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How to successfully use mobile for location-based marketing

How to successfully use mobile for location-based marketing

By Maarten Mes, managing director one2many.

On the surface the mobile phone represents an ideal marketing channel.  It is the most ubiquitous personal device available and if used properly provides a very efficient means for companies to market their services directly to consumers. 

Mobile marketing has become increasingly popular since the rise of SMS and the utility of the medium has grown in the eyes of advertisers as it has been linked to Location-Based Services (LBS).

One of the things that LBS allows is for businesses to text consumers based on their specific location at a given time by ascertaining a user’s location from their distance to the closest telecoms masts.

This allows highly targeted marketing for example sending store discount vouchers to users as soon as they come into the vicinity of that particular shop. 

LBS SMS services have not however been without their problems.  SMS marketing messages were for a long time associated with spam and received a lot of negative press coverage due to this.  This led to a series of regulations across the world designed to ensure that mobile marketing does not become simply a mobile version of indiscriminate email spam.

Today, SMS marketing services are designed on a strictly opt-in basis, requiring a greater degree of proactivity on the part of the consumer to enable their phone as a marketing channel.  Privacy has also been a concern.  Many consumers do not like the idea of companies being able to track their movements in real-time as it smacks somewhat of ‘big brother’.

As a result, there has been a focus on user-centric location-based services and applications which give the user control of the experience, typically by requiring them to opt in first via a website or mobile interface.

For any marketing agency wishing to enjoy the full fruits of location-based mobile marketing, there needs to be a way around the concerns of privacy and spam.  From a technology point of view therefore, SMS and cell-triangulation needs to be dropped in favour of a less intrusive approach.

Cell Broadcast for location-based mobile advertising

Cell Broadcast (CB) has solved the issue of how to deliver location-based services without the need to impinge on user privacy.

Cell broadcast works by blanket-sending a message to a mobile phone cell or series of cells within a specified location. This means that all mobile phone devices within the location of those cells will receive the marketing message if they have the Cell Broadcast channel on their phones switched on.

Nearly all handsets have a Cell Broadcast client built into them, making them a highly useful medium for marketing programmes. 

The messages are not sent to specific individuals – just to handsets within a certain area. Moreover, the organisation sending the message does not even need to know the numbers of the phones within that location as they are targeted automatically by the Cell Broadcast platform.

At a stroke this removes much of the fear of ‘big brother’ inherent to LBS approaches.  With Cell Broadcast, users know they are only receiving certain promotions and offers because they are in a given area, not because the company sending the messages knows that they, as individuals, are in that area.

The applications for this are endless.  Food chains could text everyone in a shopping centre with their latest offers and details on how to get to their concession stands; promoters at music festivals could send information to all attendees on which acts are starring on which stages, or which bars are offering drinks promotions - the list is never-ending.

Wherever companies wish to send marketing and promotional materials that are relevant to a distinct location, Cell Broadcast can enable instantaneous location-specific communication.  

Cell Broadcast also offers a solution that does not spam consumers.  The Cell Broadcast channel on handsets can easily be switched on and off by users, providing them with a simple means of opting in and out of location-based advertising or other services.

Moreover, Cell Broadcast can enable specialist interest channels, sponsored by brands that consumers can opt-in to.  Football fans, for example, can get live score updates in real-time on a service sponsored by a sports-good company.

This is the common TV model but adapted for mobile phones – users know they will receive advertising, but they agree to it due to the compelling nature of the content they receive.


Location-based marketing has not yet delivered the revenue streams once expected of it, in a large part because the privacy issues involved with current systems have limited its use in the field.  Cell Broadcast offers all the benefits of LBS marketing but with none of the associated privacy concerns.

It is an easy system to deploy and easy for consumers to decide whether they want to benefit from it, dismissing all accusations of Spam.  It is clear that Cell Broadcast should be in the tool box of any marketing department.


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