How Starbucks is pushing the envelope with SMS, MMS marketing
By Chantal Tode
May 14, 2013
Starbucks is clearly taking mobile messaging to new heights, as exemplified with a recent effort that leveraged SMS and MMS to engage and surprise customers, while also tying into its larger marketing strategy.
The coffee house chain recently sent opted-in users an SMS trivia contest offering a chance to win a prize and encouraging them to sign up to receive summer alerts. Starbucks was then able to determine the kind of device users have so it could follow up with a MMS message containing a short video and information about an in-store Happy Hour special offer.
Starbucks planned ahead and hit me with a 1-2-3 mobile punch, said Zach Zimmerman, account manager for mobile at ePrize, Pleasant Ridge, MI. By teasing with a trivia question, the brand reminded subscribers they were part of the mobile program.
This allowed them to do device recognition in order to avoid any poor user experiences, he said. Finally, by pointing me towards dedicated social media pages, they will be able to track click-through-rates and measure engagement from uploaded images.
In short, they integrated their mobile program into their greater marketing strategy rather than viewing it as a separate, siloed channel. Starbucks is a real leader and demonstrates how mobile can be used not just to deliver coupons and offers, but to engage consumers in surprising and delightful ways.
The campaign started with a SMS trivia contest that was sent last week, quizzing subscribers about when the merchants Frappucino drink was originally introduced, Mr. Zimmerman reported in a blog post on the BuiltinChicago.org Web site. He provided the screenshots of the campaign seen above and below.
Starbucks enticed opted-in users to respond by rewarding the first 100 responders with the correct answer to the trivia question with a copy of the soundtrack for the new The Great Gatsby film.
When recipients sent in their answer, they received another message telling them if they were correct or not and encouraging them to reply "READYSET" to receive summer alerts.
Recipients then received another message asking them to standby so Starbucks could recognize their phone for best media quality.
MMS drives engagement
Two days later, Starbucks sent an outbound MMS blast that included an 11-second video featuring a slide show of different customers sipping their Frappucino, part of a larger social media campaign to drive hash tags and in-store purchases of the beverages. The video encouraged users to take a picture of themselves sipping a Frappucino and sharing it on a social media site.
The MMS message also informed recipients about a Happy Hour special offer that was in effect from 3 pm to 5 pm until May 12, with in-store customers able to get a Frappucino for half-off during this period.
The MMS featured shortened URLs pointing recipients to the brand's dedicated Twitter and Instagram handles @frappucino. By pointing users to dedicated social media pages, Starbucks will be able to track click-through rates and measure engagement from uploaded images.
The MMS could also be easily saved or shared, which will drive social sharing.
Surprise and delight
While the campaign is clearly a winner, Starbucks could have improved the effort by directing recipients to a page on the Starbucks Web site to find the answer to the question, driving traffic there.
The Starbucks mobile campaign did 3 things: incentive, personalize, and surprise, Mr. Zimmerman said.
Earlier in the week, a chance to win a trivia contest incentivized subscribers to take action, device recognition personalized future content, and the Friday afternoon MMS slideshow surprised consumers and sent them into the weekend with Starbucks top of mind, he said.
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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