Sometimes it's easier to highlight of an example of how not to do something backed up with context and reasoning why. In this case, I'm talking about mobile marketing on college campuses. I can't think of a subject that's generating more buzz right now other than may be green marketing initiatives or branded Facebook apps. We've written extensively in our monthly Insights reports about the promise of mobile marketing and even have included several case studies of brands and companies that in our opinions have actually done a great job executing a program...and more importantly, why it was successful. That said, in catching up on my reading from yesterday, I saw a not-so-nice write up in the NY Times about a company called Mobile Discovery and a pilot program they're running on the campus of Case Western Reserve University (home to 34 of a our panelists, just checked). The piece starts out how we as a country are way behind the mobile power curve with consumers in Europe and Asia way ahead of us when it comes to making purchases via mobile and other activities that are still considered incredibly emerging here. Anyway, so the company, Mobile Discovery is conducting this test and working alongside the school's engineering department, whereby those students are helping to manage the program. Through the test program, students are able to download software to their mobile phone and using that software they are able to view a campus bus schedule, order a magazine, get news alerts from USA Today and even enter a sponsored sweepstakes. Ok, sounds relatively ok up to this point...right? Personally, I would have included a few more relevant apps besides a bus schedule, like what's on the menu at the dining halls, how about local campus news alerts and updates instead of just national updates, etc. Anyway, back to the crux of the story, here's where the ball got dropped, about 50 floors down, mind you. The first mistake was cost-related. Yo, if you're doing a test like this, and you're the lead service provider, you'd better have a deal in place with the carriers to either participate as a secondary partner and bypass data costs or step up to the plate and assume those costs, neither of which the company did. Lo and behold what happens, the kids get charged data fees every time they access one of these apps. How do you think the response rates have been so far? The article calls it tepid, which a nice word for shitty. Second, apparently the company's CEO needs a refresher course in morals and ethics. The article notes that the Mobile Discovery CEO gave a presentation to the one of the engineering classes and featured a slide of a topless woman who had a bar code on the rear of her jeans. As can be expected some students laughed it off while others were a bit dumbfounded. One of the students present at the time of presentation ended up writing up an editorial in the school's newspaper (which how I imagine the NY Times picked up on it) objecting to the company by saying they were "slapping bar codes on women as if they were six-packs of Budweiser from the local grocery store." Yikes. When it comes to mobile we've never said we had all of the answers, we like to believe that we can stimulate some thinking among our clients and readers and hopefully provide some insights as to best practices, but if you need a little (or a lot) of cold water splashed on your face for a quick reality check, this should be top of the list of things not to do.