Obama Texts His VP Choice: Smaller Businesses Are Listening - InformationWeek

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8/25/2008
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Obama Texts His VP Choice: Smaller Businesses Are Listening

There is, of course, a lot of hoopla surrounding Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his running mate. But the real excitement -- at least as far as smaller businesses are concerned -- is how his campaign made the initial announcement: They texted it to lots of people's cellphones. Is it finally safe to declare that mobile marketing is here to stay?

There is, of course, a lot of hoopla surrounding Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his running mate. But the real excitement -- at least as far as smaller businesses are concerned -- is how his campaign made the initial announcement: They texted it to lots of people's cellphones. Is it finally safe to declare that mobile marketing is here to stay?On Saturday, anyone who provided the Obama campaign with their cellphone number received a text message when Obama announced Biden as his running mate.

No matter where you are on the political spectrum this move by the Obama campaign has clear implications in at least one arena: mobile marketing.

Is there any better indication that text messaging is a marketing medium with serious potential? For smaller businesses, it is a cheap, effective way to get the message out and consumers are slowly beginning to warm to getting ads on their cellphones.

But the Obama campaign's move is perhaps most effectively demonstrating this potential. As Claire Cain Miller writes in The New York Times: "Technology pundits have been heralding the "year of mobile" every year for a decade, but this year might really be it. The latest evidence: the tizzy over Barack Obama's much-anticipated text message announcing his pick for running mate."

According to Miller, mobile marketers are watching the campaign's text initiative carefully and are coming away with some lessons. She quotes R.J. Talyor, product marketing manager for the digital marketing firm ExactTarget, who notes that the lesson to be learned from Obama, is use text messaging only for ads that are "urgent and portable." Of course, urgent in the business sense: According to the article, his firm sends text ads for fraud alerts from a bank, weekly coupons from a store or happy hour specials from a bar.

More good advice gleaned from the Obama campaign: Jason Spero, vice president of marketing for the mobile ad network AdMob adds that mobile marketers "should keep their messages succinct and simple and include a specific call to action" and with text messages, timing counts. (A lot of Obama supporters on the west coast were woken up in the middle of the night with the text message. Some of your customers might not be as excited as ardent Obama supporters to hear from you then.)

The final lesson for mobile marketers from the Obama campaign: Dorrian Porter, chief executive of Mozes, which creates mobile ad campaigns for musicians is quoted as saying, "Text messages create buzz that spreads beyond the person who receives the alert."

Miller continues: "Only the most loyal fans (and most interested competitors) will offer the Obama campaign or an advertiser their cell phone number, [Porter] said, but they might receive that message while sitting in a caf with friends and make it a topic of conversation."

Of course, the text campaign wasn't seamless. Many people found out the old fashioned way about Obama's pick. And some people got fake texts with false announcements. (Who wouldn't vote for someone with Michael Phelps as his running mate? Oh well.)

But for smaller businesses looking for an affordable, effective way to get the word out, it's time to take a look at what mobile marketing can do.

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