Portable marketing is ultimately about place

I attended a seminar on portable marketing yesterday, and was interested to learn that the most popular promotions using mobile phones are still using SMS — i.e., text messaging. I wonder, for instance, when the sending of photos or videos from our phones will figure into large promotions.

We were presented with several examples of promotions where texting was a major component.

In the more exciting of them, the key to success was the place where the user participated. In other words, it wasn’t just that the participant could play a game or request information from anywhere, it was that they could do it somewhere quite specific. For instance, the Van’s Warped Tour is offering the ability to get news on band line-ups and autograph opportunities via your cell phone. According to Cingular, the sponsor, participation so far is over 100,000 messages sent. All branded, I’m sure, with Cingular enticements.

And what could be more place-based than to be updated with what’s happening on the grounds of the very festival you’re milling about in?

Text Message Enabled ChandelierThat reminded me of what is still my favorite “place-based” mobile device. It’s a beautiful spiral chandelier that spells out the messages of people congregating under it, in animated, LED lettering.

Probably the only reason we haven’t seen more of this type of display is the demographics of texting. By far the biggest users of text messaging in this country are those under the age of 30. Two-thirds of all frequent text message users are between the ages of 15 and 35.

Which means that unless you’re organizing a very high-end prom, or are filming an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, this device isn’t going to be a hit. You might as well hang a disco ball.

But I suspect the demographics will change fast. Especially with more executives of all ages using cell phones with QWERTY keyboards and large displays. I predict that it won’t be too long before I find myself under one of those chandeliers or something like it, watching the guests reveal — via SMS messaging — declarations of their silver wedding anniversaries and not their high school’s supremacy.