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'Text' marketing is an effective tool for SMEs

Text messaging is proving to be an excellent means of communicating brand values. This is because it is such a personal and direct medium.

August 28, 2021 / 07:25 AM IST
Representative image | Source: Pixabay

Representative image | Source: Pixabay

Most people spend hours on mobile phones and handheld devices today. Smartphones are used for watching movies to sending clips and pictures on a real-time basis. In addition typing out messages is something we all do irrespective of whether we are young or old. It is mostly non-intrusive too. The range of subjects youngsters type out in text form is so wide that I will need pages after pages to just list them: politics, religion, polarisation, jokes, love bytes, and so on. So much so there is a whole new protocol of “texting” sans grammar or punctuation.

These youngsters who are tech-savvy as soon as they turn 1 year of age, have been ardent users of short messaging services or text message services of mobile telephony. This 24/7 use of cellphones has spurred their marketing of text messages, which lets mobile phone users transmit text messages quickly and cheaply. Cellphone subscribers of over 5 billion will send about 100 trillion text messages globally during 2022, according to their industry sources. Person-to-person "texting" still accounts for most traffic, particularly among youth, but marketing applications are becoming more common. In India too this is catching up although the frequency and the messaging could have been improved significantly.

muneer column smart growthText messaging is proving to be an excellent means of communicating brand values. This is because it is such a personal and direct medium. And, the strength of an individual's relationship with his or her mobile phone is unique. Nevertheless, this form of marketing, what I call 'Text' marketing, is not without its serious problems. A big obstacle in creating a successful text message campaign usually is the telecom service providers and the TRAI regulation.

Unless carriers are willing to opt in to a promotion, it won't work, because they are hesitant to give away phone numbers. And with stringent restrictions on marketing companies on the issue of privacy of individuals, it will be increasingly difficult to do a successful campaign in the months to come. Unfortunately, carriers are not adept at putting together marketing plans. They haven't done their homework on profiling individuals, so promotions often come off as spam. This has caused a lot of backlash in many countries, including the USA, the Philippines and Singapore. India too is making some stringent rules on mobile marketing companies.

Most telecom companies haven't figured out how to use this new form effectively since it appears they are treating text messaging as mass medium rather than a personalised medium. And their delay in figuring this out has resulted in losing a big business to social media channels such as WhatsApp. These companies are happy to sell the premium texting services for obvious reasons. Many channels running reality shows make good revenue by doing cellphone-based voting, etc.


The costs vary depending on whether marketers send messages to consumers, or consumers to companies, or both. The cost varies depending on numerous variables, such as whether an agency is involved for strategy and creative; carrier and third-party data costs; and the overall complexity of the campaign. So far, the two most successful forms of text marketing involve digital coupons and time- or event-based messaging, which usually involve other forms of media and an intuitive process on the part of consumers who opt in voluntarily.

Coca Cola started off a successful text marketing some years ago in partnership with a leading mobile phone brand to create a messaging contest in China. Mobile phone users were invited to guess the next day's temperature in Beijing; a correct guess could win a Siemens phone or a one-year supply of Coke. Contestants who didn't win were invited to download Coke's jingle as a free ring tone. The result: 4 million messages were exchanged during the 40-day promotion; nearly 50,000 people downloaded the Coke jingle.

Several ad agencies have set up interactive divisions to handle messaging campaigns. This is especially true for India where texting is particularly hot. We all know that mobile phone penetration has outstripped that of fixed-line phones and PCs here in India. As I was mentioning at a forum recently, we have more mobile phones than toothbrushes. Many Indians in rural areas don’t use toothbrush while almost every adult and many children carry a mobile phone. In the cities, some carry even three phones!

Asia is a trendsetter in terms of importance and influence of mobile phones, and the interest of advertisers in messaging or text marketing is very high already. Asia Pacific Breweries did a text teaser campaign to promote Anchor Beer's new packaging and flavour. They invited potential customers through texting to "have a beer on us." About 24 percent of recipients accepted the offer and were sent a secret serial number redeemable for a free beer at select clubs.

In another Asian country, where they wanted to boost the usage of text messaging in general, one of the leading ad agencies developed a campaign titled "King for a Week" for a telecom brand. Each week, the person who sends the most number of text messages is treated like a king, his wishes fulfilled, filmed and aired on cable TV. The contest boosted the texting services revenue by more than 25 percent on a weekly basis. Singapore created a buzz when people flipped open their phones to find friendly messages from God. Working for the evangelical Churches of the Love Singapore Movement, Ogilvy transmitted witticisms purportedly from God via SMS. On Friday afternoons, many Singaporeans received a message saying, "Thank me it's Friday. God."

SMEs should put their creative hats on to build some interesting innovation on this front and gain good ROI for their marketing investments. You can connect with Moneycontrol or me for ideation, and also to share success stories.
M Muneer is the managing director of CustomerLab Solutions, a consulting firm.
first published: Aug 28, 2021 07:25 am
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