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At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the Consumer Electronics Association announced it expects mobile phone unit sales in 2009 to grow some 31 percent in North America, with global unit sales reaching approximately 1.2 billion.

The announcement validates the mobile market as a wellspring of untapped potential, but it also poses the challenge of how to effectively engage audiences increasingly selective about how, when, and where they buy.

Consider this: It's all but impossible to watch television, surf the Internet, or use your mobile phone without experiencing some sort of brand interaction. Brands are everywhere, from the shows we watch to the clothes we wear to the Web sites we visit.

Consumers are more accessible now than at any other time in history: From broadcast to email to mobile phones, there are ever-increasing numbers of channels for brands to reach customers through, but to what effect?

Brand saturation doesn't equate to brand affinity. "Information overload" is no longer just a catchy phrase—it is a reality in today's world of mass communications.

Making the Most of Mobile

So how do brands differentiate themselves in a competitive marketplace without alienating consumers and blowing their marketing budget?

In this down economy, marketing spends are under intense scrutiny—marketers are expected to produce tangible results and maximized ROI for every dollar spent. The challenge of doing more with less has brands searching for innovative avenues for customer engagement.

With explosive growth projected in smartphone adoption, smart marketers will look to the burgeoning mobile market and address the wealth of opportunity it offers for meaningful brand-to-consumer interaction.

Engaging mobile consumers is about more than just sending out branded text messages or buying search advertising; it's a process that requires substantial forethought and skillful execution.

One area showing significant potential for meaningful brand interaction is mobile 2D barcoding: URLs are embedded directly into barcodes, which are then applied to print materials, signage, or product packaging; when customers capture 2D bar codes with their camera phones, those images become gateways to additional branded data such as product coupons, mobile e-commerce sites, and more.

As a customer-engagement tool, mobile 2D barcoding opens the door to instant one-to-one brand experiences that cannot be replicated by non-mobile mediums (such as print or direct mail) but can be easily incorporated into existing campaigns.

Supercharge Your Mobile Marketing

With this in mind, here are five ways brands can supercharge their mobile marketing, turning choosy consumers into loyal customers.

1. Embrace the medium

Mobile devices are the most widely available in the world—and an "always-on" communications channel. Like that old tagline, consumers "never leave home without it."

Moreover, mobile functionality is increasing: Users today can call a friend, send email, surf the Web, listen to their favorite song, get driving directions, watch a video, and snap a photo all from a single device.

Disregarding the unrivaled potential of the mobile market means missing critical opportunities to provide customers with truly meaningful brand interactions.

2. Be an early adopter

Innovative, easy-to-use technology tools are being introduced on a daily basis. There is unparalleled market potential for brands willing to embrace and adopt these rapidly evolving frontier technologies.

For example, a Web-enabled mobile device with the ability to read simple mobile 2D barcodes can turn a static, one-way conversation into an interactive, dynamic two-way dialogue. Providing such instant access to information that is relevant and timely to users increases market reach and penetration, improves awareness, and strengthens brand loyalty.

Finally, adopting these pioneering technologies ensures brands remain ahead of a rapidly evolving technology curve, and establish themselves as technology-savvy leaders.

3. Leverage touchpoints intuitively, not intrusively

Mobile functionality offers greater opportunity for brands to interact directly with consumers across a variety of touchpoints—such as voice, text, images, and video—but it also increases the possibility that these interactions will be perceived as intrusive and unwelcome.

Using push marketing to blanket entire customer databases with generic text messages is far likelier to generate negative perceptions, whereas a softer pull approach invites consumers to initiate a brand experience on their own terms and timeline—a print flyer, for example, that contains a barcode linked to a brand Web site with meaningful information, or a coupon.

Mobile marketing efforts should always be an intuitive, natural extension of current brand strategies, strengthening brand identity and driving customer affinity.

4. Drill down into the data

Mobile brand interaction generates truly useful, highly detailed customer demographics that can be captured in real time. Emerging mobile technologies like mobile 2D barcoding are a marketer's dream—they allow user response and behavior to be tracked in ways that non-mobile mediums can only envy from afar.

By generating richly detailed data such as geographic location, likely age, and Internet usage, mobile 2D barcoding provides a measurable direct response tool, lending a robust ROI analysis to traditional print campaigns. This added dimension allows brands to measure and analyze customer demographics and behavior, and in turn, deliver more valuable, customized interactions like personalized ads and promotions.

5. Use mobile communications to strengthen customer relationships

The mobile medium facilitates more direct brand-to-consumer interaction, helping brands develop deeper relationships with their customers, enhancing awareness, and building overall brand loyalty.

Retailers and manufacturers have already realized real-word benefits like increased sales and improved brand identification. By leveraging the wide variety of mobile channels, including voice, text, mobile Web browsers, and video, brands can improve both the quality and frequency of their customer communications, elevating the consumer brand experience.

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With a rapidly growing mobile market and smartphone adoption rates set to soar, brands no longer have the luxury of considering mobile marketing a footnote in their marketing and advertising plans; instead, mobile marketing is firmly establishing itself as a cornerstone in any successful, integrated marketing and advertising mix.

The time for marketers to act is now, or risk being left behind as the consumer migration to mobile continues. By following the above-listed five simple tips for supercharging their mobile marketing efforts, any brand can turn objective consumers into loyal brand enthusiasts.

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Iain McCready is CEO of NeoMedia Technologies (, a leader in optically initiated wireless transactions.