March 29th, 2011

Can Brands Finally Break In to Your Texts?

Brand Week

Let’s say you and your friends are among the 1.8 million people in this country who watch the MTV reality series America’s Best Dance Crew. And let’s say that during the show, you share your thoughts with one another through a group text-messaging application. Wouldn’t it be great if MTV could break in on your private little group to send you behind-the-scenes footage? Or exclusive interviews with the dancers? Wouldn’t it be great if, just maybe, your group was given the chance to text with a dancer directly?

That, at least, is the idea behind Featured Groups, a new service launched today by group messaging and conference call service GroupMe. By starting a Featured Group with friends, users allow the brand they select to send special offers and “inside information” directly into their private conversations. Partners include Oxygen Media, the band Bon Jovi, and Bonnaroo and Coachella, two of the biggest annual concert events in the United States.

“It’s sort of a joint promotion,” Michael Scogin, the vice president of MTV Mobile, told Adweek. “We get to try out a new platform of engagement for our audience, and [GroupMe] gets the chance to be associated with one of our highest-rated shows. So it’s mutually beneficial.”

The benefit to brands is obvious: Text messaging has real potential as a marketing medium, and with the exception of a few efforts like the Obama campaign’s, it’s gone largely untapped. “The average teenager texts an average of 3,400 text messages a month,” Scogin said. “For our audience, it’s their primary form of communication.”

The incentive for users is that of the suddenly ubiquitous social coupon or promotional offer—20 percent off tacos at Coachella’s food court! A chance to win backstage passes right now!—with the added value of “timely news.” Not to mention the tantalizing feeling of knowing, hoping, praying, that one day you might be able to text with Jon Bon Jovi himself.

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