The other day I wrote a German blog post providing some tips on how to optimize mobile marketing activities. This excercise brought back some fond memories of the early days of mobile marketing. Back in the summer of 1999 I was working on mobile applications over at CompuServe’s German office. Back then, mobile marketing was still a blurred concept in the minds of the mobile industry, and we were jointly sweating over demos to bring across mobile concepts and ideas.
I had been working on a location based service that could show a map on a mobile device (long before Google Maps saw the light of the day), and I visited several conferences and trade shows to present it to curious marketers. Early location based advertising services were part of the story: “In the future, you’ll be walking by a restaurant and receive an offer promoting an instant discount if you’d walk in right away.” My cross-channel-marketing concepts and predictions were correct, but the timing was, well, a bit off.
The reason: Neither the mobile networks nor the devices were ready for such applications in 1999 (or the next five years or so). Back then, “Mobile Internet” was a slow dial-up data connection, showing content on the tiny screens of the few Internet-enabled phones. The user experience was mediocre. However, if you were lucky you’d get your hands on an Ericsson MC218 Mobile Companion with its large greyscale display. It couldn’t connect to the Internet on its own and always required a phone, for example the i888 World Phone. One Sunday afternoon in August I wanted to capture this state-of-the-art mobile setup in a photo. I placed both devices on the stock quotes pages of the local newspaper. After all, we were still targeting suits with our services they were still far too expensive for average people.
So, if you ever wondered how the mobile revolution started, this photo might be a good indicator for your story.