SMS Marketing Solutions Go Mainstream
SMS Marketing Solutions Go Mainstream
Oct. 28, 2003 02:00 PM
Last October I had the privilege of conducting
an interview alongside Howard Rheingold, the
renowned technology commentator and author of
Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, for a
national public radio show entitled "Cities and
the Wireless Revolution."
Rheingold noted early on in the program
that "the ability of groups of
people to organize each other for
collective action has always propelled
civilizations and technologies
to a new level of complexity."
However the only examples of complex mobile
applications we were able to cite at the time were
those used overseas in the more mature mobile
markets of Europe and Asia.
Now, only one year later, wireless data solutions
are becoming more and more mainstream in
the U.S., and we are beginning to see the advent of
more compelling and complex applications.
Whether it involves organizing a flash mob or
voting for a teen heartthrob, cellphone fanatics
are beginning to move beyond using the technology
to only "check e-mail or sports scores" as
they rapidly adopt, and regularly use, more
robust wireless applications. Users are immersing
themselves in a world of wireless and the
development community is responding by creating
services for previously untapped sectors.
While YOUIE has been at the forefront in creating
some of these more compelling and complex wireless
applications, it is important to note that each project
has not been without its own pitfalls – as each sector
offers its own unique set of obstacles and challenges.
CASE STUDY 1: THE RETAILER
The Client: Dylan's Candy Bar
Founded by Dylan Lauren and Jeff Rubin, Dylan's Candy Bar totally redefines the idea of a traditional "sweets" store by creating a
unique and completely unmatched shopping experience in an awe-inspiring environment.
The goal was to use wireless applications (SMS and ringtones)
to tie together the Dylan's online experience (dylanscandybar.
com) with their in-store experience. In essence we were
hoping to get customers to use cellphones to virally get the word
out about various company initiatives so
in turn these mobile applications would
not only be a lead generator (capturing
potential customer data), but also a tool
leading to direct sales.
Luckily one of the strengths of the
Dylan's Candy Bar environment meshed
perfectly well with one of the leading
trends in mobile technology. As any visitor
to Dylan's Candy Bar knows, music
plays an important role in setting the
tone of a memorable trip to the candy
mecca, so it was an easy decision to have ringtones serve as a
backbone of our mobile campaign for the store.
When visiting dylanscandybar.com, customers can download
songs like "I Want Candy," by The Strangeloves; "Sweet Child of
Mine," by Guns & Roses; "Lollipop, Lollipop," by The Chordettes;
"Sugar, Sugar," by The Archies; and "The Candyman Can," by
Sammy Davis Jr., directly to their AT&T, Cingular, and T-Mobile
cellphones. They are also encouraged to share the Dylan's ringtones
with friends. Users can contact friends who might be on
the go by sending them free text messages and reminders like
"Let's meet up at Dylan's" via a unique Web site/SMS interface.
In addition, with Dylan's Candy Bar, we also unveiled an
unprecedented mmm-commerce wireless campaign where
dylanscandybar.com visitors can send friends candy coupons
redeemable in-store via their cellphones.
Why It Works
"We've found that our ringtone and text messaging solution is
a really big hit with teens and young adults, who happen to be
the core demographic for Dylan's," says Joe Caparella, COO of
DCB. He further points out, "They're not only fun and really resonate
with the youth market but the ringtones and SMS messages
are a very effective viral marketing tool, as they drive traffic
back not only to the Web site but directly into the stores."
The mmm-commerce campaign, one of the first of its kind,
works especially well with Dylan's, considering the limits posed
by a physical candy store (the majority of their product mix can't
possibly be fulfilled in a traditional online manner due to low
price-point constraints). But now with Dylan's Pop Songs, customers
are able to purchase special ringtone packages online
and, along with the song, can receive a redeemable in-store
candy coupon (for smaller-priced goods like lollipops) delivered
right to their cellphones. With that, Dylan's gets its own version
of mmm-commerce, and the gap between the online and offline
store experience is closed.
One of the first barriers involved obtaining rights for all of the
songs involved. We actually worked through a partner who happened
to be Europe's leading provider of premium wireless services,
so we had blanket coverage as they had already obtained
mechanical rights from the appropriate
music publishers like BMG, Universal,
Famous, Sony, and Warner Music, along
with performing rights groups like ASCAP,
BMI, and SESAC. The second problem
that arose involving the ringtones was
that they worked only with a select group
of handsets and carriers (AT&T, Cingular,
T-Mobile, and Sprint – Vision).
Despite the fact that we required customers
to click a checkbox in the ringtone
ordering process stating they had checked
their phone model and carrier compatibility
against our given chart, we still had a
number of overzealous orderers who went ahead despite not fitting
our given parameters. As a result, our return rate was a little
high but nothing we didn't expect or allocate for, given the nature
of the initiative. Our text solution worked much more smoothly as
most handsets and carriers are enabled to receive text messages;
consequently we were able to reach a wider market.
One of the challenges we faced was getting the Dylan's Candy
Bar floor staff all on board with the text message coupon campaign.
We actually had people inundate a number of stores, presenting
coupon codes to cashiers who had yet to be informed
about the special cellphone coupons. This was quickly resolved
by a company-wide employee conference call, by printing out
directions to be posted at each of the stores' numerous POS, and
by making sure it was covered in all new employee training.
We will continue to expand and evolve the Dylan's Candy Bar
mmm-Commerce program as we begin to roll out different campaigns
for each season. During October, customers can sign
themselves or their friends up to receive "Trick or Treat" text
messages. Some of the text messages are "Tricks" offering funny
riddles while other are "Treats" featuring redeemable candy
coupons and discounts on stuff like a "gross of gummy worms."
We also have plans for the spring to unveil a first of its kind,
citywide Easter egg hunt where clues would be delivered to participants'
cellphones as they search the entire city and its parks
in this modernized version of the classic scavenger hunt.
Throughout the year we will also create cobranded wireless content
for Dylan's larger partners. For example, in conjunction with
TOPPS, which has just rereleased their infamous Garbage Pail
Kids, we will allow fans to send "TrashTalking" text messages to
their friends as the SMS will appear to come from the unseemly
characters found on the stickers.
CASE STUDY 2: THE TV SHOW
The Client: NOW with Bill Moyers Public Affairs Television
To give TV fans the ability to immerse themselves in their
favorite shows like never before. Also, to empower users of the
solution in such a way as to inspire them to help get the word
out about the wireless campaign and TV program.
Heading into a busy, new season just after a channel
fundraising break, we sought to help spur some new interest in a
Public Affairs Television program. We not only created SMS show
alerts but a "Moving Messages" section where fans of the show
could send notable quotes from recent show guests to their
Why It Works
"We're excited about the possibilities of wireless in helping
spread the word about upcoming broadcasts of NOW with Bill
Moyers. We're especially interested in the way in which the technology
lets our viewers tell their friends what they like about
NOW," said Kristin Miller managing producer, Public Affairs
The Client: "Street Time" (a primetime show on SHOWTIME)
Our goal was to stimulate interest in the second season of the
show by giving fans the unique opportunity to become part of
the cable network's gritty drama, "Street Time," like never before.
Rob Morrow (of "Northern Exposure" fame) plays Kevin Hunter,
a drug dealer fresh out of prison and on parole, who is being
drawn back into the underworld. TV viewers can now immerse
themselves in the plot by getting personalized text messages
from the show's stars. From the cell to your cellphone... fans can
covertly monitor text messages from Morrow or play the role of a
bad guy and get parole reminders sent to their own phones.
In both cases we found the hardest part involved moving and
selling the concept through the traditional top-down structure
found in the entertainment industry – going from top company
executives then pitching individual show producers. We actually
found it easier to sell the producers of the show on the concept
as they were very excited to engage their respective audiences in
new, innovative ways.
CASE STUDY 3: THE NONPROFIT
The Client: WHEEZY.org
Most nonprofits have limited resources to create a Web site let
alone complex campaigns, yet by utilizing cellphones, nonprofits
can create an immediate connection with their community.
In one of the highest rates ever documented, a recent study
found that more than one in every four children in Harlem suffers
from asthma (25.5% compared to national rate of around
6%), and this alarmingly high rate is believed to be caused by the
high level of allergen triggers in the local environment.
By creating innovative new technological tools including wireless
health tips and asthma alerts that residents could receive via
their own cellphones, we hope to help WHEEZY.org (Wipeout
Harlem's Environmental Emissions & Zero-in on Youth).
After some initial deliberations we knew we were up against a
big problem, but that obstacle actually proved to be a turning point.
In brainstorming with the grassroots group, we realized one
of the first ways to get the word out about any issue involves
building an informative and comprehensive Web site. However,
when you look at the area's low Internet penetration rates compared
with the national average, we knew we had a problem
getting WHEEZY's message, let alone a solution, out to the
So we decided to help WHEEZY.org reach out to area residents
in a new and more immediate way – through their cellphones.
To continue to work to develop applications for WHEEZY and
to work with other up-and-coming nonprofits. We are also working
on developing wireless solutions for TEE (Trust for Early
Education; pre-k-parent.org). The Washington, DC-based organization
focuses on early childhood development and gives parents
a comprehensive, go-to guide on how to evaluate preschool
teachers and programs.
CASE STUDY 4: THE MAJOR EVENT HOLDER
The Clients: Hamptons International Film
Festival (10/22–10/26); Palm Springs International Film
Festival (January 2004); William J. Clinton Library &
Foundation Events (clintonevent.com; next event 10/29/03)
We wanted to give event goers, whether out-of-town visitors
or industry insiders, the ability to access critical info on
the go for each of the film festivals and major events.
The Film Festival Solution Ticket and general festival info
Directions to festival theaters
Featured film list including synopsis and show times
Screen test (impress your friends with your festival knowledge!)
Hotel hotline (list of participating area hotels, complete with
contact information, directions, and discounts), and tourist
info (get a quick scoop on the best local restaurants, shops,
and more! )
Wherever you might be, whether waiting in line for a festival
show or in transit, you can use your mobile phone or Palm
device to access info on each festival, including:
Why It Works
Our solution actually works on two levels. For end users it's a
lot more convenient. Now they don't have to print out pages of
directions and stuff them into their pockets or purses or worry
about leaving an expensive festival program under their movie
seat. They can now easily access information right from their
cellphones. For the festival organizer it's a value-added proposition
as it can help their marketing manager attract more sponsors
and extend the value of their existing ones. For example, for
the Palm Springs International Film Festival, we were able to
cobrand each content section within the wireless guide: directions
to the event were sponsored by Audi, while their "Best
Bets" film picks was sponsored by a popular area casino.
We actually created two solutions – a wireless site and an
SMS alert console. While we were able to feature a more robust
wireless guide with the WAP/WML solution, the amount of end
users was limited to those people who had existing wireless Web
plans. With SMS alerts we had a wider audience as the technology
works with nearly all phones and carriers, but we were limited
in actual size as the messages could fit only 160 characters.
Usually each of the festivals we work with already has one of
the major carriers on board as a major sponsor. So the real challenge
here remained convincing the festival sponsorship/marketing
director that our wireless solution would not encroach on
any existing sponsorships, but would only enhance them.
It will be very exciting to see how wireless continues to evolve
and how it will influence how we shop, how we are entertained,
and how we shape our community. While many technological and
cultural hurdles lay ahead, we look forward to helping the realization
of our wireless future.