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SMS is still mobile’s secret weapon

3 min read

Digital Technology

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Marketers too often want to make a splash with a sexy, consumer-friendly mobile application. What they don’t know, and what Hipcricket Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Hasen is happy to tell them, is that sometimes a low-tech SMS campaign is the best way to target customers with a time-sensitive deal or special offer.

Hipcricket, which recently celebrated its 100,000th campaign, has been in the mobile-marketing space since 2004, making it an old-time player in the industry. Hasen noted that the industry has advanced a long way.

His shop recently won a piece of business, in part, on the strength of a traditional agency storyboard. However, despite the increasing sophistication of smartphones and mobile users, the humble text message is still a powerhouse when it comes to getting consumers’ attention.

Hasen said 97% of mobile subscribers will read a text message within four minutes of receipt. Moreover, consumers who agree to share their precious mobile digits with marketers do so under an assumption of trust, and marketers who honor that trust by sending only updates and offers under an opt-in agreement win plaudits and attention. Two examples:

  • A campaign for Arby’s tied the introduction of the Roastburger sandwich with a “live read” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on ABC. Viewers were invited to text to a short code and receive a coupon for a free sandwich with the purchase of a beverage. It opened the door to collecting consumer information, including mobile number and ZIP code. This allowed Arby’s to continue providing permission-based offers to opt-in consumers.
  • Alaska Airlines reaches fliers via in-flight napkins offering SMS-based marketing communications. Customers who opt in to get texts can see right away when Alaska is lowering prices to beat fares of rival carriers.

“We started our business primarily with SMS,” Hasen said, and the company sees it as a huge component going forward. He said it’s part of a “pyramid strategy,” with SMS for reach and a richer media experience, such as a mobile app, a quick-response code or mobile Web, providing a landing pad.

While potential clients are always looking for an app or a QR campaign to attract media attention, Hasen pointed out that an article in The Wall Street Journal might look good to colleagues, but not every mobile user has a smartphone and not every smartphone user has a QR code reader. While a good mobile campaign can generate media attention and brand building, that is an element of mobile and not a driver.

As Hasen said, “No one is looking to create something squishy and hard to measure.”