, president of Hacker Group, oversees his agency's strategic planning and relationships with a number of Fortune 500 clients including AAA, Expedia, Hilton Hotels, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, MSN, Oracle, VISA, Washington Mutual, WebEx and World Vision. He is publisher of High Performance Direct. He can be reached at skourtis@hackergroup.com.

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