You could almost be forgiven for thinking the marketing world has gone mad. Motorola, the BTS Skytrain and Fly Now throwing a huge fashion show together? Nokia and Christian Dior launching their latest phones and fashions in one big fashion extravaganza? Frito Lay and Nokia joining together for a promotion that?s seen people buying boxes rather than packets of Doritos, which they?ve literally dragged out of shops?

But no, madness is not the explanation for these seemingly disparate companies working together on eye-catching marketing strategies. Rather, good old-fashioned competition for the consumer?s attention is driving marketing gurus to come up with ever more attention-grabbing events and promotions to attract today?s time-constrained big spenders.

?Motorola is always on the look-out for new and innovative ways to communicate to its targeted consumers,? confirms Motorola?s regional marketing manager Suphakit Vuntanadit.

?We try to launch our products by doing something completely different from the others,? says Una Tan, assistant marketing manager for Nokia in Thailand.

Yes, it?s a congested, hectic world saturated with information out there, and who better to know this ? and be in a position to gain a leg-up – than companies operating on the very edge of technology and communications, such as Motorola and Nokia? Indeed, based ondata gathered recently by ACNielsen from over 800 respondents in Bangkok, more than 11% said that they intend to buy a mobile phone in the coming year. The competition to snare these consumers is going to be tough.

So it?s not really a big surprise that telecommunications companies are the ones pushing offbeat, innovative marketing strategies. But what exactly has been going on in the minds of the marketing gurus behind these new strategies?

Arguably, the most innovative partnering to date has been Motorola, Flynow and the BTS Skytrain. Billed as the largest fashion event ever launched in the Kingdom, the May 26 WW/OW (acronym for Web Without Wires) show featured 80 models wearing clothes by Flynow designer Chamnan Pakdeesuk and carrying today’s must-have accessory, the mix and match mobile. The models travelled from the Dusit Thani Hotel to the Saladaeng BTS station, to Siam Square, and then to the Emporium.

The show was the first time Chamnan has unveiled a collection in Bangkok, as against his usual practice of showing his collections in London, Rome or Paris. And Motorola debuted their latest portfolio of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol)- enabled mobile phones (which allow users to access the Internet).

?The engagement of 80 models by Motorola in conjunction with Flynow to parade from the Dusit Thani Hotel to the The Emporium was truly exceptional,? says Somchai Songwatana, managing director of CRC Creation Plc., the owner of the Flynow brand. Furthermore, Somchai says the response from the press was quite overwhelming. ?Normally when we do a fashion show here we get around 50 to 100 members of the press. For this show, there were between 450 and 500 members of the press in attendance.?

But Thailand, with a subscriber base of over 2.5 million users, is a key market in Asia for US-based Motorola, so its marketing ambitions for the information-fatigued consumers in the Kingdom are more serious than a one-off fashion show. In fact, its targetted campaigns have been rolling out since the end of last year, and have involved a number of ?firsts?.

Chris Khoo, Executive Director of Bangkok Public Relations, which count Motorola among its clients, emphasises that Motorola is now targetting particular groups, based on their core needs and lifestyles. ?Ten years ago, marketing was all about reaching the masses. But today, it?s much more targetted,? Chris says. ?From December 1999, Motorola departed from the mass marketing approach and decided to focus on four distinct groups of mobile phone users: the V. (pronounced Vee Dot), the Timeport, the Geek and the Talkabout groups.? Each are distinguished by what they want from their mobile phone.

And part of this approach involves working with strategic partners. From March, the company was involved in a strategic campaign with Bangkok?s 80 EGV cinemas. This involved the filming of a ?public educational commercial? entitled Happy Birthday, on the etiquette of using mobile phones and pagers at cinemas and public places. The commercial featured a funeral being interrupted by the shrill ring of a mobile phone, answered by a mourner who hears a ?Happy birthday to you?? song audible among the none-too-pleased crowd.

EGV Cinema?s marketing manager Itthiphol Lokuparaphol says the commercial was gauged as being a success. ?Most of the viewers liked the public reminder because they found it humorous and effective in conveying the message,? he confirms. The advertisement is now being exported around the region.

Nokia is another company paying ultra-serious attention to its marketing attacks. They launched their Nokia 8210 and 8850 series models in February along with Christian Dior?s Spring/Summer 2000 collection at former nightclub the Palace, now a production studio. ?We came up with this creative idea and went to speak with Christian Dior. They were like wow! This is quite interesting. Let?s see what we can work out together,? says Yuwana Limwatanakul, Nokia?s marketing manager in Thailand. ?It was the first time that such a technology-product has been tied up with the fashion industry in Thailand. So we really wanted a big bang,?

And indeed it was. ?We had an overwhelming response from the press,? says Yuwana. ?Instead of having a catwalk in the centre of the room, the audience formed the centre, and the catwalk skirted around them. We had a specialised team work on the event after we shared our brief with Christian Dior, to make sure our ideas matched.?

Christian Dior, Yuwana says, were keen to participate because they wanted to update their image in the minds of Thai consumers, and launching with Nokia would help them achieve that objective.

Yumi Ingkhavat, marketing manager from Christian Dior, explains that the two companies? strategies fit nicely with each other. ?Technology is now like fashion wher e it needs to be updated constantly. For instance, mobile phones have transformed to become more than a communication device. Christian Dior and Nokia therefore appreciate each other?s styles, which need to be in tune with today?s lifestyle and business needs.?

Una Tan emphasises that Nokia was the first to establish this new ?lifestyles? category in the fashion world. ?We were the first ones to do this. Normally when you would talk about a mobile phone, nobody would think fashion. But now, the two have become an item,? she says.

And, as with Motorola, Nokia?s marketing extends and is sustained far beyond these big-bang attention grabbing events. ?This launch is not the first time Nokia has worked with a partner. We?ve had many other promotions with restaurants such as S, airlines, credit card companies and so on. Nokia may have a global idea, but we have to localise it and decide whether its right for our market. And this may involve using partners.?

Frito Lay is one such recently formed partnership, where consumers who buy Doritos chips have a chance to instantly win a Nokia 8210. ?They have a similar target group for their product as Nokia does for its 8210 model,? says Yuwana. ?So we thought we could share activities to try and meet our target. It?s about us each using our strengths together to improve our promotional activities.?

More generally, Yuwana agrees that these sorts of partnerships will become more common across industries. ?It can be different to distinguish products from each other in the market. To follow consumer trends and needs, in my opinion more and more tie-ups will happen in the future.?

So if you?re a consumer, rest assured that there are people hard at work fitting you into a category they can target with their latest campaigns ? nothing new about that, except that now companies on the edge are joining forces, making their campaigns both more innovative and persuasive. Watch your wallet!

And if you have something to sell: the news from the marketing world is that you?ve got to put your ear to the ground and find someone else who wants to sell to the same bunch of people. Two heads have always been better than one, after all.

/ Finance