Around the world, SMS marketing campaigns are huge. The technology is simple, the communication is brief and to the point. Done correctly, the cost-benefit ratio is excellent. But when it’s done wrong, an SMS campaign can seriously harm a brand.
The ANC’s and DA’s mass SMS campaigns in the run up to the recent Local Government Elections are a case in point. While much debate has been sparked by these campaigns, we all know by now that there was nothing illegal about them. The parties were fully entitled to communicate with voters.
However, the way they did it falls foul of the Consumer Protection Act and compliance requirements for three reasons:
– All marketing communications must provide the recipient with an opportunity to opt-out of further communications. Neither the ANC nor the DA gave people this option in their SMS messages. Failure to this gives recipients the impression that they have no control over the process as there is no-one they can contact should they not wish to receive further communication. It’s disempowering.
– Before any organisation launches an SMS marketing campaign, it is supposed to measure its recipient list against the national consumer op out register. However, the register does not exist yet, making it impossible for the parties to fulfil this requirement. In the interim, best practice for would have been to run their lists against the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Opt Out Register.
– Both political parties should have been able to respond immediately to recipients who wanted to know where and how their details had been obtained.
Neither did so.
The impact of a negative user experience
Despite the fact that the campaigns were legal, neither took into account end-user experience – the crux of any marketing campaign.
In this instance, recipients felt violated because they received unsolicited text messages from political parties on their mobile phones, which people view as their own personal space.
In addition, many of those SMS messages were received late at night or even after the election had actually taken place. Timing is critical. After hours communication elicits negative reactions. That’s why marketers need to ensure that the service providers they contract with send text messages at a reasonable time and that they do not queue them up in a server to be sent in the early hours of the morning.
The reaction to the campaigns was compounded by the political nature of the text messages. The unenthused response of many recipients indicates that while people are accustomed to seeing political campaigning and electioneering taking place in public, they do not appreciate it in their private space. It’s also likely that while South African consumers are used to receiving brand marketing messages, they are not accustomed to being spammed by political parties, which means their negative reaction was even more pronounced.
Both campaigns have taught marketers some important lessons. Although SMS marketing can be incredibly powerful, these two examples have highlighted how important it is to do it right. It’s vital to engage with marketing experts who are able to provide advertisers with the right compliance and best practices guidelines. That way, brand damage is avoided and your message can reach the right people in the right way, ensuring campaign success.