Insights for Companies from a Millennial in the Marketing Industry

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mobile Marketing to Millennials

Let’s face it – mobile phones have become an extension of our bodies. This is especially true for millennials. It is difficult to find a millennial without a mobile phone attached somewhere to their clothing, if it’s not in their hand or to their face at the moment. The 2010 Trendwatching Trend Report confirms that “Globally, mobile data traffic will double every year through 2013, increasing 66-fold between 2008 and 2013.” Millennials are no exception to this; in fact, the statistics are likely to be even higher for this group.

Why is mobility important? It can be used successfully in a number of different ways to promote our brands to young consumers who are almost always switched “on”.

The first and most obvious way of reaching consumers via mobile is text messaging, a promotion strategy that I alluded to in my previous blog post. According to the Canadian Marketing Association, “Text based (SMS) mobile advertisements and promotions in the U.S. have proven effective with response rates of up to 12% (M Metrics, Inc. September 2007)”… Results like these are not unlike the heady days of email response and banner ad click-throughs.” As anyone who comes into contact with millennials regularly knows, they like their texting. A recent study conducted by Ipsos-Reid found that 18-34 year old Canadians send and receive an average of 78.7 text messages per week – for Americans, that number rises to 129.6 (Ispos).

Let’s see if text messaging can really get results. In the case of Barack Obama’s text message campaign (sign-up found here), yes it can. Barack allowed people to subscribe to his campaign updates in order to be the first to know whom his pick for VP was. This has been quoted as the “smartest marketing campaign ever” (GigaOm), and as we all know, it worked. By Obama showing that he was able to connect with young consumers, he was able to achieve 66% of the votes from the 18-29 year old age category (MSNBC). A key component of his ability to obtain 10 million text message subscribers was the provision of useful, relevant information to consumers that signed up, which is a key component of any marketing campaign that centers on mobile phones. If you’re going to reach a consumer in what is considered a private aspect of their lives, it better be with important information. In this case, the campaign allowed members to be the first to know what was happening and have the ability to share it with their friends. The campaign contained an additional call-to-action – to vote. Consumers had something to do with the information they received – another important characteristic of a successful mobile marketing campaign.

So how can companies use mobile phones to reach millennial consumers?
1. Keep them in the know, to satisfy their desire to track and check (see my previous blog post). This works especially well for event notifications, contests and sales – have your consumers sign up for text messages so they are the first to know when these things are happening, creating an air of exclusivity. I watched Malibu do this successfully two summers ago, when they held a surprise free Bedouin Soundclash concert available only to those who had received a text message invite, which had to be shown at the door. All of a sudden they had a concert full of millennials, who were being served Malibu drinks and merchandise.

2. Simplify their lives. There are a number of ways you can do this in a way that predisposes people to purchase your product. For example, let’s say your product is not widely distributed. Many phones have GPS these days, and retailers are using that to their advantage with applications that allow consumers to find the nearest outlet of their favourite stores with the click of a button. The same thing can be done with products – allow your consumers to use an app or even text a number to find out where the nearest location is that sells your product. Secondly, if your business sells tickets of any kind, provide the option of texting a code or picture code to your customers in lieu of a printed ticket. Movies, airlines and any other companies who offer similar services can gain competitive advantage through saving consumers the step of printing off tickets and keeping track of them.

3. Provide superior customer service. Since text messaging is so widely used and accepted by millennials, why not use it for providing customer service? A friend of mine was surprised to hear that instead of waiting on the line until a representative from Telus found the answer to her question, they would text her the answer. Providing consumers with convenience like this will no doubt make them more likely to choose you over other competitors.

4. Provide free Wifi at your retail locations. According to Trendwatching’s 2010 Trend Report, “In a recent survey conducted by American Airlines and HP, some 47% of business travelers responded that wifi was the "most important airport amenity, outscoring basic travels needs such as food by nearly 30 percentage points."” As a retailer, provide free Wifi to get more people in your store and probably have many of them buy something while they are there. As a manufacturer, try to distribute your products at places that have Wifi in order to take advantage of this too.

A few ideas for the future…

1. Free or discounted cell phone service in exchange for periodic advertisements, e.g. when starting up the phone, before making a call or sending a text, etc. In a similar way, many consumers have moved to watching TV online for free in exchange for advertisements.

2. Text message coupon codes redeemable at checkouts – imagine the first mover advantage a retailer could score on this one!

3. A text messaging service that skips the “go home and Google it” step of the purchasing process: text in the product barcode and receive user reviews and an overall rating of the product you are considering buying, while still at the store.


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