Beginning in our July issue, PROMO looked at the impact the mobile phone messaging channel is having on brand marketing. That month, we looked at how the channel has been used by marketers in places like Japan and the U.K., where text messaging technology is more advanced and embedded in the popular culture. We also peered ahead to improvements in the technology coming from both phone manufacturers and service providers. In the August issue, we weighed the challenges on both the tech and privacy fronts, as well as regulatory answers to these concerns.
In this, the third and final installment in the series, we look at recent campaigns in which texting has figured prominently. Are there parallels with the strategic needs of your brand?
Coverage of mobile phone-based promotion won’t stop here, however. Look for further reporting in upcoming issues, as well as breaking news in PROMO Xtra, sent three times a week to our online subscribers (for your free subscription, visit promomagazine. com/about).
“Young men aged 18 to 34 aren’t watching network television any more.” “Newspapers are losing ground to the Internet.” “Teens and tweens are more likely to instant message a friend than pick up the phone.” Underlying broad-stroke headlines such as these are some very real shifts in the ways Americans get information and entertainment from their media and each other. While media have fragmented (network TV now co-exists with hundreds of cable and satellite channels, for example), technology keeps adding new ways for us to communicate.
This includes new options for brands that need to reach their consumers. Brand managers are not only shifting large chunks of marketing budget over to non-network TV, but they’ve also rediscovered the Internet.
And a few pioneers are taking a cue from their peers outside North America and investing in marketing via mobile phone.
Whether SMS (short message service, primarily abbreviated text) or MMS (multimedia service, requiring a more sophisticated phone with higher bandwidth to handle audio and video messages), mobile phones are the computers tucked in everyone’s pocket, that can allow a brand to engage its audience 24/7.
Money is following opportunity. According to Tom Burgess, CEO of Third Screen Media of Waltham, MA, his company is seeing “some nice budgets” — upwards of $100,000 in some cases — for text-message marketing. He expects that figure to grow even higher as cell phones become MMS-enabled and capable of handling longer messages.
Transmitting messages is getting easier, thanks to a proliferation of aggreagators and other service providers eager to fill the space between wireless providers and brands. For example, Interspot (currently in St. Petersburg FL, and moving to Boston, MA) has a product called InterSMS. That technology allows users to send an SMS message to another phone via a computer.
The company has also introduced software that lets brands transmit coupons via computer to a mobile phone. A consumer might begin by shopping on the Web, click on a banner and trigger a code that’s sent to her mobile phone as an SMS message. Later, in the store, she pulls up the SMS message for the cashier to scan (as with any UPC codes) to receive the discount.
Office supplies retailer Staples used an SMS coupon to draw in teens for a back-to-school program last year. It racked up a 26% redemption rate and doubled the average purchase during the run of the program. N5R of Toronto executed.
Coupons are a time-tested promotions tactic that translates over to the SMS format. Let’s look at some others that are familiar to marketers.
Just over one-tenth (11%, or 2 million people) of 18-to-25 year olds downloaded games to their phones in the second quarter of 2004, a number that grew to 22%, or 4 million people, for Q3 2004. Overall, 7.7 million adults engage in game downloading, up from 4.4 million in the second quarter.
Gaming stats demonstrate that while middle-aged adults are the biggest users of mobile phones, younger adults are more likely to use phones’ advanced features. Since these services are revenue streams for mobile providers, it makes sense for them to encourage the use of other new features to younger demographics, who tend to be earlier adopters, while pushing the spread of more established non-voice features to all demographic groups.
From the United States Air Force to the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, trivia games are finding a niche in mobile phone marketing.
The USAF worked with mobile marketing agency Mobliss (Seattle, WA) and Tribal DDB Worldwide, which created, implemented and managed a wireless text messaging promotion this past May through June. The mobile trivia game, called Air Force Snap Decisions, engaged wireless subscribers at three different events in conjunction with the Air Force Cross Into the Blue (CITB) Tour, testing their knowledge of the aircraft and Air Force history.
Later in the summer, Hip Cricket, a mobile marketing and event company based in Essex, CT, signed with the Television Academy to launch The Mobile Emmy Trivia Challenge, a series of daily two-part SMS trivia quizzes that began on Sept. 10 and ran in the 10 days prior to the 56th annual Emmy Awards broadcast on ABC.
Viewers tested their Emmy Awards knowledge in various categories via their mobile device. To play, mobile users sent a text message to EMMYS (36697) with the keyword ‘PLAY’ in the body of the message. It cost each player $0.50 to enter/per day (Sprint users were exempt from charges).
The trivia game was designed to draw 18-34 year olds, who had become a smaller percentage of the broadcast audsience in recent years. The winner was awarded a trip to Los Angeles for a set visit to an Emmy-winning show in 2005.
“It’s a great way to reach teen-aged and young adult television viewers in a way that’s both fun and relevant to their lifestyles,” says Laurel Whitcomb, VP-marketing for the Television Academy.
In July, Enpocket (New York City) and The History Channel launched a mobile marketing promotion for two new shows on The History Channel, Decisive Battles and Command Decisions. Viewers were able to interact in real-time using their mobile phones by texting the word ‘HISTORY’ to the cross-carrier short code 84288 (the equivalent of THC-TV), advertised on television promos and in the press.
Decisive Battles recreates three-dimensional views of ancient battles and puts viewers into the action using computer gaming technology from the video game Rome: Total War. During the show, viewers answered questions about battles on their mobile phones to win one of 50 copies of the game or the grand prize, a Panasonic Digital Home Entertainment System.
For the second show, participants received questions on their mobile phones and made critical decisions during historic battles to test themselves against the rest of the viewing audience. As the promotions predicted, “From Greek Wars to the Gulf War, Command Decisions puts the viewer in the general’s chair,” (and on the other end of the phone line).
In August, Verizon Wireless launched an SMS version of that game show chestnut, Family Feud. Developed by Mobliss, more than 100,000 fans had subscribed by October to play the mobile phone game.
“The success of the game so far has been phenomenal and breaks our company record for paid monthly subscribers,” says Brian Levin, CEO of Mobliss. Subscribers try to guess the most popular answers to survey questions while competing against other players in real-time on major wireless carriers across multiple technologies in North America. Players who guess the most popular responses in the shortest amount of time win by accumulating the highest number of points. Competitors create personalised profiles and post real-time leaderboards.
Also in October, Verizon launched The Price is Right Cliffhangers on its Get It Now service. Based on the classic game show, players guess the retail price of three items. High scores are kept on a leaderboard so players can compare scores with other users nationwide. Once again, Mobliss executed in partnership with FremantleMedia Licensing Worldwide, the licensing division of television production company FremantleMedia.
If winning a sweepstakes promotion is fun, winning instantly is even better. Just ask Melissa Hasty.
In September, Miller Brewing Co.’s Icehouse brand awarded her a five-day cruise to rock ‘n roll heaven via an SMS sweeps promotion staged at the Washed Ashore Concert at Earthlink Live. Hasty’s five-day/four-night Caribbean cruise aboard the Rock Boat featured 17 rock acts, including major label recording artists Sister Hazel, Tonic, Gavin DeGraw and Cowboy Mouth.
The Icehouse Rock Boat promotion at the Earthlink Complex marked the first time wireless technology was used for a sweepstakes in a concert environment. Hip Cricket executed.
Music fans, 21 years and older at the concert, could enter the sweeps for a cabin on the Rock Boat, by text messaging the words “PICK ME” to a number designated by Icehouse. Fans were encouraged to send the short code message during the night’s performances. Hasty got the good news through a text message reply at 10 p.m. Several other consumers won secondary prizes throughout the night.
“Wireless has worked itself into so many parts of peoples lives — chatting, text-messaging, web surfing,” says Mark O’Brien, Icehouse brand manager. “The promotion at Earthlink Live gave music fans the opportunity to win one of the hottest music tickets of the year, The Rock Boat, through a medium they use in their daily lives, all while enjoying a night of hot performances.”
Hasty set sail aboard the Rock Boat this past October.
When hit TV show American Idol wanted to connect with its audience in unprecedented ways, the results were staggering.
For three straight years, SMS text-voting rates for the hit show were through the roof. From the second season to the third season, Mobliss and AT&T Wireless garnered an 80% growth in the text messages sent in conjunction with American Idol.
During the most recent season, more than 13.5 million text messages, including fan mail, sweepstakes entries, trivia and votes from AT&T Wireless customers were processed. The show’s success is built on interactivity and engagement, turning viewers into active participants with a stake in each week’s progress.
It’s a lesson learned by the producers of courtroom drama The Jury. The Fox-TV series features an interactive polling application for wireless subscribers that brings the television viewer into the jury room. As facts are exposed during an episode, wireless subscribers render their opinion on the guilt or innocence of the defendant, by sending a text message. Responding to an in-show call to action, viewers text message their verdict, “G” for Guilty, “N” for Not Guilty, to 36988 (FOXTV). Results of these polls are broadcast on the show.
More offbeat uses for mobile phones ar emerging, introducing tactics that are less familiar to brand marketers.
This past fall, Jane magazine began offering giveaways to readers who used their cellphones to photograph ads that appeared in its pages. It’s message to readers: “Grab your camera phone and take a picture of any and all ads in this magazine.”
Jane promised readers who send the photos to Jane “a ton of freebies, sweepstakes, MP3′s and interesting info.”
The magazine’s publishers, Fairchild Publications, haven’t released any data on the response from readers, but says they hope the promotion speaks the language of their audience: cellphone-ese.
“They use picture and texting functions on their cellphones almost more frequently than they talk,” said Eva Dillon, VP and publisher in an interview with The New York Times. “We were brainstorming what we could do that would make them get involved in our programs in a way that’s fun and speaks to them in a way that they speak to each other.”
From there, Ms. Dillon said, the promotion was intended to connect readers with marketers according to their individual interests.
Advertisers who participated in Jane Talks Back included Kmart, which gave users $5 gift cards; Calvin Klein Jeans, which gave away 25 jean jackets; and Guess, which offered 10% discounts to readers who snapped and sent pictures of its ad.
Sony Playstation 2, Trojan condoms, Jack Daniels whiskey, Puma Fragrances and Samsung also came into the magazine as a direct result of the promotion, Dillon said. Samsung was designated as the official camera phone of Jane Talks Back.
Mobot, Boston, MA, executes by deciphering low-resolution camera phone images and matching them to the ads sent via MMS.
What’s next in mobile phone marketing? With creative application of this increasingly versatile channel, “u txt us.”
Opt-In the Only Option
While more marketers are jumping into the SMS/MMS game, they will have to learn a new playbook, and stay up-to-date on changing rules. Chief among these: Get permission before you message.
The Federal Communications Commission instituted new rules on Oct. 18 to eliminate or reduce unwanted marketing messages sent via cell phones or PDAs. As part of the Can-Spam Act enacted earlier this year, the FCC bans unsolicited commercial text messages to consumers, unless they have opted to receive such messages or already have a relationship with the sender. Marketers may not send SMS (short message service, or text) or MMS (multimedia, with images or audio) messages through the Internet to wireless devices. (Ads sent to e-mail addresses that are then forwarded to wireless devices such as BlackBerrys are okay.)
More than in any other channel, marketers must get permission from consumers before sending a message via mobile phone, experts say. Via in-store displays or packaging, promotions may invite a text inquiry from consumers and request permission for a response, but churning through phone numbers to send messages proactively just won’t fly.
“The only saving grace is that it costs cash money to send a text message, unlike e-mail, where a million messages can be sent for pennies, says Wes Bray, CMO of Hip Cricket, a mobile marketing firm in Essex, CT. Both senders and receivers of messages pay for calls, under U.S. protocols, and receivers willingly pay only for messages they want.
“The telcos won’t stand for it,” says Roman Bodnarchuk, CEO of Toronto-based mobile marketing firm N5R. “E-mail spam isn’t free and the carriers can shut it down faster than spam on the Internet.”
And now, thanks to the FCC, the courts will also have powers to shut it down. The FCC has already worked with Verizon Wireless to prosecute 51 people accused of mobile phone spamming under Can-Spam and other state and federal statutes. A lawsuit filed this past summer in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against Jacob Brown of Pawtucket, RI, and others, accused them of sending 4.5 million messages pushing mortgages, herbal supplements and porn content.
But pressure to disclose cellular phone numbers continues. A proposal earlier this year by members of the cell phone industry to create a 411 directory of wireless numbers has sparked a debate in the U.S. Congress. Wireless providers have explicitly told Congress that listings would be determined on an opt-in basis. Congress is considering legislation that would make the opt-in approach mandatory.