Getting Personal With Mobile Marketing Can Boost Sales, Loyalty

From Potty Training to Changing Tires, Brands Are Moving Away From Coupons and Toward CRM

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- For small children, there are few life changes bigger than learning how to use the toilet. It's a time when both tots and their parents can be in need of a little positive reinforcement and a morale boost.

BRYON MORRISON: 'What makes mobile work is the recognition that the consumer is in charge.'
BRYON MORRISON: 'What makes mobile work is the recognition that the consumer is in charge.'
Kimberly-Clark's Pull-Up brand is trying to help, and engender loyalty at the same time, with an ambitious 3-week-old program that uses the mobile phone -- and points to where mobile marketing may be headed.

The company rolled out the first part of the campaign with on-pack stickers instructing moms to text "potty" or "bigkid" to a shortcode to receive their potty-training kit. The message directs them to a website designed for their phone, with resources to help with the potty-training process. There, moms can sign up to receive a potty-training kit and get information on the second part of the campaign, which launches this week and involves arranging for Disney characters to call parents' phones at a designated time. When the call comes in, parents are asked to hand the phone to their child so that character can congratulate them on their potty training. The last phase of the program will allow moms to access more Disney voices and messages by entering a proof of purchase.

"What makes mobile work is the recognition that the consumer is in charge," said Bryon Morrison, president of Omnicom's mobile agency, Ipsh, which handled the Pull-Ups effort. "This program allows moms to engage with multiple mobile channels and online ... and then builds the relationship by continuously optimizing the program and adding more value for each interaction."

Advertisers from Domino's Pizza to Victoria's Secret have begun building out mobile-marketing infrastructures that deliver value and convenience for customers in an effort to keep them engaged and loyal to the brand. And for categories such as diapers, where parents can end up spending a few thousand dollars over several years, such relationship building is especially key.

Beyond price
But driving loyalty is more about delivering value beyond price, and most mobile customer-relationship-management programs still focus too much on coupons and SMS alerts about new products. Done correctly, CRM programs spur purchases without compromising price points, and can often reinforce pricing, because the brand is selling benefits and personalization.

"Coupons are almost exactly the opposite of CRM -- [coupons are] not used to drive repeat purchase over time, they're designed to spur trial among non-users and to promote usually new-product introductions based on price," said Eric Bader, managing partner of mobile-marketing firm Brand in Hand, Procter & Gamble's mobile agency of record.

Mr. Bader said his agency's CRM billings have shot up this year from virtually zero last year, with one of its recent bookings a $150,000 project with a major university that involves using mobile to manage the entire student life cycle, from recruitment to application, acceptance, enrollment and attendance. Meanwhile, Group M's mobile agency, Joule, has seen revenue double from a year ago for mobile-CRM initiatives, according to CEO Michael Collins.

One of the more proven mobile CRM initiatives is BMW's 2-year-old German program that lets customers purchase snow tires, which the government mandates. The carmaker sends customers in its database pictures of their car model, in the correct color, plus winter-tire recommendations and prices. Customers see how the tires would appear on their car, and can set up an appointment with the dealer right from the message. In the two years BMW has run the program, about a third of the customers who receive the messages have bought winter tires through BMW, according to Marc Mielau, the carmaker's head of digital media.

Said Mr. Mielau,"CRM is really about engaging the customers and taking their data, their behavior and other learnings in order to design better products and services."

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