Editorial Note: Chris Rock is not running for President as far as I know, though maybe he should. This example is purely fictional.
You are inching along on your morning commute and you notice a campaign billboard:
“Chris Rock For President. Why Not? www.chrisrockforprez.com, text CROCK (27625)”
Phone handy, you text the number and a minute later you receive a text message from Chris. “Hello citizen. What do U want from your prez? Reply with keyword ‘DOIT’ to tell me via poll. Other text stuff learn more @ website thanks Chris.”
So you reply and receive another text message from Chris (in 160 characters or less): “Which of the following issues is most important to you? Choose a for Iraq, b for Medicare, c for energy crisis, d for bad haircuts or e for other”. You’re hot about the impending national hair crisis so you reply with one keystroke and receive a message (in 160 characters or less) from Chris: “I’m thinking I’ll push 2 shave everyone’s head bald. Would you like to tell me how I should approach this issue?”. Sure you do, so you reply again with one keystroke, receive another message (160 characters or less): “Here are some alternative approaches to bad hair. Which do you like best? If other, text ‘f’ . You reply again with one keystroke and get a final message:. “Thanks for your input man. It’s been real! OK if we continue to discuss stuff periodically thru the campaign? Well sure! Why not?
It could happen like that this campaign season. The front running democrats, Obama, Clinton and Edwards, have announced they would incorporate text messaging into their marketing mix. Political campaigns and advocacy groups have always given lip service to the idea of listening to the people, but it’s nearly impossible to listen largely across vast audiences. The mobile phone can change that. More ubiquitous than PCs and severely handy, mobile phones mean communication anytime, anywhere.
There are so many creative ways mobile phones could be used. Text messaging options include alerts, polls, interactive TV (ala American Idol), interactive live rallies. Inbed a URL into a text message and if the consumer has a data plan with their carrier, they can click on the URL and the phone will immediately open a mobile internet page (called WAP, but who cares?). Other mobile internet and mobile TV capabilities exist as well, though market acceptance of those technologies are smaller than text and not as interactive.
But mobile marketing never happens as a stand alone strategy. It must be part of a comprehensive marketing mix. Why?
Consumers have rights, and the wireless carriers are tireless guardians of your right not to be spammed. All mobile communications that are not person to person (me texting you, me calling you) are opt-in only. The rules are also very strict about the ease of opting out. If you’ve had enough, you simply text “stop” or “quit” or “end”, and it’s over, no questions asked.
There are challenges. There are many components to the mobile marketing ecosystem, including content application providers, connectivity aggregators and the wireless carriers – which means dependencies are a key factor in managing a program. The best place to start is the U.S. mobile industry’s website for Common Short Codes – www.usshortcodes.com . There, you can lease a short code and review potential application and aggregator vendors. Common Short Codes, like “CROCK” could become as common an element of a marketing mix as a URL. That’s true of any brand marketing interested in interactivity, not just political campaigns.