Will the Future bring Bluetooth Proximity Marketing?

Several months back we had a meeting on Leveraging Mobile Apps for your Web-based Business at Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs and on the topic of mobile push marketing the consensus of the attendees was overwhelmingly “Don’t you even think about it, or I’ll end up ramming my mobile device far, far up someplace you’d really it rather not be.” Or something like that. Soon after I made a comment on Douglas Karr’s blog  on his post about bluetooth proximity marketing saying exactly that.

Well I just noticed that Michael Katz of AdMarkTech.Com posted a response entitled Do We Really Know What We Want? where he takes the position that bluetooth proximity marketing is less intrusive that television advertising because when watching TV you are not "in the shopping zone."  He then posits that:

"Maybe Bluetooth proximity marketing seems more intrusive than other forms of mainstream advertising because we’re just not conditioned to be approached while we shop."

He then claims that (with emphasis mine):

 "bona fide Bluetooth proximity marketing campaigns, similar to contextual vertical advertising platforms, are no different to television commercials"

And he summarizes with:

"The capabilities of two way push, receiving surroundings based information, on-the-spot offers and the ability to instantly reject or to receive based on Bluetooth activation preference, Bluetooth proximity marketing is actually less intrusive and potentially more helpful than television advertising."

Maybe.  But television advertising is not a fair comparison to bluetooth proximity advertising. First the TV viewer (or radio listener or magazine/newspaper reader or website viewer) makes a proactive choice to engage in a medium that they know is supported by advertising and that is part of an implicit pact where people gain content in exchange for attention. In the case of walking by a store, a person may or may not be in the frame of mind where they am ready to perform an attention exchange for an advertisement, and if they are not it is highly intrusive. Sure people could potentially be "conditioned" to accept it (shades of Apple’s 1984 campaign?) and he may be right, but I doubt it for the next reason.

There is a natural limit to advertising that can be inserted into content before people will no longer accept the exchange; only so much ad time on a TV or radio show, only so many square inches in a magazine or newspaper, and only so many square pixels close to valuable content available on a web page.  In the case of bluetooth proximity marketing it’s likely a person walking down a mall will be inundated with ads; literally tens if not hundreds in a short period, and that is far more than anyone can process.

In my opinion that’s a major reason why people hate email spam; that it overwhelms them. If we could somehow configure the number of commercial emails we’d get per day, and we could have them filtered by our preferences I think we’d be happy to get "unsolicited" commercial email. But there is no moderation on on spam, and without moderation on bluetooth proximity marketing it will just be another form of spam, only even more offensive because the devices are smaller.

Can there be moderation on bluetooth proximity marketing?  Ads on TV and radio, for example, come in series. Bluetooth proximity marketing would comes in parallel as does spam, and with nothing to moderate it. One possible way to moderate would be for governments to set up regulatory agencies to manage and meter access to said marketing but that sounds like a cure worse than the disease. Another potential way would be gatekeeping companies to control who can broadcast bluetooth proximity marketing messages to their subscribers and who cannot, and people would subscribe based on who does the best job of filtering. But I think a lot of visionary people in very powerful and competing positions would have to come together to make such a network of gatekeeper possible, and I just don’t see it happening.

Bluetooth proximity marketing is a typical example of how most people spend too much time on what they want and too little time creating value. Michael’s post title (Do We Really Know What We Want?) is a great example of that.  It sounds to me that Michael is asking "How can we convince people to want what we want?" That is wrong-headed, we should instead be thinking "What do they want, and how can we make a business to give it to them?"

Here’s a product I know people will really want instead; something that blocks all bluetooth proximity ads from ever reaching their mobile device.  Now that is a product of tomorrow that will be in VERY HIGH demand!


17 Replies to “Will the Future bring Bluetooth Proximity Marketing?”

  1. Thanks for the comment. Maybe you and I need to get an Indy-Atlanta connection going and start offering those blockers for sale! Course we’d probably want to market them with bluetooth proximity marketing…nah!

  2. I think I ll agree with Mike. But, we cannot blame the medium if we dont use it well. I have seen a number of interesting proximity marketing campaigns without being spam. These campaigns are not based on sending mobile content to everyone has his bluetooth on. These campaigns use the bluetooth technology in order to give mobile user the opportunity to take part in the whole process. This is what we call interactive proximity marketing. For example, the user browses a catalog of mobile content (mp3, video etc) and selects what he wants to download. Then the bluetooth system sends the content to the user.
    There is no intrusion here, only happy customers and patient marketeers.

  3. Vagelis: Thanks for the comment. In part I agree with you; I love when there are really cool ways to apply technology. The problem is marketers are not known for their self-restraint and it will be the recipient that gets to choose on this one (cell phone owner), and not the sender (marketer/wanna-be bluetooth broadcaster.)

    You could compare with email spam, which we all hate but still live with, but there are a myriad of differences. One example is battery life; if my mobile is constantly intercepting unwanted attempts to connect then it will run it’s batter down much faster.

    But don’t take my word for it and don’t shoot the messenger; just pay attention to what the attendees at my Atlanta Web Entrepreneur meeting OVERWHELMINGLY told the few wanna-be marketers in attendance; do it only over their dead bodies!

  4. I am interested in using bluetooth technology to promote my nightclub. I am not literate to computers, nor do I presently have a “Bluetooth” phone.

    Can anyone tell me what are the percentages of people who keep there mobile phones set to “discoverable” as the technology states that the consumers unit my be set to that in order for the add to reach the person should they choose to view it. I own a nightclub and wanted to sit outside the local coliseum to broadcast a free drink after the event at my establishment.

    Has this technology been used for a very long time in the USA? I just heard about it at a convention and thought it would be a good way to introduce new patrons to my establishment. The unit I am looking to purchase has the ability to reach a range of 250 meters.


    The unit is $500 and is not yet available in the US. I have seen many other companies online selling the technology at less than half the price and other than the distance I can not figure what the differences are between a less expensive model and the one I saw at the trade show.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanking you in advance…

    Ms. Rori Gordon


    I have asked several patrons and more than 50% DO NOT have Bluetooth ability and the market demographics of the patrons are 21-35

  5. Rori: LOL! That’s a first for me, owner of a gentleman’s club commenting on my blog! Given your question it’s obvious that you are ignoring the whole point of my blog post, and that is that people generally don’t WANT you to send them stuff via Bluetooth. Have you actually asked them if they WANT to receive Bluetooth notices? OTOH, potential patron’s to a gentleman’s club are different?

    If I were you I’d be looking toleverage things like Twitter and Going.com, but then I don’t run a strip club so maybe I really don’t have any idea what you should do. Good luck.

  6. Mike,
    While I would agree with most points you make, we believe there is a niche for this method of marketing. Blindly showering consumers with ads is not only annoying to the consumer but largely ineffective. However providing consumers with a method of obtaining something they want both quickly and locally does work well in some scenarios. For instance we recently completed a campaign for Sony Pictures where we used a very short range (class 3 15ft) broadcast encapsulated in signage offering downloads of a movie trailer from within select movie theaters. It was a successful non-intrusive method of enriching the consumers experience.

    As for consumers that are concerned about being pinged everywhere they go, they can easily make their phone “invisible” AND keep their bluetooth turned on so their earpiece or other device will continue working but they will not recieve any messages from advertisers. This feature is in every phone deployed with bluetooth.

  7. Thanks for the comment Dan.

    It’s not that I don’t get the value in selected use-cases, I do, but figuring out how to keep it from being overbearing to the consumer is going to be difficult. Not knowing the tech that well, I could envision something that had people enter in 3 digit “port” from your sign to allow your sign to broadcast to them. OTOH if the phone senses that a broadcast source is just doing port scanning then it shuts down that source. That might be viable. But remember, my post was mostly echoing what I heard from my fellow Atlanta Web Entrepreneurs.

    Anyway, not even being a “B”-list blogger like Douglas Karr, the comments on this post are more than I get on many posts. It is interesting how all of those who have commented (besides Douglas) have something to sell, either BlueTooth services or things using BlueTooth to sell. That’s not a criticism, I’m just saying…

  8. Hi, I have just been using AreaBluetooth Light for my proximity marketing tests, and I’ve had a overall good impression about the software. I´m using the demo vesion but considering to buy the $99 license.
    They also provided me with a 25% OFF discount coupon “blue4less” valid for google cart.
    For more information, their site is http://www.areabluetooth.com/en/

  9. I found the discussion interesting and challenging at the same time. To be honest with you I do believe in the fact that the Bluetooth advertisement is the best for the both customer and the advertiser. Why? Simply because is a win-win. Bluetooth marketing is the only one out there that can tell you, advertiser, how many people viewed and successfully received your commercial or your promo unlike when you advertise in a magazine or billboard, TV. Nobody can tell you if your investment is worth. Bluetooth marketing can. You will get numbers!
    2nd of all, is not a spam, as a customer or walking by person, you will get the content only if you want, the content will not be sent to your phone without your approval.
    3rd of all, it’s the first time, when the customers are rewarded only for the simple fact that they received the advertisement. The advertisement will come along with a discount or with a free drink in a bar, the possibilities are huge.
    So, for the first time, an advertiser will put his promo directly on his potential customer’s palms and more that that he will reward them for their loyalty. For the first time, you as a consumer, you will have a benefit because of getting the commercial.
    The campaigns running are very interesting and exciting for people!

  10. I live in a tourist town and we have a bluetooth marketing network set up all over the area to feed out information to our tourist and travelers as well as advertisments for area businesses. This is the next generation, if you will, in advertising. Anyone who has owned a business knows that advertising is expensive. The nice thing is, if you set up a high powered network in an area where most of the traffic is touirst or a big city where the traffic count is high and you catch the high traffic areas of the city, the number of ads and informational messages that will be received is tremendous. This technology can absolutly NOT be ignored by the advertising community and the area authorities. Imagine if you could send out an Amber alert to people traveling in the area where the crime has occured. You would suddenly have a net of imformed citizens in the area. People traveling could receive highway traffic reports to warn of upcoming accidents or road construction. It’s useful and it’s effective in both the informational sence and in the advertising sence.
    I am developing this network and anyone with a few thousand dollars to invest and some sales skills should investigate this as a lucrative opportunity. Advertisers get a big bang for their buck and the devices are reasonably priced. Over 80% of people in the US carry a cell phone. Bluetoot does not work with a Blackberry and they are 17%. So, we are left with 63% of the population with a bluetooth capable (for the most part) cellphone and this is not even counting the number of bluetooth devices now standard in vehicles.
    That’s a pretty good amount of the population!

  11. “Nobody has their Bluetooth switched on!”; “My Bluetooth is only visible for a few seconds”;”Bluetooth doesn’t work on the iPhone”; “The range sucks”; “Nobody ever responds to a voucher!”… “Bluetooth Marketing just doesn’t work.”.

    These are all comments I have heard about Bluetooth Proximity Marketing, but they are all wrong! I have witnessed a huge growth in success, adoption and proliferation of this technology through 2011. The problem is false expectations are dying and only the credible use of Bluetooth Marketing remains.

    So why is Bluetooth Marketing not a dying technology but actually just ready for its major revival, here are four reasons:

    Firstly lets address range, traditionally Bluetooth transmitters in phones are class two and the Bluetooth spec for class two phones is 10m range, now traditionally if you coupled these with a class 1 Bluetooth broadcaster you could effectively extend the range of these devices to 30m tops. However advances in integration on chips with Digital signal processing (DSP) chips and noise cancellation technology a new generation of Long Range Bluetooth Marketing solutions have come to market, with the leader being the AX range from market leader http://www.huetouch.com. The Ax range from Huetouch can send messages to phones up to 100m away from the device, thus increasing range and effectiveness. There is little doubt that Huetouch software with this hardware platform has created the longest range Bluetooth Marketing devices on the market in my opinion.

    Couldnt write any more here check out my blogger page themobilexpert for the rest please guys.

  12. We created a mobile application, that will do your business closer to your consumer!
    Make your business alive! New Proximity marketing technology will tell everyone about you as they are in the proximity of your location directly using your mobile!

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