Mobile Marketing: Initiate Dialogue

In Europe, mobile messaging has integrated with marketing communications for several reasons. First among them is the fact mobiles are now fairly ubiquitous. By the end of last year, 75 percent of Europeans carried mobile devices, theoretically enabling marketers to access anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

Second, packet-based, multimedia-enabled devices encourage consumers to do a lot more with their handsets than simple voice communications. Just look at the rapid growth of SMS. Finally, in 2002 European network operators agreed to create cross-network-compatible five-digit numbers as shortcodes to access common messaging platforms. This greatly facilitated introducing a mobile response mechanic into campaigns.

Though these factors allowed mobile marketing to really take off in Europe, a number of barriers inhibit U.S. activity, particularly network interconnectivity and low SMS adoption. As these issues are addressed and U.S. consumers realize SMS’s potential, it won’t be long before this marketplace outpaces Europe’s.

If you’re embarking on mobile marketing, first consider incorporating textback shortcodes into marketing activities. This direct-response channel offers a simple, effective, and comparatively cheap way to initiate a consumer-led mobile dialogue. It’s also a low-risk alternative to renting mobile lists from third parties.

Textback response helps establish a permission-based mobile database for future communications. It can also generate revenue through premium rate tariffs, often used to counter activity costs and create self-liquidating campaigns. Moreover, it can help build brand and increase sales.

Providing a textback number option on packaging or in advertising media enables consumers to immediately interact with, and get feedback from, a promotional message. It’s convenient and easy to use and can provide instant gratification.

Elektra Entertainment Group was behind one of the first U.S. examples of this technique when it promoted Missy Elliot’s album, “Under Construction.” A billboard encouraged viewers to text “Missy” to 80808 for a chance to win $1 million; 115,000 viewers responded. The campaign was handled by a small London-based mobile firm, not13, one of many U.K. mobile marketing firms breaking into the potentially lucrative U.S. market.

Media owners can use shortcode textback for content interaction. TV programs such as “Pop Idol” have used the method to provide voting capabilities through mobile handsets. Consumer brands can use textback response on packaging to encourage participation in sales promotion competitions.

Cadbury launched an SMS-based package promotion on 65 million chocolate bars to drive sales, enhance brand awareness among a young audience, and gather intelligence about chocolate-eating behavior. The campaign generated 5 million messages, an almost 8 percent response rate (comparing favorably with email and direct mail).

Shortcodes can generate high response rates and mobile consumer information, making them an appealing direct-response channel. Consider incorporating shortcodes into your long-term offline media strategy to complement other direct-response channels, such as call centers and Web sites.

To maximize response rates, offer a value exchange (prizes, money-off coupons, credits, content) that’s relevant and appealing to the target audience. Cadbury, for example, offered chances to win cash, widescreen TVs, Sony PlayStation 2s, DVD players, Palm Pilots, and CDs.

Once consumer interaction is initiated and permission granted for future correspondence, the nature of mobile communications will depend on marketers’ objectives and the nature of their products or services. To drive increased conversion, carefully target mobile messaging based on audience characteristics. Pay particular attention to timing and frequency of messages, valuable content, and call to action.

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