Bluetooth: it’s no longer just a fashion accessory!

January 19, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Mobile Marketing | 5 Comments
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Trendy? Maybe. Abnoxious? Sort of. Marketing Tool? Oh yes.

Trendy? Maybe. Obnoxious? Sort of. Marketing Tool? Oh yes.

You’ve seen it: the “all-important business guy” who can’t take the chance of missing an important call, so they leave their Bluetooth in their ear while walking to the store, grabbing a bite to eat, working out…is that thing permanently attached to his ear? Back in my waitressing days, I actually had a conversation with a woman who wasn’t talking to me. She was chatting away on her Bluetooth, and I was answering her questions, thinking she was asking me about the menu. You can imagine how embarrassed I was when she turned her head and pointed to her Bluetooth with an annoyed look on her face, as to say “God, can’t you see how important I am? Don’t bother me with your ridiculous banter about my lunch.”

Anyway, it turns out that these little things may be the newest tool in a marketer’s arsenal.

Earlier this week, Macerich Group in Los Angeles announced that it was partnering with the marketing group Intera in order to set up bluetooth proximity advertising in five LA malls.

What does this mean? Well, for one, your trip to JC Penny for a new tablecloth may wind up in a trip to Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus…and possibly a quick stop at Orange Julius. Ok, ok- let’s back up a second- why are we stopping at all of these stores?

Bluetooth proximity marketing is the localized wireless distribution of advertising content associated with a particular place. Transmissions can be received by individuals in that location who wish to receive them and have the necessary equipment to do so. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) In layman’s terms: an advertiser uses strategically placed Bluetooth message transmitters to seek out all Bluetooth users in the area in order to send them a message. This “message” can be anything from a coupon, an invitation to an unadvertised sale, or even movie trailers.

A Bluetooth Messaging Center searches for local Bluetooth users, then sends out a "message" to them.

A Bluetooth Messaging Center searches for local Bluetooth users, then sends out a "message" to them.

So, as you finish checking out at JC Penny, you receive a text message alerting you of a sale at Victoria’s Secret (hey, $20 off my purchase? Not bad!), a free giveaway at Neiman (I’ve always wanted to try that perfume!), and a BOGO promotion at Orange Julius (who cares if it’s just me- I can drink 2 of those bad boys!). At the end of the day, you’ve spent $75 more than you had planned, and you’ve got a terrible belly ache (Orange Julius was a bad choice).

As a marketer, you’ve struck gold! That’s $75 extra in your company’s pocket at the end of the day.

Is this a good thing?

Personally, I think that Bluetooth marketing has the ability to provide extremely effective marketing messages. If people are already at a specific location (say, right outside of your store), and you entice them with the offer of 10% off their order if they shop right now- you may have a pretty high response rate. Since the customer is already there, it takes a lot less effort on your part to get them to stop in.

But what happens when the clutter becomes too much?

What if Bluetooth marketing takes off and becomes the latest and greatest advertising medium? More and more messages will be sent out, causing clutter and ultimately frustration on the consumer’s end. A trip to the mall could result in 50 text messages from retailers you don’t even buy from. So what’s the answer?

Opt-In Bluetooth Marketing

What if you sign up with your favorite retailers to receive alerts about sales and promotions? That way, when you hit the mall you’re only receiving texts from stores you actually shop at. You don’t have to worry about Motherhood Materntity sending your teenage daughter a message about the great discounts they’re offering right now (it’s bad enough Bristol and Jamie Lynn are putting these thoughts in her head!).

Currently, companies using Bluetooth marketing send out a preliminary text asking if the user wants to receive a message from the company. (Wait, are they asking permission for the text they just sent? No? For future ones? Ok, I’m confused.) I understand that this allows marketers to reach consumers who may not be aware of the brand, and therefore cannot sign up to receive messages. But it would still be annoying to me.

Currently, Bluetooth users are asked if they would like to receive promotional messages from an advertiser. But is this considered intrusive, too?

Currently, Bluetooth users are asked if they would like to receive promotional messages from an advertiser. But is this considered intrusive, too?

When I sign up for email alerts from my favorite stores, I most likely read through what they have to offer. But when I get an email advertisement from a store I have never purchased from, it gets sent to the SPAM box. I have a feeling most other people respond the same way, and the same would hold true for Bluetooth marketing. Sending unsolicited messages via Bluetooth could anger the customer and may even damage brand image.

Conclusion: Marketers need to tread lightly as they start using this new technology.

I would love to hear what others think about this new technology- will this be the wave of the future, or are marketers entering a zone that is deemed too personal? Mobile marketing is just starting to take off, but many worry that consumers will not be receptive to advertising on their cell phones. How would you react to receiving messages from local stores in the mall?



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  1. Wow, this totally opened my eyes to bluetooths. I actually had that same waitressing story happen to me as well. Ugh.

    I didn’t know that companies were interested in doing such text messaging. For me, i can see that being super annoying to receive numerous messages from stores i have no interest in so i do believe they should ask permission or have me fill out paperwork if i was willing to receive these messages.

    Otherwise yes, it is a good idea for companies as long as they don’t get excessive. If it was a store i was interested in but wasn’t planning on stopping at that time and heard they were having a sale, i would give it my time.

  2. I LOVE this! I like how you added humor to it. I could read blogs like these all day. Good job!

  3. We are running a few test marketing in malls with great success. With call to action signs encouraging consumers to turn their bluetooth enabled devices to discoverable, its up front and in their face so they know how to embrace it. We even tell them how to make their device undiscoverable if they do not want to get promted to receive ads.

    As far the eventual minds set of getting 50+ ads in one location, the benefit in being in one network such as Blue Zone is that we control how many and when the ads are delivered to the consumers. Our company protects the integrity of the ads, consumers ad campaign to ensure this a positive experience for everyone and not slamming people with ads. On our networks we’d never allow that many ads to be sent to consumers in any given day.

  4. It’s great to hear that the amount and quality of ads are being monitored by your group. That will definitely increase the public opinion of this new type of advertising.

    I also like the fact that consumers have the opportunity to make their devices “undiscoverable.” That will make a lot of people more comfortable with the concept.

    Thanks for your input- with a new type of marketing tool, it’s sometimes hard to find all of the details. It’s nice to hear directly from a provider.

  5. Oh wow! I’m so glad Blue Zone Mobile Media commented. That really does make the mobile marketing seem like a thing people could get used to. I wrote about Bluetooth Marketing on my blog as well and how I think it’s really a great thing because of the opt-in service and the benefit of receiving only ads for place I already enjoy. I didn’t realize you could potentially hide a device, though, and that’s a great idea. Especially for those shopping trips when you’re looking for just that ONE item you need — I’d be so annoyed by any other ads if I were in that mindset!

    Great post!

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