Mumbai: The next time you walk by a shelf stacked with goodies in a superstore, don’t be surprised if your mobile phone starts beeping with a message offering short recipes that can be “cooked up in minutes” with the product on the shelf. Or a message that urges you to try Lee Jeans’ “skinny” style at the next shop.
Welcome to the world of BlueCasting, a system developed by the UK-based marketing firm, Filter UK. Through this, marketers can offer branded content using Bluetooth technology. Companies that have experimented with BlueCasting include The Economist Newspaper Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd, IBM Corp., Lays Chips from PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd, and retail chains such as Shoppers’ Stop from K. Raheja Corp.
With telecom operators adding more than five million mobile subscribers every month in India, advertisers and agencies are tapping into this medium. Though in its infancy, BlueCasting or Bluetooth advertising is a proximity branding solution that is increasingly being used by advertisers to reach target audiences within small enclosed areas.
The process is quite simple: Marketers use a server that sends out messages to all Bluetooth enabled handsets within a particular radius. The user then receives a “prompt” asking if he wants to download the file. On clicking yes, the message is downloaded onto the handset. “Nearly 30% of all new mobile handsets sold in India are Bluetooth-enabled. That is a great opportunity just waiting to be tapped,” says Nilesh Kale, director, One-2-One Technologies, a Pune–based firm that specializes in BlueCasting technology solutions.
BlueCasting is a good way to reach out to urban audiences in the 18-35 age group, with large disposable incomes. That is probably why apparel major VF Arvind Brands Pvt. Ltd has been using BlueCasting to promote its jeans brands, Lee and Wrangler, in major cities. “BlueCasting really works for us, as we’re targeting the section of youth which is very fashion-forward. They spend a lot of time on their phones and are willing to experiment,” says Vipul Mathur, head, marketing, Lee. The company kicked off its campaign for Lee’s ‘Super Fit’ and ‘Skinny’ jeans at youth hangouts such as malls and retail spaces, where consumers were encouraged to download free branded content such as wallpapers and ringtones.
But does BlueCasting really pay off? For New Delhi-based shop, Passion: My Cup Of Tea, the results were favourable. The campaign offered ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ on green apple iced tea via Bluetooth downloadable coupons. During the four-hour campaign period, customers downloaded 40 coupons, of which 12 were redeemed. The 30% response rate was higher than for campaigns using conventional coupons. “The USP of BlueCasting is that it is a novelty. But it has to be used strategically,” says Arnav Ghosh, former vice-president, marketing, ActiveMedia Technology Ltd.
Kale agrees. He believes it is a powerful medium that offers advertisers an advantage over other platforms. Citing their campaign for Idea Cellular Ltd, he says, “They could reach consumers from rival networks. Isn’t it interesting if you are a Hutch user and receive a promotional offer from Idea on your phone?” The campaign, to promote the Idea Rocks Concert featuring singer Sunidhi Chauhan, ran in malls and multiplexes across Pune.
Bluecasting, though, has a flipside. Users who switch on Bluetooth connectivity could inadvertently download mobile viruses disguised as, say, a wallpaper. “Caribe (a mobile virus) beat the marketing agencies to Bluejacking (capturing attention through Bluetooth) in India. And that virtually sounded the death-knell for Bluejacking,” says Prasanth Mohanachandran, executive director, digital services, OgilvyOne Worldwide, India.
In India, most users keep their Bluetooth deactivated. For such a campaign to work here, marketers would have to support it with offline activities, encouraging users to switch on Bluetooth, adding to the campaign’s cost.
While Bluetooth has worked for applications such as wireless headsets and certain social networks, proximity branding has not taken off in a big way, yet, as most people feel there is a thin line between marketing and spamming. Leave it to advertisers, though, to deal with this creatively.