Mobile Youth Services Forum summary by Tomi Ahonen

I spoke at the Mobile youth services forum last week.

Conference chair Tomi Ahonen posted this insightful summary on forumoxford. Lots of useful nuggets as might be expected from Tomi

Hi All

Our Ajit Jaokar is running a workshop today at the Mobile Youth Services Forum here in London, and I chaired the first day and delivered the keynote to the event. The annual event by MarcusEvans attracts a very impressive lineup of relevant players to present, consider: MTV, Extreme Mobile, DJuice (Telenor’s youth brand), Amp’d Mobile, Firefly, Mobile Youth, SubTV; as well as some of the other leading players innovating in our industry like SK WiderThan, 3 Sweden, ITN, Telefonica, Buongiorno etc.

I found several good tidbits from numerous presenters. I’ll review some of my favourite ideas here for us all.

Kyivstar Ukraine (a Telenor affiliate) discussed a clever tool in the battle of the second SIM cards, a Golden SMS. Its such a good idea well beyond the topic of youth and mobile, I’ll post about it separately.

Telefonica has introduced the ability to pass on top-up minutes between any subscribers, and its always free. We’ve had these before ever since first introduced in the Philippines what some five years ago, but mostly it seems to be targetted or possible between parents and kids etc. Now at Telefonica, if you are young, have run out of credits on your prepaid phone, and don’t want to ask your parents, you can ask your grandparents. Or your favourite uncle, or your girlfriend/boyfriend, or your best mate, etc. Anyone on the Telefonica network, and both postpaid and prepaid subscribers can do top-ups to prepaid accounts. A clever way to do small loans to friends. You owe me three Euros. No problem, I’ll send you a top-up to your phone?

Young people spread celebrity gossip with their phones. American youth-oriented Amp’d Mobile discussed what the youth do with their phones. There is an obsession with celebrity culture (American Idol etc). So there is a kind of hierarchy of expertise, who is in the know. If some celebrity has for example a radical new hairstyle or a new love interest or whatever, that is the topic that friends discuss. If you, then only find out about this a day later, and try to contact your friends and talk about it, they will react with almost contempt, as you are so out of touch, and they won’t want to talk about yesterday’s news. Unless you are connected and in the know, you won’t be able to participate. This increases the value of wanting to share. Which leads to the following finding..

The Amp’d presentation really hit me – considering my personal motto “in a connected age, sharing information is power” and the theme in all of my books that we have shifted from a networked age (PC computer networks) to the connected age (always on always connected via mobile phones and SMS). I’ve always explained that my motto means it is in OUR interest to share info QUICKLY. It is in digital form, someone will get it to your target anyway. If you want to do it, do it quickly, so you get to be first. But this is the first case where I’ve seen a kind of independent validation of that, so the youth of today already instinctively value that, who delivers the info first gets the value and benefit, and you are actually “punished” for bringing info too late. But then get this – Amp’d has introduced as its corporate objective “Amp’d makes you somebody people want to talk to” Wow. This is so totally the heart of what Alan and I aim for in our book “Communities Dominate Brands” – this is adopting a corporate goal of engagement marketing. Beautiful. Amp’d helps make the young consumer more appealing to others. Very very clever thinking. I’ve always said, even if Americans are behind in mobile telecoms, don’t count them out, they are brilliant at marketing, and they will become ever stronger.

Incidentially I think all American speakers referenced Helio (the South Korean MVNO entrant into the USA market) as particularly dangerous and creating a huge pressure to perform and consolidate now before Helio has fully established itself into the market.

A telling warning outside of telecoms for us all. Mobile Youth (Wireless World Forum) gave some findings of the Mobile Youth survey of 2006, but the remarkable warning came from youth clothing. Twenty years ago, the two leading youth clothing brands were Levis for jeans and Nike for shoes. Today Nike is still the leading shoe brand, but what happened to Levis? From a global market share of 50% they are down to 9%. The leading jeans brand today is Diesel. So yes for anyone of us who works in the youth segment (and thus the future of our industry), it is possible to maintain leadership (like Nike) but its also possible to utterly fail (like Levis).

MTV by the way, has also launched as an MVNO now in Germany on the E Plus network.

Tre Sweden (Three/Hutchison Group) talked about how they promoted Waiting Tones/Ringback Tones. Again not specifically youth-oriented, so I’ll post about it separately. A clever gimmick we can all learn from.

CyWorld – a frequent topic here at Forum Oxford – was discussed by SK WiderThan (the SK Telecom spin-off company that invented Waiting Tones/Ringback Tones and today supplies about half of the world’s Waiting Tones services). One of the finer points of insight helped explain why CyWorld sells so much music. They offer what I would call a welcome song service. Whenever you visit a friend’s virtual room, when you step into the room, you can be greeted with the welcome song. So you all know me, of course I’d want to have a good James Bond theme as my welcoming song when you entered my room (HatRat’s lair ha-ha, outfitted like any true Bond villain’s lair). Each time the welcoming song plays, the subscriber is charged about 50 cents. A bit like a modern variant of the old jukebox. Because of this and so many other music innovations, CyWorld sells 6 million songs per month !

While on CyWorld. A bit of an update on CyWorld stats. 90% of Korean youth, 30% of total population are active in Cyworld. 90% of all picture uploads on the web in Korea go to blogs or photo sharing services within CyWorld. 30,000 corporate businesses (Pizza Hut, 7-Eleven etc) have a presense inside CyWorld and over half a million items of virtual properties are already for sale inside CyWorld ! The revenue-sharing deal inside CyWorld for outside brands is 40% to owners of CyWorld, 60% goes to outside content owners.

And best tidbit (I believe this will soon manifest itself in other virtual worlds like Habbo Hotel, and community sites like MySpace etc) – your personal popularity is now a contest of how many visits you have at your room inside CyWorld.

Our Jim O’Reilly of the Korean IT Promotion Agency also presented and while I tend to know much of what he presents as we work together so much, Jim managed to totally surprise me with this interactive TV element from the DMB broadcasters in South Korea. So you like your soap opera starlet? And you think that is a very sexy blouse? Click on the shirt (while the TV show is running) and you can be passed to a page of the clothing maker, and order the blouse for yourself online! Why not? Its digital, interactive. Even if the item is not visible this can be done. The soap opera storyline has the girl loving the after shave of the male star, then on the bottom of the screen it offers you the chance to order the after shave by clicking on the interactive part. We’ve seen this discussed for many years what interactive TV could be. Now – September 2006 – it is finally live and no longer science fiction. Of course this happens in Korea first ha ha.

The most insightful presentation I think was that of Peter Miles the CEO of university TV broadcaster SubTV here in the UK. Peter was amazing and I can’t do justice to all he said. So just a bit of a highlight – in the last three years the university student population mobile phone penetration went from about 85% to 99%. When they enter university they are 80% prepaid, and when they leave they are 80% postpaid. While all have access to online internet of course – and 90% access the web daily (51% access a social networking site at least once per week, wow) – very importantly the university age student is both online and offline. Their lifeline is the mobile phone. 74% say they “would lose their mind” if they lost their phone. Not because of a loss of contact info and stored messages etc. But because they would be out of contact. (reference the Ampd stuff above). As most don’t have a fixed landline connection, the phone is the ONLY way to contact them. E-mail and IM instant messenger is not an option. You reach someone via the mobile phone – but you can interact with them with any of a wide range of communication tools from online gaming to myspace to skype etc.

Peter is a passionate believer in SMS and coined the phrase I often quote, that using SMS, the youth is the Borg (of Star Trek Next Generation). But Peter also made the very important observation – the youth is multichannel. Don’t limit to mobile phones only!

It was a most insightful event. I’m very happy I stayed till the end.

Tomi Ahonen / HatRat smile