Usage habits and preferences can vary country-to-country

As mobile penetration and usage increase across the board, marketers must craft campaigns that appeal to local communities and cultural differences. Ads developed for the US or other Western markets may not have the same impact throughout the world.

Latin America, as a region, has some of the highest adoption rates of mobile devices in the world and overall mobile phone user penetration of 55.4%. eMarketer estimates that penetration in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico will be 77%, 54% and 52% in 2011, respectively. Due to multiple SIM cards per person, subscription penetration in the countries is estimated much higher.

Mobile Phone Users in Latin America, 2009-2015 (millions and % of population)

However, one of the most important takeaways from the CTIA Wireless 2011 panel, “The New Frontier: International Perspectives,” is that each country in the region is very different.

The marketers on the panel represented companies operating throughout Latin America, but they stressed the importance of fragmentation. Each country maintains a unique culture that responds differently to marketing campaigns, the panelists advised.

In addition, Jorge Partidas, CEO of WAU Movil, identified two other challenges limiting mobile marketing in Latin America: the prepaid user base and limited bandwidth.

Fernando Dias, CEO of Pure Bros, stated that one constant across the region was the high cost of voice services. As a result, most consumers possess prepaid phones and have learned to communicate efficiently through text messages. He also went on to say that while data access plans remain expensive, carriers are beginning to accommodate users by offering unlimited access at rates between $0.30 and $1 per day.

Mobile Phone User Penetration in Latin America, by Country, 2009-2015 (% of population)

Some of the efforts the panel agreed were most effective were call-to-action campaigns integrating traditional media with text message short codes. Ricardo Carvalho, managing partner at Portugal-based interactive marketing firm TIM w.e., used TV ads featuring mobile short codes during the 2010 FIFA World Cup as an example. Viewers were asked to send a text message to the short code for a reward. The response was huge, and Dias even mentioned that his grandmother called him to learn how to text in order to enter a similar campaign.

There are bottlenecks, however. Because of lower average revenue per user (ARPU), estimated by Partidas at $15 per month, carriers are reluctant to invest in infrastructure to support massive amounts of data. One-off and call-to-action campaigns like the TV short code advertisement during the World Cup stress carriers’ systems as millions of viewers attempt to get in on offers.

In order to operate effectively in Latin America, the panelists recommended either setting up shop and investing in the local market—including research, local offices and infrastructure—or partnering with a local agency. They all agreed that a serious investment in these growing countries on a local basis will have strong returns. Dias said it best: “Companies must commit to the local culture and business—and they will be received, and rewarded, very well.”

Partidas admitted that establishing your brand locally, especially as a first-mover, can be expensive. However, if marketers believe in the value of their products, the right branding campaign can position them as a leader in an emerging market essential to international growth.

SOURCE eMarketer

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