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July 18, 2014

Taco Bell Text Message Lawsuit Dismissed

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A federal appellate court has ruled in favor of Taco Bell after a lawsuit accused the restaurant chain of violating commercial text message legislation.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2012 ruling that said Taco Bell was not responsible for SMS messages sent to consumers by a marketing agency in 2005.

The promotion at the center of the legal drama allegedly saw twelve franchisees in the Chicago area send text messages to local residents asking them to vote on two varieties of the Nacho Bell Grande item. Ad agency ESW outsourced the mobile strand of the campaign to a company called Ipsh (now the Marketing Arm).

A woman from Georgia sued Taco Bell in the wake of the campaign, claiming she had received two unsolicited text messages – a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which prohibits companies from using automated dialing systems to send cell phone communications without the recipients' consent. After the judge dismissed her case, the plaintiff decried the ruling as a “blueprint for retailers to evade liability for transmitting spam text messages en masse to the public.”

During the case, Taco Bell denied involvement in the text message campaign, which was put together by a group of local franchise owners and Ipsh, without the knowledge or consent of the parent company. According to court papers, Taco Bell successfully argued that it played “no role in the decision to distribute the message by way of a blast text or that it ever reviewed any proposed text message, or even knew about the outgoing text message component of the local promotion.”

The TCPA was recently updated to reflect the shift towards mobile. Historically, advertisers could depend on pre-existing business relationships (such as a prior purchase). Now, mobile marketing campaigns must obtain express written consent in order to contact consumers.

The court’s decision has probably made it harder for consumers to sue advertisers for campaigns that potentially violate the law. It could prove to be a landmark ruling. It’s certainly dealt a blow to opponents of aggressive marketing strategies. Whether or not it sets a precedent remains to be seen. 

June 27, 2014

World Cup: Yo App Sends Text Alerts When Goals Are Scored

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Every four years, the World Cup serves up a thrilling taste of the best footballing talent on the planet, but for developers, the month-long extravaganza is an opportunity to capitalize on soccer fever. And although there was no shortage of apps released during the 2010 tournament, smartphone ownership was leagues below where it’s at now. Mobile-powered football fandom has finally come of age.

The app everyone is talking about this time is “Yo”. It helps subscribers keep track of all the goals scored during the competition by sending text message alerts to users who add the user name “World Cup” to their account.

Unlike other sports news apps, no further information is sent. Yo doesn’t send the name of the scorer, or even which team they’re on. Users receive the titular two-letter greeting as a kind of ‘heads up’ to look out for coverage of the goals. It may sound rather limited, but it’s all part of Yo’s attempt to carve out a ‘contextualized messaging’ niche in a crowded text app marketplace.

Sure, it’s a little gimmicky – but gimmicks have their place, especially if they can claim to shave even a second or two off any of the manifold tasks we perform each day. With contextualized text messages, users can see at a glance that something they are interested in has undergone some sort of development and they should investigate further. There’s no need to even open the message. When it comes to brevity – one of the golden rules of text message marketing – ‘yo’ is as fiendishly efficient as it gets.

The app has already surpassed one million users, despite only being launched earlier this month. And while it’s riding the wave of the world’s most watched sporting event, Yo’s founders hope to carry on finding uses for contextualized SMS.

Company CEO Or Arbel believes major brands like Starbucks could use the ‘Yo’ alert to let customers know their orders are ready. So he’s certainly thinking big. Whether or not such a major brand will favor a start up’s product over their own well-established app remains to be seen, but with millions of “yo” text messages now zipping between smartphones, and an app market more exciting and unpredictable than the World Cup itself, you’d be a fool to dismiss the idea with a red card just yet…

June 23, 2014

Will the Cellphone Sweater Really Take Wearable Tech to the Next Level?

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“Smartphone” has passed well and truly into the lexicon, and some would have us believe that “smartclothes” are next. At least, that’s the message from a group of NYU students who have come up with a prototype for a hooded sweatshirt capable of sending preset text messages.

During a demonstration, the designers showed off the smart hoodie’s three triggers: touching the hood, touching the sleeve and rolling up the sleeve. Each action results in a different, pre-programmed SMS message being sent to a pre-determined recipient. 

If you’re still scratching your head wondering how many applications there could be for such limited capabilities, join the club. Many industry analysts have questioned how users will forsee the type messages they need to send at short notice – and so surreptitiously.

There are a number of other obvious limitations. Like how do you wash an item of clothing with built in electronics? And how sensitive is the technology? Is there a risk of accidentally sending a text message?

The designers say the main objective of the smart hoodie is to help people in emergency situations. With 911 texting now being adopted by law enforcers across the continent, you can imagine how a preset message might help someone in trouble. You find yourself embroiled in a bank robbery, or an outbreak of public violence, and the smart hoodie could alert authorities with the villains being none the wiser. But are there enough hyper-cautious folk out there who would actually pre-program such paranoid messages and then wear the same item of clothing every day, just in case? Without washing it in between?! Plus, 911 texting programs require users to text their location in order for the authorities to find them. How would this help if you’re out in a random public place?

Even worse, couldn’t texting police about an ongoing bank robbery make you look rather suspicious? How, they might ask as they shine a light in your face in some dingy interrogation room, did you know to preset the message? It sounds like more trouble than it’s worth?

We haven’t even mentioned airport security – that’s a whole other can of worms right there. Compared to that, the benefits of wearing a secret texting device pale. And there are a few minor advantages we can think of. Tapping your sleeve is, to date, still perfectly legal whilst driving; perhaps the system could help in the fight against distracted driving by giving motorists a way to let their family know they’re getting close to home. 

If you have a busy work day ahead of you before picking a friend up for dinner, the smart hoodie could be a convenient way of letting them know you’re going to be late, without interrupting that overrunning conference call.

These applications seem pretty trivial next to the pitfalls of owning such an item. It seems unlikely that the wearable text message device – at least in this prototype form – will catch on, but it’s an interesting new direction for SMS technology, and we await the next innovation with interest.

 

 

 

May 31, 2014

Dean & Grace Launch Text Ordering for Kids Clothes

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Clothes shopping for kids can be a perilous experience. They either don’t like anything you see, or they don’t want to go in the first place. Dragging the little ones round a mall on a Saturday afternoon can seem like a thankless task that you still end up with a huge bill for. 

Enter Dean & Grace, the boutique kids clothing store that lets you buy threads via text message. The idea is as refreshing and devastatingly simple. The company texts pictures of clothes to parents who have opted in to their SMS list. The image includes a shot of the outfit, a brief description and the size and pricing information. Customers simply reply to the message to place an order. Sign up is free, and can be done via the website, or by texting ‘Joindg’ to 76000.

On signing up, parents select the age, size and gender of their child so they only receive relevant texts. As with any reputable boutique store, supplies are limited – the first respondents get priority on purchasing the items they want. 

The number of texts your receive will vary according to inventory, as well as the size and gender details you submit. Sign up for one child and you’ll get around one text per week (opting out is a simple matter of texting “STOP” at any time).

And the clothes are cool enough even for the most jaded tween, with plenty of cute styles going on, enough to satisfy diverse tastes. In addition to carrying boutique lines from across the globe, Dean & Grace carry classic kids brands including Viva La Fete, Silly Goose, Masala Baby, Toobydoo, Trish Scully and Doodlepants. Sizes range from newborn to size 7. If you want a specific item, you just respond with the keyword “want’ to place a bid”. Shipping is free.

Demand is so high, many customers have been placed on a waitlist, so it’s important to get in early if you want a piece of the action. If you do end up on the waitlist, Dean & Grace will notify you by SMS as soon as a spot becomes available.

Shopping via text message is a thoroughly 21st Century experience. So why not give it a whirl?

 

 

May 27, 2014

Mobile Marketing Summit to Hit London in June

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Mobile phones, particularly smartphones, have revolutionized the retail industry, as shoppers rely on their phones for purchases now more than ever. The retail landscape is expected to change even more over the next three years as retailers continue to respond to consumer behavior. The Mobile Marketing Summit will hit the America Square Conference Centre in London on June 5, 2014, offering retailers the chance to examine the impact of mobile in the retail world and what they can do to stay ahead of the proverbial curve. The event will feature speakers, workshops, an “innovation lab” and more.

On Device 

The event is divided into four streams, the first of which is “On Device.” This will cover what retailers are doing to generate sales on mobile phones and tablets via apps and transactional mobile sites. Sessions include those on the “choices and challenges” retailers and brands deal with when going mobile, the common mistakes companies make when “setting up, running and optimizing their own mobile and tablet experiences,” and even a session on Domino’s Pizza! Entitled Domino’s Journey From a Bricks & Mortar to Online Retailer, the session features the brand’s head of eCommerce, Paul Francis, who will discuss how Domino’s shaped its eCommerce strategy, as well as the company’s plans for the future.

Driving Footfall 

The next event stream is “Driving Footfall,” which will cover how couponing, location-based services and mobile advertising can draw customers to both physical and digital retailer outlets. Sessions will include those on the key retail and leisure news of 2013, the future of in-store promotions and what opportunities m-commerce offers high street retailers, the power of “weather marketing,” and the many reasons to embrace mobile in the world of retail.

In-Store 

The event’s “In-Store” stream will look at how mobile can guide the shopper’s experience while in actual stores. Sessions are set to examine the future of retail in regards to SMS, insights on using mobile to enhance in-store shopper experiences, and the “bigger picture,” i.e. how brands can set themselves apart from the competition via apps, real-time Facebook integration, SMS and more. 

The Future

The final Mobile Marketing Summit Stream is called “The Future,” which (unsurprisingly) looks to the future of retail and what part mobile and similar digital technologies will play. This stream will feature two sessions in addition to a panel discussion. The first session includes Humble Grape founder James Dawson, who will share his story on how the brand’s tech wine bar project and its mobile philosophy applies to apps, purchase systems, location technologies and more. The other session will look at mobile’s influence on the total retail experience, including which trends are set to define the future of the mobile world when it comes to retail. It will also examine beacon technology and the omni-channel personal experience. 

These and other exciting events make up the third annual Mobile Marketing Summit! The opportunity to network is one of the many reasons the summit is so worthwhile. Will you be attending? 

May 22, 2014

Android Users Sue Apple for iMessage Flaws

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As smartphones become the dominant means of communication for many people, the pitched battle between platform providers is fought to lock users into their digital ecosystem. Some – like Microsoft’s Nokia X – are offering people a way out of a Google world with which many have grown disillusioned. It’s fascinating to watch, but such aggressive competition can be a headache for anyone who does make the leap and switch to another service provider. Cross-platform support is woefully inadequate.

A perfect example of this careless approach emerged this week, as iPhone owners who switched to Android found they could no longer receive text messages via the iMessage app – despite Apple’s SMS service claiming cross-platform capabilities.

The problems dates back to an old bug in the system that stems from the way iMessage was developed. As a separate messing system with end to end encryption, anyone who signs up is assured a high level of security. Their number is stored in a separate database, accesses only when another Apple device sends them a message. Other iPhone users can share text messages for free using the app, but for numbers not in the database, a charge-carrying SMS is sent instead.

Fine, but what happens when you switch to a new device? Oblivious, your contacts send you a text via iMessage, which searches for your Apple ID and keeps trying to send you an iMessage instead of an SMS. Neither type of message gets through.

Understandably upset defectors have initiated a class action lawsuit against Apple, which experts believe may ultimately involve thousands of litigants. The suit requests that Apple fix iMessage to allow users to exit the ecosystem without problems, and also seeks punitive damages. 

According to Apple, the only fix for the bug is to have every contact delete and re-add your name to their own contacts. This is an unwieldy ‘solution’ that will cause more problems than it solves. We wait with bated breath to see if Apple offers a more satisfactory answer… 

May 08, 2014

Six of the Best: Digital Wallets

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At the end of last year, MobileMarketingWatch predicted 2014 would see $8 billion spent on mobile advertising. According to their prediction, one of the key drivers of this expanding market would be the rise of the ‘digital wallet’.

In an age of widespread smartphone ownership, mobile transactions are the logical continuation of an increasingly cashless society. Convenient, secure and easily tracked, digital payments are now possible via a number of apps:

Google Wallet

Probably the best known digital wallet, Google’s app lets you pay for goods and services by waving or tapping your smartphone across a checkout reader which identifies credit card information linked to your Google account. Right now, it only works in the US with selected merchants, but more companies are adding the technology all the time. It even works with Google Glass

Apple’s Passbook

Apple’s take on the digital wallet was introduced to iOS 6. It relies on scanning 2D barcodes that help you manage anything from movie tickets to loyalty cards and coupons. Again, only a few merchants are accepting this form of transaction right now, and it’s not (yet) possible to sync it with your credit card, but as a convenient way of managing store accounts, Passbook takes some beating.

Square Wallet

The lesser known Square Wallet is available on both iOS and Android. The app links your credit card details to a fairly limited directory of merchants, and uses geo-location technology to charge you when you’re in store. A neat feature is the potential for purchasing in-store gift vouchers that can be sent to other Square Wallet users.

Chirpify

Chirpify turns your social media apps into payment systems using PayPal. It creates listings enabling you to sell items or start a fundraising project on Instagram or Twitter, all managed from a Chirpify dashboard.

Bump Pay

Just like the Bump app that lets you share photos between smartphones, Bump Pay is a free iPhone app that does exactly what it says on the tin: transfers (or ‘bumps’) money from one phone to another using a PayPal account.

Isis

Taking digital payments full circle, Isis comes with its very own cashcard, preloaded with $10. Compatible with NFC-enabled Androids, it lets you manage loyalty cards and redeem offers from selected merchants. Isis is also PIN-protected, and can be remotely frozen if your phone is stolen – perfect for security conscious digital wallet lovers.

 

April 24, 2014

Which Code to Choose: The Short Answer

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One of the first decisions to make when developing a text marketing campaign is whether to use short codes or long codes. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, largely dependent on what type of business you have.

Long codes are attractive to small businesses with limited marketing budgets. Easy and affordable to set up, long codes allow for multiple messages to be sent internationally from one number. For companies outside the United States who need to watch every penny, the long code is an understandably appealing option.

Trouble is, this ease of use can spell disaster when used for commercial purposes. Using long codes over a U.S. carrier network is actually illegal, and organizations that send unsolicited messages to consumers violate the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act). A number of companies are currently facing litigation for such violations.

Legal ramifications notwithstanding, the marketing benefits of long codes are questionable. For one thing, they don’t support videos or pictures and there are severe restrictions on the number of messages that can be sent per second. The bottom line is, long codes are intended for communication between individuals, not businesses and consumers.

Which brings us to short codes. Yes, they can take weeks to be vetted, and they are undoubtedly expensive (with monthly costs averaging around $500), but that’s the price of an effective, legitimate service. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) have implemented rules to protect consumers, namely an obligation to gain permission from each recipient before sending a text message.

Instead of viewing this regulation as inconvenient red tape, look at it from the consumer’s point of view – they don’t want to be hassled with unsolicited commercial messages. Why do something that alienates people from your business? Gaining explicit permission will vastly improve your relationship with users – not to mention keeping you within the bounds of the law!

From a purely marketing perspective, short codes are more memorable, and allow you to send thousands of messages in a second. They can also be used for handling payment services, which will save your business resources in the long run.

Customers prefer them. So do law courts. So do commercial enterprises with an eye for the long-term strategy. With few exceptions, the legitimate, accountable business uses short codes.

 

April 17, 2014

Six of the Best: Mobile Marketing Campaigns

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When devising a text marketing strategy, it makes sense to study successful campaigns pulled off by other companies. Not every tactic will be appropriate for your industry or business, but at least you’ll get an understanding of what works. Let’s take a rundown of our favorite SMS and mobile campaigns from recent years…

McDonalds

The fast food behemoth recently launched a ‘Merry Xmas in the Restaurant’ sweepstakes in Italian outlets. Customers could enter the competition while in a restaurant, and stood to win instant prizes. A classic use of short codes printed on packaging, prizes ranged from free mobile content to free burgers. Within five weeks, a million and a half people had participated in the event.

Heineken

In 2011, Heineken introduced a ‘dual screen’ app that allowed fans to interact during soccer games. Predicting outcomes of set pieces and scorelines, trivia questions about teams - StarPlayer awarded points for them all. They even skirted the tricky issue of fans simply looking up trivia answers online by awarding more points for fast answers. The competitive element of the app ensured it was shared across social media, and Heineken gained huge exposure as a result.

Planet Hollywood

The Las Vegas hotel and casino ran an SMS campaign offering prizes to people who opted in to receive messages and upgraded to an A-List Player’s Club  membership. Prizes included free game credits on the floor. The campaign increased membership by 13%.

Kraft

The food company offered new mobile signups a free sample of instant coffee. The campaign resulted in 400,000 requests for samples, and more than 80,000 mobile message opt-in offers.

Adidas

When Adidas launched their Adizero F50 soccer boots, they had all the components of a winning marketing campaign. Top Argentine footballer Lionel Messi was the face of the promotion, and Penn Station in NYC was to form the centerpiece of a dramatic light show. In order to spread the word, Adidas targeted all mobile users within a 3-mile radius of Penn Station during the run-up to the light show. Their ad linked to a promo video describing the event’s location and time. By using an element of mystery, a free show and a famous face, Adidas attracted thousands of spectators to Penn Station.

Arby’s

In 2012, Arby’s used SMS as part of a campaign to raise awareness about global childhood hunger. They partnered with the ‘No Kid Hungry’ campaign, and encouraged users to opt in to their mobile contact list – all while promoting a good cause.

Text marketing really works for these huge brands – and it can work for you too. Get inspired by these success stories, and start your SMS marketing campaign now!

April 08, 2014

Integrating Social Media, Text and Email

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Mobile marketing relies on creating robust strategies for multiple channels. The key areas for any winning mobile marketing strategy are social media, SMS messaging and email. If you’re developing three entirely separate campaigns for each, you need to rethink your approach.

To create a successful, holistic campaign, you need to foster a ‘cross channel synergy’ between each channel. If, for example, you have an email contact list, encourage those who usually only use email to visit your Facebook page, where you can offer a freebie to people who opt in to your SMS list. This ‘feedback loop’ maximizes engagement with your customers – but it has to be done right. To wit, an important message to understand:

Don’t Ignore Email

As mobile marketing tactics begin to focus more on texting, a lot of businesses are beginning to forget about email, regarding it as a relic from a bygone era. This would be a mistake. The many, varied reasons belong in another post – in fact, here’s just such a thing all about the value of email. Above all, think about how often you check your email. Yes, much of what comes into your inbox is spam filtered, deleted, or ignored, but the fact remains, nearly everybody has an email account – smartphones haven’t quite achieved that level of penetration.

Now we’ve established that email is far from over, how can you integrate it with your social media and SMS campaigns? Here’s three top tips for getting the most out of your integrated campaign:

  • Provide incentive. If you want people to connect with you on social networks, you need to offer them something of value. Before asking people to share a link or visit your website, ask yourself, what’s in it for them? An easy way to do this is by incentivizing Facebook ‘likes’ by offering a discount to anyone who gives the thumbs up to your page.
  • Get people Retweeting. Highlight a particular tweet in your emails, and embed a ‘Retweet This’ snippet that makes it easy for people to share.
  • Provide an opt-in form. Facebook allows you to add an email sign-up form as one of your apps. Use it! Your Facebook followers will soon be asking you to send them emails with special offers.