The insiders guide to mobile Web marketing in the US by Laura Marriott

Laura Marriott led the Mobile Marketing Association as president and CEO from 2005-2008, a period of astronomical growth for the industry and its association, helping to push adoption of the mobile channel among brands and agencies and the development of best-practice guidelines. She is now a consultant and a board member for several companies. Who better to guide us through the ins and outs of mobile Web marketing in the US?

Last updated: March 2010

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How big or advanced is mobile Web in United States v rest of world?
• The number of US wireless subscribers at the end of 2008 was 270.3 million which reflects an 87 percent penetration rate (CTIA), making it one of the largest mobile markets in the World.
• The US is the largest in the world for mobile Web revenues – ahead of even China and Japan (Chetan Sharma 2009)
• 65 percent of US subscribers are using some form of wireless data (Chetan Sharma 2009).
• In April 2009 there were 59 million US mobile Web users (Nielsen Mobile).
US Annual Attitude & Usage Study (MMA, 2008) tells us:
• One in five mobile consumers use the mobile Web, accessing it 7-12 times per week. 18-24 year olds are the heaviest users.
• Most commonly used applications overall include: browsing, weather, news, access to mobile search.
• Teens mostly use mobile Web for social networking and music.

What is driving growth?
Similar to mobile markets around the globe, growth in the mobile Web in the United States is being driven by:
• Operator rollout of better data networks and data plans (coupled with greater consumer adoption of these plans).
• Consumer adoption of smart phones, which make browsing the mobile Web a more rewarding experience.
• Availability of more compelling content and services that meet consumer needs.
• Made-for-mobile Websites that are optimized to deliver a high-quality consumer experience.
• The popularity of downloading applications from app stores.

What’s holding it up?
Mobile Web growth in the US has been hampered by an overall lack of education – not just among consumers, but also traditional marketing agencies and the brands they represent.
• There are still plenty of agencies who still haven’t realized the massive opportunity presented by mobile. Others still believe that you can simply ‘mirror’ the online site to mobile.
• Marketers also need to catch up. Some brands do an excellent job in providing compelling content and value via the mobile channel, but too many are missing out. Take note marketers: some demographics use mobile as their only and/or primary source of information and engagement (for example, Hispanic youth).

Which industries/sectors have shown the most interest in mobile marketing?
The pioneers in the mobile Web initially came from the direct-to-consumer space – i.e. those offering premium content services. Today, however, we are seeing investment across all categories, such as automotive, travel, financial services, quick service restaurant and consumer, with plenty of brands offering mobile campaigns and mobile Web experiences.
The most successful programs tend to be those that recognize the needs of their customer and tailor their offer accordingly (whether this is global, national, regional or local). One campaign can also have many different geographic elements to it thanks, in part, to location-based services and the ability to target ‘automatically’ based on a consumer’s location.

Which sectors are most innovative and which spend the most on mobile marketing?
Brand categories such as financial services, travel, automotive, entertainment and consumer-packaged goods all offer unique and innovative mobile value propositions to the consumer.
Which category is spending the most? We would all love to know, but the data isn’t available. Investment across the mobile media channels varies greatly, though the large consumer brands are certainly allocating significant budgets to mobile.

Who isn’t interested, who should be?
• Older demographics – or rather brands that target older demographics should be more interested. There’s a misconception that mobile is a medium only for targeting the ‘youth market’, but it can be used just as effectively for targeting all age demographics and brand types.
• Business-to-business marketers – as an industry, we are always on the hunt for case studies to show how effectively mobile can be used for B2B marketing.
• Some newcomers to mobile still perceive that mobile is still far too complex and overwhelming for them to use it to generate a viable campaign and/or results. To them, I say: give it a try and have some fun. Campaigns can be adjusted as you go – a process of iterative refinement.

What are brands doing – mobile Web site; banner ads; text campaigns etc?
There are three key areas:
• Messaging (SMS and MMS)
• Mobile Web
• Applications
SMS continues to dominate campaigns, but there’s much greater awareness of the importance of the role mobile Web plays in your mobile strategy. Louis Gump, VP CNN Mobile, recently described the mobile Web as being “the hub” (RCR Wireless).
In a march 2009 study by Forrester/iLoop Mobile asked 204 US interactive marketers what tactics they planned to use in the next 12 months, they responded: customer service text alert (58 percent), coupons of promotions via SMS or app (55 percent), SMS for sweepstake, voting, contests (53 percent), banner ads on mobile search sites (38 percent), sponsored or branded content (36 percent), paid sponsorship on mobile Web sites (33 percent), short codes on product, print ads or TV (33 percent).

Do campaigns tend to be mobile only or integrated into other media, such as outdoor, TV, online and press?
Mobile is most effective when integrated into larger cross-media initiatives – including traditional and digital media. When the mobile call to action is embedded in a traditional media channel, e.g. on a billboard, it prompts the consumer to engage with the brand and helps to bring the traditional media to life.
As an industry we need to encourage those marketers who continue to launch mobile-only initiatives to move to integrated cross-media campaigns.

What are the best – and worst – mobile sites in United States? What makes them stand out?
Two of the best sites in the United States are from TV networks The Weather Channel ( and ESPN ( Both have led mobile Web development for years. They have continued to reinforce clean, linear designs and a focus on the content that their consumers are visiting the pages to view. Overall, the news, weather and sports companies have done a great job in building sites that meet the needs of their consumer base.
There are good profiles of, and other sites, with good-practice tips for what makes a site best or worst in The Best & Worst of the Mobile Web.
In the words of Michael Becker, VP mobile strategies, iLoop Mobile: “Most marketers do not consider that their Website when accessed from a mobile phone (including an iPhone) – unless the site is tailored for the phone experience – leaves much to be desired and will be a poor experience for the user. Every marketer needs to consider the phone as a unique medium and tailor their site/experience accordingly.”

What mobile sites are most popular with a) consumers? b) Business customers?
• Consumers: news, weather, sports, entertainment
• Business: general news and financial sites

Most popular mobile destinations in the US (in millions)
ComScore, January 2010
Brand Target Audience
Total Audience: 13+ yrs old 234
Google 42
Yahoo! 38
Facebook 29.3
MSN/Windows Live/Bing 20.6
AOL Media Network 18.8
The Weather Channel 14.4
MySpace 14
Operator portals 13.6
ESPN 10.4
CNN 10.2
Source: ComScore, January 2010 via: mobiThinking

  • Visit the mobile sites:;;;;;;;;;
  • Who are the most innovative / powerful players in terms of mobile agencies, content providers etc? And who stand out as mobile marketing evangelists?
    Some of the most innovative players are found among the companies honored in the MMA Awards program, which also includes brief case studies of the winning campaigns. In 2008 winners and finalists in the North America section included:
    • Agencies and enablers: CellTrust, Incentivated, HipCricket, Cellfire, R/GA, ipsh, Edelman Mobile, Distributive Networks, iLoop Mobile, The Hyperfactory (see Top Ten mobiThinkers), Rhythm NewMedia, Mobile Accord;
    • Brands: Adidas, Walmart, Kraft Foods, Jaguar Cars, Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Kroger, IKEA, MGM Grand, Dove, Polo Ralph Lauren, For Dummies (see Juston Payne interview);
    • Content providers: The Weather Channel Mobile (see Top Ten mobiThinkers), Atlantic Records, Oscars, TVGuide, Limbo, Obama for America;
    One of the great things about the US mobile marketing industry is that all advocates of the mobile channel are passionate about working together collaboratively to grow the space. Evangelists come from all parts of the ecosystem and companies of all sizes. Take a look at the list of speakers at industry events such as the MMA’s Mobile Marketing Forum, the IAB’s Mobile Leadership Forum and CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment.
    Of these, the best evangelists are those brand marketers who are willing to share their mobile experience – both success and failure – with their peers. Their efforts help the industry grow, improve success rates and value for consumers.

    What makes mobile marketing different in United States compared to abroad?
    The US represents a fairly homogeneous environment compared to many countries due to the fact that there is a single official language. The top four wireless carriers – Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile – control the lion’s share of the market, which makes it easier for mobile companies to offer services across all carriers, however this is complicated by having two air interfaces in the US – GSM and CDMA.
    Revenues for mobile data services are highest in the US ahead of Japan and China – with the top four US carriers among top 10 global earners for mobile data revenues (Chetan Sharma).

    What is the most exciting thing about mobile?
    Always on, always available, anytime, anywhere access between brand and the consumer. Consumers retain control of the interaction using their mobile devices to gain access to whatever content they like, whenever and wherever they are. Research shows most mobile consumers keep their phones turned on over 80 percent of the time. What other media channel has this much consumer engagement? The possibilities are limitless.
    “[The most exciting thing about mobile is] it’s growth! Mobile really is a new frontier and when done right, it can really thrill users and accelerate businesses,” says Frank Barbieri, CEO, Transpera.

    Where should people go for more information – reference sites, books etc?
    • Books: Mobile Internet for Dummies is a great starting place.
    • Industry Publications: Fierce Mobile, Mobile Marketer, mobiThinking and RCR Wireless. Broader publications like AdAge, AdWeek and MediaPost also cover mobile strategies.
    • Industry Experts: for example, Chetan Sharma is an excellent resource for deep and meaningful insights into mobile data. Organizations such as ComScore and Nielsen provide useful research on how consumers use mobile.
    • Associations: CTIA, dotMobi Advisory Group, GSMA, IAB, MMA all provide educational documents, guidelines and events for members and non-members alike.

    Since retiring after three years as president and CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association, Laura Marriott now works as a consultant and a board member for several companies. You can contact her on lamarriott (at)

    See The insider’s guide to mobile Web marketing in:

  • Japan
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • India
  • UK
  • Australia
  • Spain
  • South Africa
  • Brazil
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  • Upcoming conferences and awards for mobile marketers’ diaries – Sept, Oct, Nov 2009 (with special offers)
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  • The Top Ten mobiThinkers 2009 – each profiled in full
  • mobiThinking’s page of essential links
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