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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