Nielsen To Mobile Marketers: “Good Luck 2 U”

Nielsen Mobile is so upbeat about SMS marketing, its analysts even use the jargon!

In its December 2008 report titled “The Short Code Marketing Opportunity,” Nielsen Mobile outlines the success of numerous SMS campaigns, describes how it bridges old and new media, and engages customers because it’s a “highly personal and interactive medium.” In its closing sentence, the report tells marketers: “Good luck 2 u.”

No wonder Nielsen descends into text-speak. According to research figures, SMS messaging has become extremely popular with U.S. wireless subscribers. In the third quarter of 2008, 203 million of 263 million users, or 77 percent, paid for texting either as part of a data package or in per-transaction fees. By the third quarter, wireless subscribers were sending an average 357 texts per month.

During the same period, brands using SMS saw great response. Coca-Cola’s short code campaigns resulted in 1.1 million AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers actively texting with the beverage company. Some 1.013 million (presumably pizza-loving) Verizon and AT&T subscribers texted with the pie chains Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s. Foot Locker’s VIP program resulted in 306,000 AT&T and Verizon subscribers exchanging texts with the shoe chain. And the SMS campaigns of more than two dozen radio stations–which used the technology to let listeners enter contests and engage with their favorite on-air hosts–received enough response that the campaigns appear in Nielsen’s Messaging Report.

What does all this mean?

It proves that as texting becomes embedded in U.S. consumers’ daily life, it is also the ideal way for marketers to reach them. (As long as these texts are permission-based opt-in messages, of course.) This isn’t just true for national brands. As Nielsen noted in its report, a regional chain of Ashley Furniture HomeStores in the Carolinas saw ROI of $122 for every $1 spent when it used SMS to promote a “secret sale.”

Besides radio, print media has also used SMS to create multi-channel campaigns. Hearst Magazines has implemented campaigns to offer specials to readers of titles as varied as CosmoGirl and SmartMoney–proving that print really can survive in a digitized world.

To be sure, SMS usage among wireless subscribers in the United States lags behind everyone else in the world except Canada, according to Nielsen. The U.S. rate was 57 percent in the third quarter, compared to 88 percent in Russia, which had the highest usage of all countries mentioned.

However that U.S. rate is bound to increase, especially after the recent presidential campaign drew more awareness to text campaigns. Nielsen estimates that the famous SMS-announcement of Sen. Joe Biden as Barack Obama’s running mate was received by 2.9 million phone users. While election-year hysteria has died down, excitement over SMS marketing–on the part of consumers–keeps growing.