It's Time for Brands to Embrace Text Messaging

It Can Provide a Direct Route to the Urban Market

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Doug Melville Doug Melville
I want this post to inspire you about the power of text messaging as a way to reach your urban audience.

I have the fortunate position of sitting on the Leadership Council of the Cellular Telephone Industry of America. This past week in San Francisco the semi-annual CTIA conference took place, with the main theme focused on Wireless IT & Entertainment. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend for the first time in three years. It was hard for me to sleep thinking about all the new gadgets, data and trends that would be discussed at this year's gathering, but the one area that I was most interested to explore was data use and how that could be applied to marketers and advertisers.

While some CMOs and agency chiefs say they are looking for ways to tie into the newest urban culture and trends, they are either missing or significantly discounting the device that represents the extension of people's individualism and personality: the mobile phone.

When thinking of cellphones, it appears that data is becoming the new voice. It is clear that almost every American who doesn't physically churn his or her own butter these days has a cellphone. But besides voice minutes, the mobile industry is making a conscious effort to increase its new sweet spot: data use and application.

So what does this mean to marketers? A whole lot if you put a few key items together. The CTIA along with Harris Interactive released a study touting the power of mobile against the teen audience. (I encourage EVERYONE to increase their teen plus mobile IQ and read this.)

There are two key stats I pulled from that Harris Report and added them to a piece of info from a recent U.S. Census Report to come up with a formula, or equation, for CMOs and agencies that will help them justify and take advantage of urban and youth marketing to the next generation.

It breaks out as follows:

Point 1: Text Messaging. Not only do nine out of 10 teens text, and not only do some teen segments prefer texting over talking, but almost HALF said they can complete text messages with their eyes closed or blindfolded.

PLUS

Point 2: Mobile-Based Advertising. Almost HALF of all teens are interested in ads on their phone if there is an incentive. (Yes, I said interested.)

PLUS

Point 3: The "Browning" of America. In 15 years, more than HALF of the nation's children (teens and younger) will be multicultural, belonging to a minority racial or ethnic group.

EQUALS:

The Sweet Spot. This is one of the best ways for reaching today's teens, and taking advantage of marketing trends for tomorrow's fastest-growing segment of the population is through corporate-based mobile advertising, marketing and messaging.

A recent example of this: the Barack Obama Text Message. According to the WSJ, when Barack Obama's campaign sent out the text message alerting supporters to his vice presidential pick, it reached an estimated 2.9 million people.

Not only did Obama get unbelievable press coverage for this through CNN, The L.A. Times, WSJ and others, but he also got a head start in the development of his own Obama media, in which he can send messages directly to his supporters without having to resort to mainstream media. If you look at what segment won Obama the caucuses, you have to look at the under-25-year-old crowd. And what better way to reach them than text messaging?

Tim Russert's 23-year-old son Luke, who is an NBC News correspondent, discussed on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" last week a solution to get unmotivated 20-somethings to register to vote. His suggestion: a one-day registration event that is advertised/supported by a text-message campaign. Instead of using the current antiquated voter-registration process, which requires several weeks to complete, a text message can give you instant gratification -- and an almost immediate response and completion.

Brands should all take note: Get smarter or lose market share. The easiest and simplest form of communicating through data on your mobile phone is through text messaging -- more than 75 billion are sent each month in the U.S. alone. But how many are sent by brands and companies? Hardly any. Besides Domino's Pizza, which sends regular texts with food specials, I have yet to personally be inspired by brands and their focus in this sector.

The multicultural population and influence is growing, and more agencies and brands are looking for ways to effectively tie into the coolest urban trends, urban America, young hipsters; mobile is a great way to do this.

Instead of struggling with the multicultural budgets that seem to overlap general-market initiatives, turn your multicultural dollars toward digital. Your message is direct, quick and immediate for a tech-savvy audience that actually wants to hear from you.
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