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by Mark Levit

Once again technology has presented a new way for marketers to reach customers. Wireless Text Messaging can prove very effective. Strategies are already in wide use in Europe and Asia and have shown great potential for American marketers.

Mobile messaging delivers a personal message directly to a customer’s wireless device or wireless phone. The medium can be used under many circumstances. One method that has been successful in Europe and Asia is marketing to teens or Generation Xers. Messages about movie releases, concerts, and events of interest to fans can be delivered directly to the customer’s wireless phone. That way, when an event is approaching, the customer can learn details in seconds. For example, in the U.K, McDonald’s promoted a text messaging game on french fry containers in 1,200 stores, promoting the movie Monsters Inc. Periodic message updates developed anticipation and excitement.

Wireless phones have rapidly grown in popularity. They’ve become a necessity for the average American.  Access to a wireless telephone is much more likely than a computer may be. A typical customer spends 4 or 5 hours a day in front of a computer. On the other hand, wireless phones are almost always within the reach of their users.

Mobile messaging is cheap, timely and effective. When a text message is sent, a personalized advertisement is delivered directly to the customer. Wireless users aroused by curiosity read the new message when it arrives. The result is a faster and more personalized connection with customers than with other media.

For example, in January 2002 Sony Pictures Entertainment used mobile messaging to promote the film, Ali, during the busy holiday season. Sony built a mobile community through the use of its website and various internet-based promotions. The members of that community received messages regarding the film’s prerelease activities. That enabled Sony to create a buzz among fans and the media. Fans were given a feeling of involvement with the opening. Mobile messaging has also helped Sony build communities for artists including Lil’ Bow Wow and Destiny’s Child. In addition to Sony, Yahoo has jumped on the bandwagon by sending bulk SMS (Short Message Service) message to AT&T subscribers to drive traffic to Yahoo’s wireless internet sites.

There were a reported 135 million U.S wireless subscribers in 2002—and more are buying phones every day as prices continue to drop. In addition, nearly all-new phones are equipped for SMS. Others have added web browsing, digital photo display and other features that can support rich media content.  Young adults may be the easiest to target using this technology. Nearly half of young adult wireless phone users in the United States have SMS features on their phones. The usage rate of SMS by adults age 18 to 24 has doubled in the last six months, according to the research firm Telephia. Entertainment companies such as Sony have already realized the potential of mobile messaging.

The possibilities of mobile messaging are endless. Mobile messaging can include anything from simple text messages to digital coupons, traffic alerts, travel notifications, and daily stock quotes. The addition of these features to a website can be used to help promote brands by delivering value added services. A BMW dealer now schedules service appointments, including receiving authorization to do necessary work via text messaging, instead of playing telephone tag with its customers. By implementing this interactive new medium, customers are shown the commitments organizations make to serve them better. Another inventive idea is “issuing paychecks” via wireless phones. The employee is sent a message displaying the amount of the check that has been directly deposited in their account. The message includes a URL to connect directly to their bank account to view the deposit. Now that’s a service that can genuinely bond employees to their employers!

Marketers can look to mobile messaging as an opportunity to be the first to utilize new marketing channels.

Mobile messaging has exploded in Europe. Some 675 million messages are currently sent every day. European advertisers spent $53 million for mobile campaigns in 2002. Will mobile messaging be the next big thing for U.S. marketers? The slow standardization of these technologies has created a barrier to entry for these services in the U.S. One concern of U.S marketers is privacy. Some fear that because wireless phones are so personal, many are struggling to understand how to deliver relevant and timely messages without being too intrusive. Another limiting factor is the graphical capability offered by the medium. Looking toward the future, wireless phone carriers will consider the revenue opportunities inherent in this technology. Sooner or later, the U.S will catch up with the rest of the world. With all the positive feedback involving SMS, the medium is a great opportunity for marketers. As technology advances, new media are created. Marketers embracing these new technologies will all enjoy a first-to-market advantage.

Right now, your competitors are evaluating mobile messaging. You should too!  For more information, contact our Managing Partner, Mark Levit at 212.696.1200 now!

Mobile Messaging: Creating a Buzz Among Marketers

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