Upstream (mobile marketing)

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Private company
Industry Marketing and Promotions
Founded London, UK (2001)
Area served
Key people
• Marco Veremis, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer
• Alex Vratskides, Co-founder and Board Director
• Grigoris Kouteris, General Manager
• Panos Martinis, CFO
• David Hartig, Chief Technology Officer

Upstream is a mobile monetization company. Its MINT technology platform brings together insights from billions of mobile interactions, customer data and engagement mechanics to deliver high mobile purchase rates. Upstream serves mobile operators in 40 markets, helping them to sell their own and 3rd party products and services to their subscribers, while gathering customer knowledge and increasing customer loyalty. With a focus on emerging mobile markets such as Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, Upstream has direct marketing and billing access to over a billion consumers. To date, Upstream has engaged 600 million consumers over mobile and converted 65 million of them into paying customers. Its carrier grade platform has securely managed more than 30 billion mobile interactions. Through its MINT technology platform, Upstream has executed more than 160,000 campaigns worldwide for companies like Vodafone, T-Mobile, Telefónica, O2, The Coca-Cola Company, BMW, BSkyB, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé, Shell, Unilever, América Móvil, MTN and Telecom Italia.

MINT Technology Platform[edit]

MINT is Upstream’s proprietary mobile marketing technology platform. It is connected to mobile operators in 40 countries and has delivered over 160,000 mobile campaigns in 23 languages. In total it has managed more than 30 billion mobile interactions. Today, MINT leverages this knowledge base with tools and engagement mechanics to deliver high mobile purchase rates.

The main 3 components of MINT are:

  1. MINT Marketer: It provides all the tools needed to create intelligent, data-driven marketing campaigns based on a unique model of mobile monetization.
  2. MINT Connector: It is securely connected to mobile operators in 40 countries, providing direct messaging and billing access to over a billion consumers.
  3. MINT Analyst: It visualizes patterns and can be customized to report on bespoke campaigns.

MINT platform’s technical integration with mobile operators’ systems solves the challenges that have restricted e-commerce in emerging markets where: Marketing channels are limited: fewer people have access to television or personal computers. Mobile is the leading marketing medium, and through mobile operators, Upstream unlocks a range of highly effective mobile marketing channels. Credit and debit card penetration is low, but through mobile operators Upstream can directly bill mobile customers. Customer data is hard to come by. Upstream can combine pre-existing mobile subscriber data with analytics from over 160,000 mobile campaigns.

Research into Attitudes to Mobile Marketing[edit]

Upstream conducted research in 2011 with YouGov[1] in the United Kingdom and Luth Research[2] in the United States. The resulting report, entitled “Consumer Attitudes to Mobile Marketing,” revealed the amount of interactions with brands and operators that consumers are prepared to tolerate on their cellphones. The research also showed an active consumer resistance to third-party mobile ads, but an equally active craving for operator offers or deals.[3] Two infographics give a visual representation of the UK research[4] and the US research findings.[5] Upstream also published the 2012 Digital Advertising Attitudes Report. Upstream commissioned YouGov to poll the online views of 2,054 UK adults aged 18+ in the UK and 2,105 in the USA on a range of digital advertising issues. The report revealed that American and British consumers are warning of a major backlash as more than one in four (27 per cent) British and one in five (20 per cent) American consumers online would stop using a product or service – such as the social networking site – if they were subjected to too much advertising.

In 2013, Upstream commissioned YouGov and Vanson Bourne to conduct an independent poll of a 3500+ adult total sample size in Brazil, India, KSA, Nigeria, UK and US to deliver insights into the differences between mobile consumers in emerging and developed markets. The “Emerging Markets Mobile Attitudes” 2013 report points to mobile network operators as the new “kingmakers” in emerging markets, as smartphone giants adapt their strategies and handset functionality to target “the next billion customers” in these regions.

Upstream in the Media[edit]

Upstream has stressed the importance of the intimate and personal nature of the mobile phone as a key component in the formulation of a type of marketing that is focused on effectiveness, operating in a contextual and relevant way.[6]

In a 2011 interview with the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones, Marco Veremis, Upstream’s President, described this as the main challenge for marketers.[7] Co-founder Alex Vratskides, in an interview with The Telegraph, expressed the opinion that to play to mobile’s strengths, marketers need to base their thinking around the device’s inherent limitations and advantages, with personalization and intimacy always a part of the equation.[8]

In a 2011 interview, Alex Vratskides, co-founder, outlined the company’s approach to working with carriers and brands on a payment-by-results basis.[9] In 2012, Marco Veremis discussed with CNN's Nina Dos Santos Upstream's latest Consumer Attitudes Study with YouGov. Advertising overload and consumer privacy flagged up as key issues in relation to Facebook's advertising announcements.

Grigoris Kouteris, Upstream General Manager, was interviewed on CNBC in March 2013 and discussed with Kelly Evans Upstream's latest "Emerging Markets Mobile Attitudes" report by YouGov and VansonBourne. Insightful findings like Apple's third place when it comes to brand preference and the advantage that mobile operators have in emerging markets were some of the key points in relation to Samsung releasing the new Galaxy S IV.

He also gave an interview on Sky News highlighting that manufacturers, software providers and mobile operators need to change their strategies if they want to win the next billion customers in emerging markets.

Awards / Recognition[edit]

Upstream has been the headline sponsor of Mobile Marketing Magazine’s Effective Mobile Marketing Awards, since its inauguration in 2010.[10][11]

The company has won several industry awards, including:

  • Upstream won a 2011 MMA Mobile Marketing Award[12] for its work with TIM Brasil, the country’s second-largest carrier.
  • Upstream was selected as one of the leading mobile businesses in Mobile Entertainment’s Top 50 Mobile Innovators[13] in September 2011.
  • Upstream was recognized at Mobile Marketing Magazine’s Effective Mobile Marketing Awards[14] for its work for the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) to create the largest ever mobile campaign in the Middle East region.
  • In May 2011, Upstream was named as one of the top 25 fastest-growing digital companies in Europe by the GP Bullhound Media Momentum Awards 2011.[15]
  • EMMAs - Effective Mobile Marketing Award 2010,[16] Best Direct Marketing Campaign, for its World Cup Mobile Campaign for MTN West Africa. Awarded by Mobile Marketing magazine.
  • Red Herring Award,[17] Winner, Red Herring Top 100 companies in Europe, for revolutionizing the way companies market to mobile consumers.
  • Mobile Marketing & Advertising Awards[18] (MAMA), Gold Prize, Best of Use of Mobile in Driving New Revenue and Sales, for O2/Telefónica.
  • Ermis Award,[19] Ermis Gold & Grand Ermis, Direct Marketing category, for its Sound Wave Mobile Campaign for The Coca-Cola Company.


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