Chapter 9 - The Push-Pull of Mobile

The author asserts that mobile is both a push medium (in which marketers can send messages to an audience) and a pull medium (in which marketers can respond to inbound inquiries for information).

It's also worth considering that mobile consumers pull information from sources other than your company: independent sites, other users in social media, even phoning a friend for advice. They can do this even when they are standing on your showroom floor.

(EN: I'd interject here that mobile is really more of a pull medium, as efforts to push have not met with much success. Users expect to be in control of their mobile experience, and have not been reactive to push - though there are exceptions and the potential for innovation in push marketing, they tend to be rare.)

SMS Marketing

Short Message Service (SMS), commonly referred to as "text messaging" is a two-way communication between users. Think of it as a chat session with two participants and potentially long delays between message and response. It is a core service of most mobile devices and service plans, and as such users can be reached without requiring them to download any software.

In spite of all the creative attempts to provide other messaging software, SMS continues to be the leading application for mobile chat, and the use of text messaging continues to grow. In 2009, 1.6 trillion text messages were sent (EN: Following up, SMS peaked in 2011 at 2.3 trillion and declined to 2.1 in 2013 - which is still quite estimable. I expect the decline may have to do with bundled text services, such as Facebook's chat application, which simplifies communication and avoids charges from service providers who limit SMS.)

In terms of marketing, marketers must obtain permission from the recipient prior to sending text messages to them. (EN: The author doesn't explain the reason, but the FTC prohibits unsolicited marketing via SMS - transactional and relationship messages are acceptable, but the definition is a bit nebulous, so asking for opt-in is the best practice.)

One approach the author finds clever is having a contest in which the participant sends a text message in order to enter, or offering a discount that the participant must send a text message to earn, and using terms that state that sending that text constitutes an agreement to receive marketing messages. (EN: I don't believe that's been challenged, but it's also inadvisable. It may be within the law, but giving offense damages the customer's esteem for the brand.)

The author also asserts that most individuals consider text messaging to be private communication among individuals and are very offended when companies encroach on this territory with marketing messages - so the value must be high to entice customers to participate and the terms of the engagement must be explicit to avoid giving offense.

A few cases as cited as proof that text marketing has gathered fairly dismal results - but the author remains optimistic: just like advertising on Web pages, it will take time an innovation to shake out, and eventually a happy middle ground might be discovered.

One-Time Event Mobile Marketing

While few customers are expected to sign up for an ongoing stream of marketing messages to their mobile device, the author suggests that one-time-event messages are viable. They are strictly a "pull" technology, in that the customer has to request information each time. Because customers receive the information instantly after placing the request, they recognize that the message is a response to their request and do not object.

While customers are more likely to be amenable to one-time messaging, they still must be given a compelling reason to do so. If the customer receives fair value from an exchange, they will be more amenable to future exchanges. If they do not, then they will have less.

(EN: The author fails to consider collective impact of all firms - even if you act responsibly, others may not, so the entire concept may be poisoned. This is what happened to quick-response codes, and while I haven't seen studies or statistics on SMS, the danger is there.)

A few examples are provided of successful campaigns:

The author reiterates some of his previous points (the need to provide value and explicit opt-in for any further messages), then suggests that participation might be increased if users could simply take a picture rather than having to type codes into awkward mobile keypads. (EN: There's no evidence that typing codes is an impediment, but it does stand to reason some customers would be frustrated by their own typos.)

There's also mention of using SMS to send the user a link to a Web site (EN: which increases interaction, but is also more burdensome than simply typing in a code and sending an SMS.)

MMS Marketing

The notion of Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) has very strong appeal to marketers who wish to send customers a richer form of content. However, it has not received much acceptance from customers: while many smart phones enable them to send a picture, video clip, or audio clip in the context of a text-message conversation, few people do so.

(EN: This should come as no surprise. The value of text messaging is that it is fast, requires little attention, and is unobtrusive [silent]. So it is rare that people will send this content in their private conversations. I've seen some statistics that aggrandize the use - suggesting that half of all users send pictures or video - but the percent of all text messages that contain media remains negligible.)

The author makes some generalizations about the way in which MMS is implemented, but it's essentially the same as sending an email message because in most instances the user does not automatically view the multimedia content in their message thread, but must click to view it.

The lack of standard capabilities among platforms confounds MMS marketing, because any piece of media content must be optimized and formatted to a specific device and carrier. A few claims are offered about the reach and response rate to MMS promotions (EN: but because they come from a spokesman for a company that sells MMS advertising, I have little confidence they are factual). A few case-studies are cited:

It's also noted that some firms are using MMS to communicate internally, though the support for this is again quite vague: "sales departments in some Fortune 1000 companies" have used MMS for various purposes, largely pushing information such as speeches and training videos to field salespersons.

(EN: In the end, my sense is MMS is more hype than reality, and it really doesn't offer much in the way of advantages over sending a link to a Web site. That is, MMS seems like a different way to do what is already being done, and needs to be fully considered as it may have advantages/disadvantages for a given audience or communication objective.)

The Pull of the Consumer

SMS and MMS marketing depend on the participation of the customer. Sometimes, this requires the business to provide incentive, but other times customers are proactive in seeking value and will participate without being asked.

There's an extended discussion of The Weather Channel's online offerings. On the internet and on mobile weather information is of high interest to users, so they have a very large audience: more that 22 million users, more that 1.2 billion page views, and more than 50 million SMS messages are accessed on the mobile platform.

(EN: This is a bit stilted, as weather.com is not an advertiser but a content site, and it's little surprised that people who are mobile are very interested in weather conditions. What is not communicated is whether there is any success for mobile advertising - whether users give any attention to adverts or merely get the forecast and bounce out. I expect the author would be forthcoming if it were a financial success, but instead he speaks only of the popularity of weather information. Ultimately, what this suggests is that mobile is good for engagement and brand experience, but likely not directly connected to revenue or sales.)

The author does suggest that TWC is a good method for other companies to experiment in the mobile arena: rather than developing their own advertising campaign, hitchhike along with a site that already gets a lot of attention on mobile to test ideas and observe responses - such that you can save the cost of development until you have a better sense of the response you may get.