SMS Marketing: Yes or No?

Last month, Sprint announced it has joined forces with Telefónica to create one of the largest mobile advertising alliances in the world, a collaboration that will enable global brands to potentially reach more than 370 million mobile customers across the United States, Europe and Latin America using targeted advertising.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Yes, the sheer scale of this new network is extremely impressive. But for me, it’s the alliance’s commitment to personalized, targeted advertising that is really the headline here. More and more, SMS marketing is gaining recognition as one of the most immediate and powerful ways to reach today’s digitally-connected consumer. However, SMS campaigns will only be effective if: 1) your customers have made the choice to opt-in, and 2) the messages they receive are meaningful and useful.

According to this press release, Sprint customers will continue to see advertisements online and in ad-supported applications and content, regardless of whether they have opted in to receive usage-based targeted ads. However, if a user chooses to opt in, the interest-based targeted ads will be more relevant to the user’s personal interests.

Is it time to integrate targeted SMS marketing into your next campaign?  Here are a few pros and cons to consider as you begin charting your course:


  • Cell phones are ubiquitous, and virtually everyone reads messages sent by text. The open rate for texts is 98 percent –compared to 22 percent for emails –and most recipients open their messages immediately, (One study showed that 95 percent (!) of texts are opened within 15 minutes.) Also worth noting: The average number of emails a customer receives a month is 1,216. The average number of texts? 178. There’s certainly a competitive advantage associated with being able to create signal above all the digital noise.
  • SMS messages are versatile. Coupons, promotions, notifications, daily tips/reminders, real-time event information/updates . . .  The list of possible SMS message types is endless. How can you best engage with your customers?
  • Linking geo-location data makes SMS even more relevant. Marketers know it’s imperative to send the right message to the right person at the right time. SMS empowers you to connect with your customer directly, when they’re near your location.


  • SMS messages must be short –vry shrt. With SMS, you have 160 characters to engage your customers and spur them to action. Not 160 words – 160 characters! Obviously, you have to make each one of those characters count.
  • You could be perceived as a spammer. If you send irrelevant text messages (or simply too many text messages), you risk tarnishing your brand. Mobile devices have become intimate digital ecosystems, and customers expect you to respect their personal space.
  • Appeal is greatest among certain demographics. Not everyone is keen to communicate by text. For instance, new research found opinions about when mobile use is appropriate can vary dramatically by age. In this study 50 percent of millennials said they think it is appropriate to text during a meal –only 15 percent of those 30 and older agreed.

Researchers predict that by 2014, mobile use will exceed desktop use. How will your brand reach this growing –and increasingly active –consumer segment? Sprint and Telefónica are directing their focus on personalized direct messaging, display ads, location-based offers and in-app advertising. I believe savvy marketers should start doing the same.