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Out-Of-The-Box Thinking in SMS Marketing

When you think of SMS marketing, what comes to mind? The usual mobile coupons? Limited time offers? Maybe you’d think of loyalty programs offering discounts for purchases. All of these are great uses of SMS messaging. But sometimes, if you do something just a little different, the results get even better.

I stumbled upon an example of one company using SMS that is, well, a little different from others I’ve seen. It’s actually a company I’ve written about recently, Frito-Lay, the US parent company of Lays brand crisps (Walkers in the UK). That previous blog focused on how they used SMS in a contest.

This time though, it’s how they implemented a reward program using SMS that caught my eye.

Rewards of a Different Kind

Like most reward programs, consumers get something in exchange for buying their product. In this case, specially marked bags of crisps. Only, the reward wasn’t more crisps or money back, or even discounts on future purchases. Instead, they would receive $10 off exclusive phone cases from Society6.

It worked (or works, as the promotion is on-going as of this blog) like this:

  1. After purchasing the product, customers take a photo of their receipt as proof of purchase.
  2. They then send the image via MMS to a shortcode.
  3. Once the receipt is validated (it isn’t clear how this is performed), the customer gets a reply SMS message with a coupon code and a link.
  4. When they visit the link, they pick out their phone case and type in the coupon code for the $10 discount.

Why would they approach rewards in this way? Here’s a quote from an article in Mobile Marketer that sums it up nicely:

“This may prompt smartphone users interested in a new case to purchase several packages of Frito-Lay chips, even if the snacks were not originally on their shopping lists. The novelty of receiving an offer to use on popular iPhone cases will set the Frito-Lay campaign apart from its competitors.”

The company clearly had two objectives:

  • Increase sales
  • Differentiate themselves

There’s no word on how well they are doing in sales for this promotion. Perhaps when it is complete there will be a follow-up article with results. It is certainly a gamble that enough people “interested in a new case” would see the packaging or ad, and buy more crisps because of it.

As for the second objective, it’s clear they’ve achieved it as no other company is doing anything similar at the moment (based on my research of similar type products in the US).

Even SMS is a Differentiator

Using SMS marketing for loyalty or reward programs is still fairly new. Well, it’s not new but only a small percentage of businesses use it this way (which makes it “new” in marketing). It’s estimated that only 21% of brands are using SMS for loyalty programs. The same study showed 48% of consumers prefer SMS over email for messages about loyalty and rewards.

So, when you combine the use of SMS, MMS and a novel reward (phone case), it really differentiates the brand from others.

Can You do the Same?

I’m not sure how Frito-Lay decided that exclusive phone cases were the right offer for their promotion. But I’d guess they did some consumer research and perhaps tested ideas out first before launching the main event. They are a large multi-national company after all.

Any company though, could use the same approach to meet those objectives, or similar ones. All you have to do is think a little outside the box – like a customer rather than a marketer – and figure out what incentive they would want.

A short survey sent out to your SMS list could give you insight into what your customers are thinking – and what they might want as a reward for their purchases. At the very least, you’ll learn more about your customer’s preferences. At best, you’ll run a tremendously successful rewards campaign. And that would be a marketer’s best reward.

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