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Auntie Anne?s pretzels beefs up email database via SMS

Soft pretzel franchise Auntie Anne?s is using SMS to encourage consumers to sign up for their email marketing list.

The company?s email program, Pretzel Perks, sends consumers exclusive coupons and other discounts. On Auntie Anne?s cups and pretzel sleeves, consumers are asked to text the keyword PRETZEL to short code 80565.

?Text messaging allows us to connect with our customers when they are fully engaged with our brand,? said Heather Neary, chief marketing officer at Auntie Anne?s, Lancaster, PA. ?By encouraging shoppers to send a quick text message to join our email coupon program, we eliminate the need for someone to remember to log on to our Web site and subscribe to Pretzel Perks when they get home.?

Auntie Anne?s has more than 1,000 locations nationwide that are primarily found in malls and airports.

The SMS campaign is powered by marketing provider ExactTarget. The campaign is expected to run through January.

Morgan Stewart, director of research and strategy at ExactTarget, Indianapolis, said that many consumers are still somewhat hesitant to offer up their SMS inboxes to marketers.

"By using mobile and email together, marketers offer their consumers a critical choice of how they will receive future messages," Mr. Stewart said. "Since we know 66 percent of all consumers prefer to receive marketing messages through email, this combination allows marketers to take advantage of the ubiquitous presence of mobile phones while overcoming resistance to promotional SMS messages."

Finding perks in mobile
Once a consumer sends a text message to join Pretzel Perks, a text-message response is automatically triggered back requesting that the consumer reply with a defined keyword and email address.

Using ExactTarget?s integrated text-messaging services, the email address is automatically transferred to Auntie Anne?s Pretzel Perks email account and an email is generated featuring a link to a downloadable coupon.

The coupon can be redeemed in-store and includes links to share the offer with friends.

Ms. Neary said that Auntie Anne?s target demographic is tweens and moms with young children, populations that are largely engaged in text messaging both in likelihood and frequency of use.

The 2009 holiday campaign is Auntie Anne?s first system-wide program incorporating mobile technology. 

?The goal of this particular campaign is to grow our Pretzel Perks database which was recently relaunched,? Ms. Neary said. ?We have a lot of potential to utilize this email program to interact with our loyal customers beyond just delivering coupons. 

?If our customers respond well to using mobile to communicate with us, we may consider building upon this and expanding Pretzel Perks to incorporate a mobile couponing piece,? she said. ?Should we decide that mobile coupons are part of our overall strategy, we would develop a campaign for our Pretzel Perks subscribers to opt-in to receive coupons on their cell phone.?

Ms. Neary said that the holidays are Auntie Anne?s busiest time of the year because their stores experience the highest foot traffic in malls and airports.

Because of the busy time of year and the widespread consumer adoption of text messaging, Ms. Neary said that the company can reach the greatest amount of people with minimal expense using SMS.

?Texting has become such a widely accepted form of communication that we would be missing a huge opportunity if we don't recognize that and take advantage of this technology,? Ms. Neary said. ?If we want to truly gauge the impact texting can have, we need to do so during a time when we have maximum exposure. 

?Finally, we chose to launch this campaign over the holiday season because we could test it on limited packaging and that packaging would be pulled after the holidays,? she said.