Can SMS/Text Promotion Be Compelling, Engaging?

Brands with huge presence in traditional media have always struggled with translating that success to new and emerging media channels. Digital media such as the Internet and mobile have always been seen by these marketers as having great potential. However, tactical advertising and promotions through these media have, more often than not, generated more hype than results. How then, does one explain the success of new age brands that have never used traditional media like television and newspapers? The truth lies, as it so often does, somewhere in between.

In countries where Internet penetration is low, targeting big social networks that have low penetration will always give you low returns. Take India, as an example. The country has 650 million mobile phone users and mobile marketing should automatically become the weapon of choice. The problem is the low data penetration on these handsets (less than 5%). When reaching customers through web-based social networks is next to impossible, everything else just becomes moot.



So, does one give up an opportunity to reach out to 650 million people that easily? SMS/text messaging, it would seem, presents the opportunity to reach out to all these people -- but does the medium present opportunities for a good tactical campaign?

First and foremost, it is important to understand that there are no standard templates for campaign and media planning in these cases. The key is to think out of the box and come up with ideas that best exploit the medium while gainfully engaging the consumer. Big brands are not only concerned with how big their campaigns look, they are also concerned about the value they deliver to their consumers.

An example is one of India's key telecom players. With more than 107 million customers nationwide, the company is also one of the biggest advertisers on television in the country, and one of the best-known brands in the world. The bottom of the telecom pyramid in India is very price-sensitive and highly competitive, and brands usually take a backseat to value. The importance of low-value prepaid services in competitive differentiation and revenue generation became apparent as the Indian market became more saturated.

The company's marketing team initiated a unique promotion to acquire customers and increase average revenue per user (ARPU) of prepaid customers. We developed a customized mobile app to conduct an auction on the SMS/Text platform using a toll free number. Essential items like rice, wheat and sugar were up for bids. The slums of Mumbai were approached for this promotion since the majority of subscribers use prepaid connections. Only prepaid subscribers with a credit balance of over 20 rupees would be eligible to bid for these products using their mobile phones. The winning bids were then announced on the spot.

More than 300 distinct users participated across 52 bidding events with a staggering total of 5,092 bids through SMS. The promotion was a huge success and this telecom company has seen migration of subscribers from other networks to its own. The minimum balance clause resulted in retaining credit balances that provided higher ARPU figures. They plan to roll this activity across another 25 network circles in due course.

So, can an SMS/text promotion really be compelling and engaging? You tell me.

3 comments about "Can SMS/Text Promotion Be Compelling, Engaging?".
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  1. Kevin Horne from Verizon, September 24, 2010 at 11:35 a.m.

    this is, i believe, the 4th story this week re: SMS marketing, and i've yet to see one of them mention "opt in"...

  2. Vishal Nongbet from Webaroo Technology Pvt Ltd, September 28, 2010 at 7:01 a.m.

    @Kevin: point taken :) but the underlying message throughout this write-up is to go beyond spamming and unsolicited text messages and take up customized apps to engage your consumers. You can't use an app unless you've opted in.

  3. Parag Arora from SMSGupShup, September 29, 2010 at 1:38 a.m.

    Strongly in favor of "take up customized apps to engage your consumers". Not to mention SmsGupShup or twitter are itself a customized app platform for other entities to build their community apps and we all are well aware of potential they hold as marketing/awareness tool in country and beyond.

    Regarding this, I think there is a good lesson to learn from bulk email marketing (which turn out spams if not done properly) vs social media marketing (customized facebook applications / twitter accounts where email notifications act as utility)

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