Starbucks Mobile Program Just Blew Up (3 Times)

May 10, 2013

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Starbucks, a brand leader in mobile marketing, just threw down the gauntlet. In 3 days, their text program went from speedily cruising down the interstate to flying through outerspace. They went from striking a few matches to setting off a batch of explosives.They went from politely playing in the pee-wees to hitting gland slams in the major leagues.

What'd they do? 3 things.

1) SMS Trivia

First, an SMS trivia contest on Wednesday. Subscibers were quizzed about the launch date of the Frappuccino, enticed with the chance at winning a copy of the new The Great Gatsy film soundtrack. Music has always been central to Starbuck's brand, from the in-store playlist, CDs sold in store, and free iTunes songs for app users, and tying their trivia game into a feature film release was a great way to immediately get subscribers engaged.

A quick Google gave me the answer (perhaps Starbucks could've pointed me to a page on their website to find the answer, driving traffic there rather than increasing a random answers forum web traffic?). While I didn't win, replying READYSET sent me down a path towards a mobile marketing money shot. (Side note: doesn't an SMS instant win need Official Rules and an AMOE (alternate method of entry))


2) Device Recognition

After replying READYSET, Starbucks determined my mobile device type and operating system. This is something a web page or mobile web page can do, but Starbucks facilitated this device recognition entirely via SMS. Why? Why does Starbucks care what type of phone I have? Well, they wanted to make sure I was ready for #3.


3) MMS (aka Mobile Marketing Starbucks)

On May 10, 2013, at approximately 1:35 PM CST, Starbucks did something crazy. Not drunk at a party at 4am crazy, but it's Friday and we should have some fun tonight crazy. They sent an outbound MMS blast. It had a subject line, an 11-second video, and shortened URLs with info about a sale. MMS dwarfs the 160-character limit of an SMS, and allows rich content like wallpapers and videos to be sent. The 11-second video featured a slide show of different "sip faces," part of a larger social media campaign to drive hashtags and in-store purchases of their Frappucinno beverages. Shortened URLs pointed the subscriber to the brand's dedicated Twitter and Instagram handles @frappuccino, and will allow the brand to track click-through-rates. What's more important? The MMS is save-able and share-able, meaning it can easily become a mobile wallpaper or wind up on Facebook and YouTube (see above courtesy of yours truly). Additionally, the video demonstrates what the brand wants consumers to do -- snap a picture of them sipping and share it on their social media pages. It's a how-to guide on being an engaged consumer.


Why does this wow me? 

Starbucks planned ahead and hit me with a 1-2-3 mobile punch. 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 (I wonder what feature phones received instead of the MMS?). 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, silohed 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.

Of course, MMS does have its limitations. MMS is a way to get rich engagement content on your consumer's mobile devices, but it's not the only way. Not all mobile devices are MMS-enabled (yet) and MMS doesn't provide the tracking that an SMS with a URL to a mobile web site does. While MMS provides additional real estate — more than 160 characters and the use of images and short videos — it pales compared to the space and tracking of a mobile web landing page. It's important to remember that MMS is a tactic, not a strategy.

What's in store for the rest of the summer from Starbucks mobile? I don't know, but I sure don't want to MMS it.*

*Did that pun work? MMS it? "Miss" it? I'm not sure. Goodbye.


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