Could Bluetooth Kill Mobile Marketing?

Between the announcement of the mobile marketing success of the Robin Hood campaign and the alliance of MobiBlitz and 72 of our country’s shopping malls I am beginning to get a little worried. You see whenever I tell someone I am writing a book about...

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Between the announcement of the mobile marketing success of the Robin Hood campaign and the alliance of MobiBlitz and 72 of our country’s shopping malls I am beginning to get a little worried.

You see whenever I tell someone I am writing a book about mobile marketing (a regular consumer, not someone in the industry) almost without fail they comment under their breath about how horrible it will be when their phones are inundated with unwanted marketing messages. Usually they actually even cringe.

Of course I tell them right away that the Mobile Marketing Association has their back. “Mobile marketing must be done with permission.” I tell them. “Businesses will invite you to participate and it will be entirely your decision to join in.” Only then do they stop making faces.

However, the way that Bluetooth campaigns are typically launched that is not the case. Whenever someone comes within range of a Bluetooth transmitter and they have their Bluetooth device on they receive an invitation asking them if they want to receive a message.

The consumer can, of course, say no and that is where the Bluetooth proponents claim that permission is granted or denied. The problem is that first message asking permission is NOT requested. Consumers will see that as annoying, interruptive and exactly what they want to avoid happening on their phone.

Consumers will learn quickly that if they just keep their Bluetooth off when they go into malls they will be safe from this interruption. Unfortunately they may also shy away from other forms of true permission based mobile marketing because they won’t know the difference between an unwanted Bluetooth query and an opt-in text message.

Businesses who try Bluetooth marketing will also be disenfranchised with mobile because it won’t work the way they were hoping or expecting. Unfortunately they may also shy away from other forms of mobile marketing which could be more cost effective and get better results.

I strongly advocate that Bluetooth campaigns be 100% permission based. Use signage to create a Mobile Zone. Consumers can then purposely step inside the mobile zone, turn on their Bluetooth and receive the content the business wants to share. Granted, this will change the strategy behind Bluetooth marketing, but I think it should. For the sake of all mobile marketing. And consumers sanity.

In this article


  1. Tim | Lead Generation

    I like this method. We get it at the cinema which is good because it promotes something relevant to people who are liekly to be interested, i.e films whereas recieving them in a public area liek a shopping mall may feel invasive.

  2. Wendy Corporate Gifts

    I have just dropped by this site and have found it very informative, interesting and helpful.

    I would have to agree that when I used to leave my Blue-tooth on I would get the oddest people wanting to exchange stuff with me, which I found most irritating that i now keep my Blue-tooth off until I want some one to exchange something with me and vis versa.
    Nice post and I look forward to visiting again.

  3. Owen

    One viewpoint:
    -isn’t selling/advertising a product, itself, of the political system based on freedom of speech together with the freedom of persuasion (& media manipulation)?
    -isn’t SPAM just information one finds irrelevant to one’s perceived needs or desires (and too numerous/often)? If a SPAM product attracted you, would you still regard it as irritating? If so, change your email settings and/or have email addresses for different purposes
    -should Bluetooth settings be extended as standard on mobiles rather than restricting marketing technologies? e.g. To accept no-low-medium-high unknown contacts; to silent tone incoming Bluetooth msgs
    -wouldn’t all advertising & other forms of persuasion benefit from: emphasis on “relevance” & “quality”; regarding human identity, psychology & “being” as deep, complex & sacred as opposed to re-enforcing shallow stereotypes of role; enriching & attractive, as opposed to attention grabbing, content

    Personally, I wouldn’t be bothered by a few Blue-ads given the choice to accept or not. What may be slightly more annoying is when the craze catches on & there are 100 msgs/ ads to decline. It also makes advertising more democratic (level playing field for small business) due to low capital outlay & costs.

    A more important issue (for me) is an immanent future of fully immersive tech (e.g. mobile VR within eye glasses, brainwave control, haptic [touch] interaction) controlled by an elite of corporate interests with powers to manipulate human desire & form human-machine progress – possibly in deeply detrimental directions (imagine a 2020 Sillyt Bang Ad at least!).

  4. Petros

    Hi, its a-lot simpler than any of us can imagine. We have been in business for 4 years exclusively in the BT push market. We have more mall space than pretty much any other compnay anywhere. In the last 4 years we have seen downloads increase exponentially. It all boils down to that some people will accept most BT messages most of the time——- why very simply because its free and everyone likes free stuff. We have a test site where we have not changed content in 1 year and we made the content as boring as hell. Guess what the downloads have increased month on month and continue to do so. A large % are the same devices. Humans are curious and want free stuff—- don’t complicate your buisness life with over analysis. Get the sites and they will come 🙂

  5. Jamie

    I think the message and context in which the message is sent has a lot to do with whether a campaign is received positively or not. For example, I received a message when at a bus stop in Philly from Pepsi giving free music downloads. The responses of people around me where all very positive. I think this has a lot to do with the context of waiting and traveling and Pepsi offering free entertainment.

    (the company that Pepsi worked with is a Proximity Marketing company called Qwikker Mobile Marketing)

  6. Jack - Toronto Lawyers

    All mobile marketing’s sake and consumers’ sanity should be definitely the main criteria for this problem’s salvation. And the strategy behind Bluetooth marketing should be definitively changed. I will track the updates.

  7. Mich

    Intrusiveness can only be solved by switching to pull and BT is still largely about pushing unilateral content. Why? We all now that advertising around content is generally accepted, why not start providing proper content? After all we have a free channel to do so! Just start with providing simple On Device Portals via BT and see where it gets you.

  8. adriana

    I visited they are a more effective Bluetooth marketing solution.
    BlueMediaServer completely stands alone and is portable. It does not require a network and is easy to manage, thanks to a Windows application. It weighs 100 g and can run on battery, solar panel or AC.
    Bluetooth marketing is very personal and requires the user to read a visual and open their Bluetooth. It is best used as a pull technology with a small range.
    BlueMediaServer has adjustable range between 4 and 50m. But for an effective campaign, the range should be set to the same range as the recipient who is reading the information from the poster.
    BlueMediaServer consumes less than 10% power compared to any other Bluetooth solution.
    Costs a lot less (20%) of any other solution.
    (a MAJOR Savings)
    Sony Electronics found BlueMediaServer as an extreme smart idea (savings, technology) and is currently using this product, in all its stores in Latin America, as well as multiple mobile marketing provider is over 30 countries.

  9. Stan Katz

    Hi Kim,

    I read with interest your blog and the various comments.Most were valid.I believe the key issue in solving a very real problem is not to destroy a very effective proximity marketing vehicle in its infancy, but to acknowledge its potential to irritate.The last thing any marketer needs is to offend the consumer.I would therefore endorse the suggestion that one treat the visitors to a mall with utmost respect by informing them, by means of point-of-presence material,that they are in a Bluetooth hotspot and that they will obviously receive messages that they have the option of accepting, ignoring or rejecting.However, it is equally important to ensure that they are not pinged more than two, or at most three times, during an average visit. Most malls can tell you what the average dwelling time is.This is how MobiBlitz does it and in the two and a half years we have been operating we have had tens of thousands of downloads without a single complaint.On the subject of advertising in general, I believe people like advertising.They just don’t like bad advertising.With Bluetooth one has the added advantage of relevancy.The interruption model of traditional media is becoming less and less effective thanks to the likes of Tivo, or, in the case of South Africa, PVR.Nor does traditional media offer accurate mesurement of results and, let’s face it, when Return on Investmet is front and centre of any advertising effort, measurement is all important. One last thing, Bluetooth always works best as part of a cross-media initiave.MobiBlitz is not a purveyor of Bluetooth as such, but sees it as a valuable component in all the mobile services and solutions that the company offers.

  10. Kim Dushinski


    I think that those of us in the mobile industry are often shocked at how little the general public knows about using their mobile phones.

    So, no, I don’t think consumers who don’t know the difference between a text campaign and a Bluetooth message are too stupid to understand what is being advertised. I do think that any business that thinks their customers are stupid won’t stay in business very long.

  11. mc

    “Unfortunately they may also shy away from other forms of true permission based mobile marketing because they won’t know the difference between an unwanted Bluetooth query and an opt-in text message.”

    If someone didnt know the difference between a text in campaign and a bluetooth message they are probably too stupid to understand whats being advertised anyway.

    If they knew how to turn there bluetooth on its pretty safe to say they probably know the difference between that and a text in wouldnt you say?

  12. Stephane Faucompre

    Very interesting discussion about the intrusiveness of Bluetooth or not.
    I think the problem is outside of the technology itself. The problem comes from the “senders” of the Bluetooth messages.

    I know a lot of people using this technology both in Europe and North-America.
    Each time, the broadcaster is “bluetooth’ing” people in a blindness way, the receivers are both surprised and then frustrated.
    Now each time, the broadcaster prepared the campaign and announce [signage, speaker…] a Bluetooth content [discount, info…] to the targeted people, the users are really happy with it!

    The main mistake is thinking the cellphone is a new billboard. This is not! And when people use Bluetooth for “mass-marketing”, they run to a failure…
    The Bluetooth technology is designed for proximity marketing. This is a new tool/way to contact people at vicinity. You interact with them and supplement your marketing campaign with the Bluetooth.

    This is what we explain to our clients. And as soon as they get it and become minded to “Proximity supplement tool”… it’s a success!

    The examples of Giff are true. We’ve done that already in Europe. We’ve assist one of our client who is organizing Sport Events.
    You attempt a Sport event, the speaker invites you to enable the Bluetooth to receive an audio-interview of one player or a dedicated picture from a star… Where is the intrusiveness? And what technology could do it better at the same price? [Bluetooth transfer is free for both senders and receivers… what ever the number of contacts…]

  13. Giff Gfroerer, i2SMS


    Fair enough. These are only my beliefs and views and may not hold to be true in the general public.

    That being said, the few case studies that I read about in the UK did report severe customer backlash and hence the programs were pulled.

    I do believe, absolutely believe, (see prior comments on this blog re: bluetooth marketing), that this service will be great in a captured audience environment. I believe this is great at a Madonna concert or at a Football match or other locations where everyone is there for one reason, thus getting a ringtone from Madonna or wallpaper from your favorite team would be most appreciated. I personally just don’t find the general public wanting this in non-specific venues.

  14. Peter Levitan

    I have two clients in the retail space – a state fair with hundreds of thousands of visitors and a major shoe company. While both will benefit from mobile marketing we have ruled out Bluetooth. For all of the reasons stated above Bluetooth’s intrusion would be BAD for the BRAND.

    Smart marketers will get this. BUT, only 14% of all marketers are smart. So get ready for the backlash.

  15. Jim Dugan

    C’mon Giff, let’s stay on point and look at the title of the article. What’s really going on is how much intrusiveness is the user will to put up with, isn’t it. These bluetooth options described as turning on when you’re walking into the mall and expecting/wanting to know what/where these bargains are, correct? Using examples other than malls or grocery stores, where there are several areas of retailers in one paricular physical location. The irritant is more in other areas where advertisers are using sms, text and other means to push the envelope to see what will be the reaction. Our system eliminates that instrusive aspect of the mobile marketing (bluetooth or other) by only allowing the users to find out about the offers by actually choosing to go to Until marketers and the public realize that text/sms is not the only way, every time the subject of mobile marketing or advertising comes up, it will invariably go to the instrusiveness of such a thought. In fact, Juniper Research specifically defines “mobile coupons” as those that are sent to the customers’ mobile device and stored on that device. If we limit the definition as that, then, GripOffs doesn’t quite qualify as a free instant digital mobile coupon third-party platform provider. There’s great support for intelligent mobile providers and sitting around worrying about how to defend ourselves against the instrusiveness is fruitless when we can choose to leave that method alone and choose to go to those sites that offer a mobile platform to access digital barcoded coupons, instantly, at the point of puchase and use them for instant savings.

  16. Giff Gfroerer, i2SMS

    The problem, as I see it, has more to do with the normobs of the world then the sophisticated mobile end user. Normobs won’t know that it is permission based or anything else. All they will know is that something “important” must be coming in. So they will accept it. After a while, they will tire of the endless beeping on their phone and shut off their bluetooth.

    Now the experienced mobile user will easily recognize what is happening and will be in complete control. But the normob will continually be bothered by this type of marketing.

    Then, of course, we have to deal with those now trying to send a virus onto the phone. How does the normob know what to trust and what not to trust?

    In the end, we talk about intrusiveness, Petros. You compare it to a magazine. We both know this is not an even comparison, as you purchased the magazine with full understanding that you would see ads in it. Let us instead use the landline phone…

    You are enjoying dinner with your family and the phone rings from a telemarketer. Does that bother you? You have to pick up the phone to accept the sales pitch, therefore under your definition, this is also permission based. But did it bother you? And when you do pick the up the telemarketer’s call, did it bother you? Now go a step further, and say your phone rings 6 times during dinner. Was that pleasant for you or did it interrupt your peace? Now, same situation, but you are walking through a mall with your family and your phone keeps beeping as stores are trying to bluetooth you. This is what Kim and I are talking about.

    We can not compare this to a magazine or newspaper and we all know this. But telemarketers calling your house, this is the same situation. And I know of no one who jumps for joy every time their phone rings at home thinking about the special offers that will be awaiting them by the telemarketer if they can just pick up and listen.

    1. KW

      Hi Griff, one key difference between telemarketing and bluetooth is I do not have control over who calls my home phone once my number is out there. I think making bluetooth invisible is a simple as changing channel on the tv to avoid ads.

      If I think bluetooth messages would get me access to better offers then I’d use it. I’d prefer if it is used in context and long range broadcast is not clever for me as it would make it harder for me to understand what the offer could be about.

      That said, its irrelevant as I have a blackberry and iPhone, both of which are currently incapable of bluetooth messaging (thanks a lot Apple).

  17. Jim Dugan

    70% of people polled prefer the instrusiveness to not knowing about the ‘rewards.’ What about a simple solution where if you want to know all of the offers you can go to one third party platform – – for example, which offers advertisers the ability to create their own ad, make great offers and monitor views/redemption to receive instant analytics. No waiting, they’re in complete control, there’s no instrusiveness as the user has to go the central site, and the results are instant. If the users feel that the offers are worth it to them, they will use them.

  18. Petros

    The thing is that this has been going on for over 3 years and the download numbers are increasing not decreasing as are the volumes of customers to malls so that supposition is wrong. The 100 000 number is of actual accepted messgaes not enquiries. Ignored — no one ever ignores anything accepted to the most important electronic device anyone of us owns. If you dont wan’t a BT message turn it off you have the power (or just make it invisible— this way you are still paired with your mates devices but no one else). The magazine argument you state reinforces the case— you did not buy the magazine for the ads you bought it for the articles the ads are there and you know they are so you read those you want and leave those you dont. You visit a mall to buy stuff the only way that anyone can sell you anything is by advertsising and communicating. BT is just another media but one that gives you the choice. Its not for everyone and definetely not for you but the chap that recently won a car via BT in Cape Town or the few hundred that won cash vouchers or the thousands that claimed various discounts at stores country wide or the 100 000’s of thousands that are briefly entertained by a BT message well they like it and as long as customers download and continue to do so at these volumes well then I rest my case.

    Once a media is born it never dies —- no media in mankinds history (with the exception of the telegraph) has ever died. People will always vote with their feet and so far the vote has been more and more downloads.

  19. Kim Dushinski


    I agree that going into a mall is private property, but let’s not forget that consumers have the ultimate choice of continuing to go there or not. If consumers find they don’t like receiving BT messages all the time they may choose not to return to that mall.

    You say that 100,000 messages are accepted each month. How many are ignored or declined? Are those people annoyed by the initial offer – we don’t know.

    Lastly, magazine ads do not interrupt me – I am already reading the magazine. An incoming BT offer will seem like I am getting a phone call or text message. So I will stop what I’m doing and look at my phone. Even ignoring the offer at that point has interrupted me. That is the part of BT that I object to.

  20. Petros


    Thats the thing with freedom of choice its up to you to have your BT enabled or not and then you also choose to have it visible or not. You need to understand the media a lot better before you attack it this way. The second point is that the MMA approves of BT and its general methodology so much so that it recently awarded Blip Systems an award for a specific BT campaign in Europe. I know that this may irritate you but every week the number of BT messages that are willingly and gladly accepted by shoppers is increasing at this stage there must be close to 100 000 messages accepted monthly in SA. All with permission and all by people who have their Bluetooth on and set on visible. Then and this is soooo like preaching but if you enter a mall you are entering private property, you are also agreeing to abide by the rules and regulations of the landlord. The business of the landlord is to provide retailers with a sales platform this includes all and any legal media channels. Do I need to explain further?
    Final:Quick question when last did a magazine ask you if you wanted to look at a specifc advert (which may or may not be offensive to you, same with the billboards on teh N1 etc etc) they are there and if you want to you look.

  21. Anouar Messaadi

    I agree fully with you.

    Please stop just pushing content without any control procedures like variable range and device recognition! SAY NO to SUCH Bluetooth solutions like Blueblitz. Try it and you will understand.

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