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Arby?s taps SMS to bolster summer charity awareness

Fast food chain Arby?s is using SMS to spread the word about its nationwide promotion to end childhood hunger.

The SMS campaign is part of the Arby?s Foundation partnership with Share Our Strengths No Kid Hungry campaign. The campaign is taking place nationwide through Aug. 15.

"This is the core objective of the Hungry for Happiness Campaign: connecting more kids to the meals they need in the summer when school lunch program is not available,"said Kate Atwood, Executive Director of the Arby's Foundation, Atlanta.

"We provide the text code for those families in need, as research shows most households have a mobile phone even when they do not have or cannot afford a land line," she said.

Arby?s is a quick serve restaurant based in Atlanta with 3,500 restaurants. The Arby?s Foundation is a nonprofit organization that donated $2.2 million to Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign in 2011.

Share Our Strength works with businesses, federal and state agencies, governors, mayors, chefs, educators and community leaders to help children find access to food and nutrition programs.

Mobile hunger
This summer, the Arby?s Foundation is traveling to 15 different cities to help raise awareness of childhood hunger. With school out of session, the goal of the program is to give lunch to kids that might only receive it while in school.

The Hungry for Happiness tour is stopping at 15 different cities this summer to distribute lunches to children and teens under the age of 18. Cities on the tour include Salt Lake City, Denver, Tampa and Augusta.

The Arby?s Foundation has set up a SMS program to educate consumers about nearby events.

Users interested in the program can text the keyword FOOD to the short code 877877.

After consumers send the text message, they are sent a response to enter their full address to find a nearby resource.

If the event is not happening near a consumer, they are sent a SMS message with a 1-800 number to call to learn more.

In addition to the SMS portion, the tour also has a Web site at where consumers can learn more.

?SMS is an excellent tool for national and local charity campaigns because it is nearly ubiquitous. Also, SMS can easily integrate payments into a consumer?s mobile bill, making it simple to give and receive donations,? said Doug Stovall, senior vice president of sales and client services at Hipcricket, Kirkland, WA.

?Companies could easily integrate geo-targeting or other location-based services to help make these programs more targeted on a local level," he said. "Once a consumer?s location is known, messages can be personalized for example ?help your local Seattle-area store raise money."

Mr. Stovall is not associated with Arby?s or Share Our Strength. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

Mobile education
An initiative such as this from Arby?s is a great way for the company to spread awareness of the campaign.

Not only do consumers always have their mobile device on hand but text messaging remains one of the top features for users.

Additionally, by using location, the campaign is able to make messages more personalized and tailored.

Arby?s is not the only company using SMS to its advantage this summer to spread the word about campaigns.

Jim Beam is also using text messaging for a summer concert campaign to drive charity donations and sweepstakes entries, for example (see story).

Arby?s SMS program does not include a way to let consumers donate quickly via their devices. In order to make the campaign more efficient, a call-to-action could have prompted users to text in a donation.

Charities have traditionally relied on mobile ? especially SMS ? to drive donations when the cause is top of mind for consumers.

?SMS is always a great baseline from which to build a larger mobile marketing campaign. It has the widest reach and extraordinary response rates,? Mr. Stovall said.

?Further, SMS can push consumers to mobile Web sites, apps and videos to extend the brand experience in an interactive way,? he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York