While I don’t usually like to post negative things on my site, I find myself in a situation where I feel compelled to warn others who may be sucked into an “opportunity” in mobile marketing that is most likely a huge scam. Let me give you a bit of background.
In June of this year I was approached by two colleagues about a mobile marketing business called Wicoup – an MLM business opportunity centered around text messaging. Although I was apprehensive about it at first, over time through numerous phone calls and online meetings I became convinced that it might have potential as a good mobile marketing business. I was especially excited when in August I was asked to fly out to San Diego to meet with the then Executive Vice President of the company, John Rustin.
The meeting was about me developing a training program for them and I was told up front that my airfare and travel expenses would be paid by the company. By the way, Wicoup (now known as Digital Direct Network) is owned by Madison Avenue Media (a publicly traded company under stock symbol OTCBB:KHZM).
Without going into way more detail than is really necessary, what happened is that I flew out to San Diego and met with John Rustin. The following week on 8/11/10 John Rustin and I had a phone call with Stephen Molinari, the CEO of Madison Avenue Media, to discuss a proposal from me about the training.
In that phone call Mr. Molinari said a few things that made me very concerned that his company might be planning to do mobile spam. (I had had misgivings like this at several other points in our dealings but had been reassured along the way by my well meaning colleague who first introduced me to this company that everything was above board.)
Here is an email that I sent Stephan Molinari and John Rustin to clarify the situation:
Steve and John:
Despite my excitement after our phone call today about the huge opportunity in Wicoup, there was something said in our call that I keep thinking about. Frankly, it is weighing on my mind heavily. I want to make sure that I didn’t misunderstand you. You said something about having access to every cell phone number in North America on a list and that once it was scrubbed against the Do Not Call list that you would be able to use that to build your opt-in database and gather more demographic information on the owners of the numbers.
Do you intend to send unsolicited text messages to this list of cell phones? Or were you saying something else? I am hoping you meant that this list could be compared to your opt-in database and somehow compile a more robust marketing database. I need to know if unsolicited mobile contact is part of your business model.
Additionally, I would like to know what your specific plans are for the 60 million opt-in numbers in relation to the business owners who would be signing up for Wicoup services. Would they be able to send messages to this database? If so, under what conditions?
Lastly, when a consumer texts in to receive a mobile coupon from Wicoup how is it that they will be notified that they are being added to a database for future communications? Will each business be able to build a database of their customers that only they can send messages to?
I know this is a lot of questions, but these are VERY important to me to be answered clearly, succinctly and directly. I have to say up front that I want absolutely no part of mobile spam and I’m hoping you don’t either since you mentioned a law firm specializing in mobile and having a compliance officer. Here’s the bottom line – I am hearing mixed messages about your company’s stance on this and it is troubling me.
What I see is that Wicoup has the potential to be the biggest and best mobile marketing business opportunity around the world. I would love to be a part of it and help train people to sell smart, ethical mobile marketing tools to businesses. Please tell me that is what you want to do too.
I have never received a response.
Likewise, I have not been reimbursed for my airfare. Despite numerous attempts on my part to collect it. It seems very odd that a publicly traded company would refuse to pay a $482 airfare reimbursement request. Or respond at all to a professional in the industry who had grave concerns about the way business would be handled. Especially when the company had just asked me to fly out to meet with them. This was not unsolicited on my part. There is something not quite right about this whole situation.
My recommendation about Direct Digital Network and Madison Avenue Media is to listen to your gut. I wish I had. Would have saved myself a lot of time, energy and at least $482.
I am so honored to be included on Mobile Marketer’s Mobile Women to Watch List for 2010. It is so exciting to be listed with other “achievers who have already left their stamp on mobile marketing.”
There are some seriously awesome women on this list, like Laura Marriott, who is the Former President of the Mobile Marketing Association, and Tamara Gruber of Crisp Wireless who is one of my long-time mobile women friends and super smart marketer. I’ll let you read the entire list on your own, but want to leave with a couple of the quotes I especially liked:
“In mobile, you need to keep an eye on the future and a foot grounded in the present”
Vice president of emerging trends, Omnicom’s MobileBehavior
“We need to connect with women in other industries who want to be where the action really is today in marketing”
Chief marketing officer, Quattro Wireless
“Currently 0.8 percent of email newsletters are optimized for mobile, yet 20 to 30 percent of folks are checking their email
on mobile devices”
See the Mobile Woman to Watch 2010 list at Mobile Marketer.
My colleague, Tomi Ahonen has a new book coming out – Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media – and it is sure to be a great read. I’ve learned so much about the mobile industry and how to market with mobile from reading Tomi’s books.
This one sets the stage for mobile being the biggest mass media we’ve ever seen and backs it up with statistics that will flat out amaze you.
But don’t take my word for it, grab this 30-page excerpt and see for yourself. It is a PDF file that you’ll get immediately upon clicking.
I’d love to hear what you think after you read it. You can also comment on Tomi’s blog here. (Tell him I sent you over to comment.)
If designing for the mobile web is even part of what you do, there is an upcoming conference that you should know about.
The Mobile Web Megatrends is a unique one day event that addresses the strategy and best practices relating to key current trends for the Mobile Web. It will be held September 8th at the University of California, Berkeley.
Designed to be an interactive conference with participants getting an opportunity to discuss mobile web develop with some of the best and brightest thinkers in the mobile space, this conference is worth considering.
Ajit Jaokar, Futuretext
Micheal Mace, Rubicon Consulting
Dan Mason, ESPN Mobile Web
Kevin Leong, Mo’Blast
Barbara Ballard, Little Springs Design
Jason Spero, AdMob
Tickets are only $195. Registration is still open, but September is a lot closer than you think, so don’t delay if you want to sign up.
Mobile Marketer reported today that Laura Marriott is stepping down as President of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. Good for her!
Marriott has been a huge force behind not only the MMA but mobile marketing as well. Almost every time I read one of her many well written articles about mobile I learned something. Her insight into mobile and how it works for businesses is uncanny. Whatever her next venture is will surely be a success.
Congratulations, Laura. Thanks for your contribution and hard work. Good luck in your new adventure, not that you’ll need it.
No, the Pope has not taken up bull riding, but he has jumped on the mobile marketing bandwagon and so has the Professional Bull Riders Association. Both stories were reported in the May 12, 2008 issue of RCR Wireless News. (MOBULL RODEO, Inspired Messages)
According to the RCR Wireless story, the Pope will be sending out inspirational text messages during Catholic World Youth Day this summer in Australia. Even if it is a small toe-dipping in the pool of mobile marketing, I am happy to see the Church embrace mobile technology. Honestly, I’m happy when any group embraces mobile because it is such a powerful tool and I love to see it used.
I can’t help but wonder how interesting it would be if the Pope had a Twitter account and sent out daily inspiration there. I’m not joking; I think that Catholics might really enjoy getting daily inspiration from their spiritual leader. (Although it would be too weird if he was live Tweeted during a Mass.) On second thought maybe it is too informal of a communication channel for a world leader.
It is also very exciting, albeit much less surprising, to see the Pro Bull Riders Association (PBR) come on board with mobile. The PBR has built a comprehensive wireless site (mobull.pbrnow.com) giving fans access to bull riding news, standings, rider profiles and the official PBR blog. Fans can also take polls, shop and recommend the site to a friend.
The PBR site, powered by iLoop Mobile, is reaching the bull riding fan base that is rich with 18-34 year olds with a roughly 60/40 ratio of male to female audience members. The association is actively marketing their mobile site through in-arena signs, Internet promotions and on TV.
Accurately summing up the need for integrating mobile into your other marketing, Sean Gleason, COO of the Professional Bull Riders Association, said, “Nobody knows how to find you on a mobile device unless they’ve gotten the message from someplace else.”
It will be fun to see how the PBR association takes on mobile head on. I’m sure it is not that much different than bull riding. The tenacious, brave folks willing to jump on and take a bumpy ride will grab all the glory.
As Michael Ahearn, iLoop’s VP of marketing said in the article, “Any entertainment enterprise that isn’t really doing important work and development in the mobile channel and reaching an audience is missing the bus.”
At least we know the Pope is on the bus.
If you are not up to speed on what is happening in the mobile advertising space (or even if you are) this video is well worth watching – to the end.
You’ll find out about how AdMob got funded in a day, get Omar Hamoui’s take on the future of the mobile web and get to see an AdMob ad go live. This is the part near the end that you REALLY WANT TO SEE.
So, what did you think?
Selling physical goods on a mobile site may seem like pie in the sky, but if you look to the Japanese it is more like money in the bank. While at Mobile Web Americas, I learned from Daniel Wright, CEO of mPoria, that in Japan over 10 BILLION dollars of physical goods were sold via mobile devices in 2006. This is not downloadable content (ringtones, wallpapers, etc.) this is physical goods (perfume, shoes, electronics, sporting goods, jewelry.)
Wright knew that mobile use came first to Asia and Europe is now coming to America so, being a true entrepreneurial visionary, Wright set out to offer US businesses a way to set up a mobile storefront and get started selling physical goods via mobile. Within 24 hours a mobile store can be set up and launched using mPoria’s GoMobile! mobile commerce solution for retailers.
While mPoria’s big brand customers include GameStop, Buy.com, Moosejaw Mountaineering, GiftTree and many more what is really exciting is that mPoria has pricing that works for small to medium sized business. Any business that sells physical goods to mobile users should get a mobile store open now before the tidal wave of mcommerce hits the US. Frankly, I am thinking of figuring out how to get a mobile store going of my own.
Wright was not at liberty to share any specific revenue numbers from his vendors, but he did share that the average transaction from mPoria’s mobile stores is $120-$130 with a conversion rate of .8 – 1.5%. Recently one of his clients’ sold a diamond via a mobile order. I wonder if next we’ll hear about someone proposing via text message and then ordering up the engagement ring from their phone. (When you hear that story on The Today Show, remember you heard about it here first.)
My prediction is that by the holiday shopping season in 2008 we will be getting reminded when to order via mobile stores to get your gift shipped on time for the big day. And we’ll know that mPoria is the company making it possible here in the U.S.
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- SPEAKING SPEAKING Invite Kim Dushinski to speak about mobile marketing