Text marketing takes off

24 Oct 2002

During the summer, Columbian pop singer Shakira’s song Underneath Your Clothes went straight into the Irish charts at No. 1. A week previously, Sony’s Irish label teamed up with young software firm Púca to implement an SMS (short messaging service) marketing campaign offering prizes, ranging from shopping vouchers and posters to copies of the single.

While a text marketing campaign cannot claim all the credit for getting the single to the top of the charts, it was considered an integral aspect of the overall marketing campaign. Why? It spoke the language of the market: teenagers and 20-somethings.

For the marketer, in this case Sony, the foray into text marketing was an inexpensive addition to the marketing mix, yet it reached the community it wanted in a personal way. “The ability to use the SMS campaign in conjunction with other marketing and promotional elements allows the marketer to project an overall unified message throughout all areas of the campaign,” explains Sony Music Ireland’s product manager, Aileen Galvin.

Text messaging as the glue that sticks marketing campaigns together is a growing phenomenon amongst traditional and not-so-traditional brands. The popularity of reality TV show Big Brother resulted in a total of 1.3 billion person-to-person text messages in the UK during its period on air.

Total revenues from premium SMS votes sent by viewers topped €1.33m, with SMS accounting for 30pc of overall votes. By 2005, 37 billion advertisements and alerts could be sent to mobile devices in the EU, according to market analyst Frost &Sullivan, with revenue from wireless banner ads expected to reach €475.7m.

Forrester Research believes that SMS marketing response rates are up to five times higher than those of direct mail marketing. Average response rates are 11pc, with the average campaign costing €24,000.

“This is a medium that brands are going to want to use more and more,” says Púca’s CEO, Eamon Hession, whose background in Webfactory and Paddynet led him towards text message marketing as part of a quest to see increased interaction amongst online communities.

A realisation that there was little revenue to be made from websites led Hession to start integrating SMS with website community software. His efforts caught the attention of drinks maker Ritz, which asked him to develop a clue-based game for its customers. This got the attention of the masses and turned out to be a sound investment. Púca now develops engines that enable companies to use the internet to manage SMS marketing campaigns as well as change strategies, measure interaction, view statistics and identify winners.

As a result, Púca claims to have tapped the majority of SMS marketing campaigns, as well as some 70pc of the available premium SMS market in Ireland. Companies that Púca is working on campaigns with include Carlsberg, Nokia, Guinness, Champion Sports, Jurys Doyle Hotels, RTÉ and Aertel, Coca-Cola and Cadbury’s. Readers who want to see the strategies in action could walk into a shop today and rip a wrapper off any Coke bottle or Dairy Milk chocolate bar to see actual SMS marketing strategies in action.

“SMS is ubiquitous but you have to work along the rules of opt-in and opt-out if you want to win an audience,” Hession warns. “It’s also a fragmented market insofar that it can be accessed across a broad array of mediums, and not always traditional mediums. Many view the internet as a great failure because of the difficulty in garnering revenue from it. SMS marketing bridges the gap because it is so ubiquitous and accessible for 79pc of the population. If this is the case, a minimum return of 10pc on a marketing campaign is a tantalising prospect, and certainly brings into focus the prospect of real one-to-one marketing between a brand and the individual.”

Hession concludes: “The trick is to keep a rigid focus on making money, doing what’s real and available now and not talking too much about the future.”