Ringtone Marketing Anybody?

Few months ago I was traveling on a bus and I was seated next to a teenage boy probably on his way back home from his tuition classes. This guy; who never looked to me like someone who's having a steady or permanent income source, was carrying a highly sophisticated mobile phone in his hand. Guess what!! He's playing a snow man game on it. (Is that the best you can do with a mobile phone?) Few minutes later his phone started ringing. It wasn't the standard Nokia or Sony Ericsson ring tone. It wasn't a tune of a trendy hip hop song either. Sounded to me more like a great masterpiece of music and the tone lingered in my mind for the rest of the day and for few more days. Few days later I was at a Cargills outlet. I heard the phone ringing in the pocket of a passing by shopper. Amazing! It was that same ring tone which registered in my mind so boldly. During the period of next few week, I can't remember the exact number of occasions I heard that marvelous work of music. But on a one sudden day I heard the same tone on radio! And on TV... What's this? It's a jingle of some new product to be launched; a teaser campaign. It didn't took me much longer time to know that it was actually the teaser campaign for Bharati Airtel's long awaited launch in Sri lanka. I Googled for the ring tone and learned that it was actually a true musical masterpiece by Oscar award winning musician A.R. Rahman.

Guess what this time? I downloaded the tone; and set as the default ringtone of my Dialog connection! I was so passionate of the music of that ringtone. I bluetoothed it to about 10 or 12 friends of mine, who were all on either Dialog or Mobitel networks. It was just free advertising for Airtel, on Dialog and Mobitel as the career! Isn't it such a simple package for a good marketing campaign?

What is the marketing lesson in this story? We always think Marketing is all about spending millions on advertising and brand building campaigns. Companies ignore innovative and truly effective ways of spreading their brands from one (may be potential) customer to another, and continue adding more clutter to already polluted advertising airtime on major TV channels. The above Airtel ringtone story is a great example of how a company can use a simple concept like a mobile phone ringtone to enhance the brand recalling ability of the potential customer. Every time I hear that ringtone, it reminds me of "Airtel". Every time someone ask me "what's that cool ringtone?", I answer them "It's Airtel's advertising jingle". You need not to be a mobile phone operator to experiment this. You might already have a great advertising jingle with a high brand recalling ability. How about converting it to a ring tone and set the virus free? There are millions of careers out there to spread your virus. Your jingle will be played across the country at bus halts, supermarket queues and even inside public lavatories.

Going a step further, you can create small funny video clips of about 20 seconds, with some association to your brand. These video clips jump from one phone to another via Bluetooth, MMS and GPRS, at absolutely no cost for you for a single impression. How much did you pay per impression for your last TVC?

In Sri Lanka, the rate of Internet penetration is still at very low levels. Estimated Internet penitration rate in Sri Lanka is about less than 6%. But, we have a higher penetration levels of GPRS (and 3G) enabled mobile phones in Sri Lanka, making it much more easier for our companies to do M-Marketing than E-marketing. There are few SMS and Mobile marketing companies emerging in Sri Lanka, but their business model is having not much of a different from a traditional advertising agency. In other words they all try to sell hard! Who wants to get interrupted by an annoying SMS ad while you are in the middle of some serious work? But in this era of sophisticated technologies and highly empowered individuals; it is not an easy task to push your boring advertisements down the throat of any victim you see as a prospective customer. Much emphasis is need to be made on creativity (not the traditional definition used by advertising agencies)and sustainability of such M-marketing campaigns.

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