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SMS Marketing Solutions Go Mainstream
SMS Marketing Solutions Go Mainstream

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.

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 Objective
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.

The Solution
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, 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 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.

Production Pitfalls
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.

Real-World Obstacles
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.

Next Steps
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.

The Client: NOW with Bill Moyers Public Affairs Television

Overarching Objective
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.

The Solution
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 friends.

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 Television.

The Client: "Street Time" (a primetime show on SHOWTIME)

The Solution
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.

Production Pitfalls
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.

The Client:

The Objective
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.

The Solution
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 (Wipeout Harlem's Environmental Emissions & Zero-in on Youth).

Real-World Obstacle
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 public.

So we decided to help reach out to area residents in a new and more immediate way – through their cellphones.

Next Steps
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; 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.

The Clients: Hamptons International Film Festival
(10/22–10/26); Palm Springs International Film Festival (January 2004); William J. Clinton Library & Foundation Events (; next event 10/29/03)

The Objective
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
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:

  • 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! )

    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.

    Production Pitfalls
    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.

    Real-World Obstacles
    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.

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