Market bite of Bluetooth

Bluetooth is now about more than file exchange

Bluetooth is now about more than file exchange

Anyone who has found themselves on the receiving end of regular SMS updates from irrelevant companies will know that advertising on mobile phones is not a new concept – far from it. However while these annoying text messages are now reaching saturation point the capacity for companies to showcase their products on your phone is already growing in other areas, particularly via Bluetooth.

To most people the uses for Bluetooth on their mobile phone is extremely limited – usually to their hands-free kit or the transferring of photos between friends. In reality the technology is just a short-range communications link and so is capable of carrying far more versatile things than single images or voice traffic.

There’s something in it for everyone,” said Luke Keily, referring to the type of marketing his company ‘Bluemedia’ offers. Bluemedia, which was set up by Mr. Keily and Dean McKillen over a year ago, describes itself as a ‘direct proximity marketing’ company and has been successful in applying its format across a number of shops and shopping centres – particularly in Dublin.

“We currently broadcast in a number of Centra and Londis outlets in Dublin as well as other places,’’ said Mr. Keily. “From what we can see around 62% of people already have Bluetooth switched on and over half of the people that receive prompts from us accept them.’’

According to Mr. Keily Bluemedia sees over 30,000 downloads a fortnight through its service.

Unlike an SMS message which will be received by the phone whether the owner wants it to or not, Bluetooth messages works by broadcasting to all enabled devices present within a short range of the broadcast station. The recipient gets a prompt on their device asking them if they wish to accept or reject the message – assuming they accept they can then access whatever content is being offered.

In the case of Bluemedia, customers are offered access to news, games and TV guides amongst other things. Depending on their location the content may also include local information; for example in Jervis Shopping Centre in Dublin the broadcast gives details of special offers available in the centre’s shops.

The key selling point for Bluemedia is that they provide content the user wants with some form of advertising included as straight-out adverts would turn the customer off instantly.

“I don’t see that kind of marketing as sustainable; the customer would be thinking ‘I’ll never download from them again’,” said Mr. Keily, who said keeping the customer on-side is vital to long-term survival. “If a restaurant sends its customers a message just saying ‘Welcome to our restaurant’ the customer will never accept a message from them again. The bottom line is the customer and if you start messing with them you don’t have a business.’’

Large companies in Ireland have also begun to try out Bluetooth marketing for themselves with cable company UPC recently offering downloads of their latest advert to those standing near their trial bus-shelter ads seen around the capital.

“People are quite savvy nowadays and we have to try and stay on the cutting edge,’’ said Rhona Bradshaw, head of marketing at UPC Ireland. “The next demographic coming up are growing up with this kind of technology and it’s second nature to them.’’

Ms. Bradshaw said they saw the trial as a success with over 11,000 downloads made during a four week period, despite it being available in just ten locations.

Ms. Bradshaw added that Ireland was the first place UPC had tried this type of marketing and the results seemed positive overall.

“There are a number of new forms of marketing appearing out there and Bluetooth is certainly seen as one that is emerging at the moment,” she said.

Notwithstanding such positive results, many will likely see Bluetooth marketing as yet another move by advertising into people’s personal space – or at the very least another form of spam. Unsurprisingly both Ms. Bradshaw and Mr. Keily disagree.

“We’ve not had any complaints about our campaign – the same can’t be said for email marketing and SMS,” said Ms. Bradshaw.

“It’s actually quite difficult to get a Bluetooth message – you have to have it switched on, you have to have it set to ‘visible’ and then you have to physically accept the message,’’ said Mr. Keily.

In fact that first hurdle – trying to get people to switch their Bluetooth on – is one of the main problems facing companies like ‘Bluemedia’ who need that opening to promote their product.

“That’s one of our challenges at the moment, signs in the store telling people it’s available help but it’s only part of the solution,” said Mr. Keily.

An edited version of this article appeared in Business & Finance magazine on the 25th September 2008.

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