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Can Mobile Promotions and Sweepstakes Change Consumer Behavior?

  |  April 6, 2006   |  Comments

Mobile promotions can make consumers more receptive to the brand messages they're tuning out on TV and in print.

Text "WIN" to "12345" for a chance to win $1 million.

Text "Chat" to "55555" to chat with a sports hero and be entered into a chance to win two courtside tickets to the next game.

These are two examples of the types of mobile promotions that have been launched over the past few months. "txt2win," "mobile sweepstakes," "reverse auctions," and "mobile treasure hunts" are all terms we hear related to mobile marketing promotions and sweepstakes that brands are deploying today.

Alltel was one of the first to offer a major mobile sweepstakes initiative. When Alltel launched its first mobile sweepstakes in which consumers could win $1 million as part of the Super Bowl promotion, it didn't anticipated the number of entries it received. On its second million-dollar giveaway with "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," it launched a similar txt2win campaign, but it also offered weekly prize giveaways and tied the promotion into TV, resulting in dramatically increased consumer participation.

Mark Fortune, Alltel staff manager, says mobile promotions provide "usage stimulation" for consumers and encourage those who haven't yet tried text messaging to participate via their mobile devices.

The company continues to offer mobile promotions. But rather than big-ticket $1 million prizes, it now offers promotions over longer durations with smaller, constant prizes. Consistency and persistency are key to drive consumer behavior and encourage text adoption. Mobile promotions provide an easy, simple means for a consumer to engage with the brand via the mobile device, says Fortune. And once consumers opt in, the brand can continue to engage the consumer and maintain that dialogue (if the consumer permits, of course). The value for the consumer is entertainment and a chance to win; the value for the brand is to continue to build awareness through maintained dialogue with the consumer.

As Alltel learned, the award's size and relevance encourages consumer participation. If you're looking to create a high rate of return, go for the big prize. But if you want to build a targeted consumer list and want to add a promotional element to your campaign, think what's appropriate for the audience. Then consider how can you continue the dialogue and further engage the group.

Creating a brand-specific opt-in list based on consumer approvals offers a new opportunity to follow up with those consumers who demonstrated interest in learning more about your brand. Soapbox Mobile and Amp'd Mobile are looking to build on this interest and extend the brand by allowing Amp'd subscribers to participate in movie-based promotions once they've participated in mobile ticket purchases.

At the Mobile Entertainment, Content, Commerce, and Applications (MECCA) conference in Las Vegas this week, Soapbox launched a mobile treasure hunt, perhaps the industry's first. Attendees were asked to register their phone numbers and participate in a game consisting of clues and questions related to the event, the sponsors, and the mobile industry. Every hour throughout the event, participants received a new text-message clue that led them on a treasure hunt with the opportunity to win a prize at the end of the game. A mobile treasure hunt offered conference attendees a new way to engage with their mobile devices.

There are also new entrants to the space offering reverse auctions in an attempt to stimulate mobile consumer growth and offer new brand opportunities. Limbo 41414 has recently entered the U.S. market following similar successful models overseas. With Limbo, consumers are encouraged to participate in an auction that awards the prize to the winner of the lowest unique bid for the item. All promotions offered by Limbo are currently free to consumers. Reverse auctions are another way to create an easy experience for users to interact with their mobile devices.

As with other promotional initiatives, Limbo's CEO Jonathon Linner stresses the goal is for sustained dialogue with consumers via a trusted relationship with their brands. Limbo ensures consumer protection by requiring a double opt-in for participation in a reverse auction, although double opt-in isn't necessary. To maximize the consumer relationship and brand loyalty, Limbo also offers a loyalty or points program for repeat visitors.

What are the rules surrounding text promotions? So long as there's no premium charge associated with the campaign, consumers simply enter via a single opt-in request. When a premium charge is associated, users must adhere to double opt-in requirements. In addition, many brands use a double opt-in to establish a new connection with the consumer. They ask if the consumer would like to receive additional alerts for product information or the next sweepstakes program. Lottery rules also necessitate a need to make consumers aware of all rules and guidelines in association with a campaign. Cross-media initiatives, where a mobile promotion is marketed via TV, online, print, and so forth., allow the brand to fully disclose all entry rules prior to a consumer participating.

But can the campaigns change consumer behavior? Soapbox's CEO, Dan Flanegan, believes mobile promotions require consumers to become more attentive to brand and orientation. Where consumers used to skip through commercials on prerecorded programs (e.g., TiVo), for example, or run to the kitchen during ads, they now focus on the brand's commercials to watch for keywords and information that will help ensure their success in the promotional campaign. Commercials again become entertainment for the consumer and help extend the brand's reach.

For brands, it's critically important to set the right user expectations. Message flows and campaigns must communicate in a way that's relevant. Mobile presents a new opportunity for brands to engage with, entertain, and hopefully reward their consumers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Marriott Laura Marriott is executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), which works to clear obstacles to market development, to establish standards and best practices for sustainable growth, and to evangelize the mobile channel for use by brands and third-party content providers. The MMA has over 250 members worldwide, representing over 16 countries. Laura has over 14 years' experience in the high-tech industry. Prior to joining the MMA, she served as Intrado's director of marketing, where she was responsible for the development and delivery of Intrado's mobility products and service. Laura previously served as director of business development at Cyneta Networks and Cell-Loc Inc.

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