Streetwise Mobile Marketing

I spent some time this week at the Internet World Wireless show here in New York and came away pleasantly surprised. Perhaps the sparse attendance at trade shows these days has lowered my expectations, but the sector is showing more signs of life than I anticipated.

Most interesting (if dare I say so myself) were the stories told by the folks on the mobile marketing panel I moderated. No longer are we trotting out old studies and saying things like “yes, people will accept marketing messages on their mobile phones.” Now, we’re seeing that they’ll actually act on these messages.

It’s true, most of what’s been happening occurred in Europe and Asia, as anyone familiar with adaptation and technological standardization might expect. Let me describe some of these campaigns for you. Perhaps you’ll come to the same conclusion I have: that these types of campaigns are inevitable in the United States. The only thing that’s stopping us now is technology — and time. The hope, of course, is that these case studies will spark ideas among ClickZ readers as you consider how to make this new medium work for your business.

Dial-A-Donut

The first campaign I’ll describe was for a familiar household brand — Dunkin’ Donuts. It took place in Italy, but I can imagine the same results being achieved here in the U.S.

Have you ever passed by your favorite store and been enticed to go in, all the while thinking about that clipped coupon sitting at home, creeping toward its expiration date? Efforts such as Dial-A-Donut are aimed at solving that little consumer dilemma. During the course of the two-and-a-half month campaign, folks were presented with mobile phone numbers on store notice boards, billboards, and the radio. All they had to do was send a text message to that number, and they’d immediately receive a free gift coupon or special offer that they could redeem in their local Dunkin’ Donuts outlet.

How well did it work? The company says sales rose by 9 percent as a result of the campaign. And these aren’t soft, fuzzy numbers, either. When you’ve got a coupon, you’ve got a way to directly trace sales to a particular ad.

“Cellular coupons are not cute promotions, rather they are serious marketing tools that not only extend the brand but are also directed toward the people we want to reach,” said GianLuigi Contin, president of Sweet & Co., franchisee of Dunkin’ Donuts in Italy and Germany. “Dunkin’ Donuts is successfully reaching its target audience of young people on the move and setting ourselves apart from the competition.”

Adreact and MobileWay helped Dunkin’ Donuts with the campaign.

Text a Monster

One of the panelists, J. Sandom of Rapp Digital, turned me on to this second campaign, billed as “the largest retail-based mobile marketing promotion ever carried out in Europe.” It also involves a brand that’s quintessentially American — McDonald’s.

The four-week campaign, which began February 8, was McDonald’s United Kingdom’s first foray into mobile marketing. It tested the waters with a partner, Disney’s Pixar, which was promoting its “Monsters, Inc.” animated flick.

As a side note, McDonald’s has also been participating in a pilot project in Sweden called e-Street, in which merchants in the small town of Lule&aring sent messages to nearly 2,000 residents via their mobile phones. It isn’t a very realistic situation, but merchants seem to be getting good results. Reportedly, 25 percent of those who received a short message service (SMS) message from McDonald’s responded by buying a hamburger, making the restaurant in that town the most successful in Sweden.

The McDonald’s UK effort happened in the real world, not a pilot situation. It involved all 1,200 of the restaurants in the country. All large and super-size boxes of fries were emblazoned with a “Monsters, Inc.” peel-off window, revealing one of six characters, a code number, and a text-in number. Customers used their phones to send the code to the text-in number and instantly received a message telling them if they won a prize.

The company is supporting the promotion with TV advertising, in-restaurant signage, and a promotion microsite at www.textamonster.co.uk.

Neither McDonald’s nor its partners, The Marketing Store and 12snap, have divulged results of the campaign — after all, it won’t be complete until the end of the month.

Learning From Experience

I believe a few lessons here hold true for all mobile marketing campaigns, wherever they are conducted. First, the permission aspect in both efforts. Although Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s aggressively promoted their text-in numbers, the “conversations” were user-initiated. They let the users decide; “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Second, mobile was a component of an overall media effort rather than a standalone. As we’re discovering with online, mobile marketing will serve to reinforce and strengthen messaging that takes place in other media. Mobile has a unique role. It gives consumers a chance to interact with a brand immediately, whenever they want. Even online can’t go that far.

Third, note the tracking aspect. At a time when measurability is the mantra, that mobile marketing can wed digital marketing with in-store redemption is a big mark in its favor. Existing coupon-tracking infrastructure can be used to justify the expenditure.

Of course, the infrastructure supporting SMS here in the U.S. is behind that in Europe, but folks in the know tell me carriers are waking up to the revenue opportunity text messaging represents. After all, consumers in Europe are paying $0.10 or so for every SMS they send or receive, so it’s win-win-win. Carriers get money, marketers get their messages heard, and consumers appreciate the marketing so much they’re willing to pay to engage with the brand. It won’t be long before you’ll begin seeing similar scenarios playing out here in the U.S. Is your brand ready?

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