SMS: From Sub-Market To Mainstream

It was just two years ago when an episode of Boondocks – the smart, controversial cartoon about social issues – decided to take SMS to task. To paraphrase (and to avoid offending the PC-minded), let’s just say that the protagonist called texting an ”inferior” technology. For one thing, pointed out the precocious little boy character Huey, with a cell phone you can’t print out a message all nice and pretty like you can with a computer.

That episode was rerun on TV the other night, and got me thinking even more deeply than the Aaron McGruder creation usually does. It made me realize that messaging technology has, if anything, furthered equality and made consumers of all demographics equally accessible – and therefore valuable – to marketers.

See, even just a couple of years back, the technology divide was something that further defined racial, economical, and social classes – not just within the United States, but between nations, between developed vs. developing economies. I myself have written a few news articles about the need to provide computers to citizens of emerging nations in the hopes of narrowing the education and wealth gap in the world. Indeed, the thinking went, granting Internet access would be a way for the world’s poor to learn what they needed to become competitive in the global marketplace.

But there were lots of problems with this rose-colored view. Top among them is the fact that undeveloped countries have little infrastructure – i.e. electricity and phone lines – to even power these computers.

Mobile technology, however, was a different story. Cell phones take relatively little energy to charge and by their nature do not require physical lines to be installed all over the geography. And as the technology gets more advanced (last week Intel had this exciting news about phone chips), prices for handsets – even multi-media ones – fall, as does the cost of cellular service.

And now the idea of the poor African farmer using SMS to get the best market prices for his crop isn’t a pipe dream – it’s long become a reality. Teenagers from American families of modest means, meanwhile, can join in their peers’ conversations with text messaging (as well as mobile IM; plus they can even access their MySpaces with their cell phones). In turn, marketers the world over are finding that they must embrace mobile campaigns – starting with SMS messaging – in order to reach the most people who actually want to be reached in the first place.

That’s something the normally-astute Huey, and McGruder, couldn’t have imagined.

Eydie Cubarrubia, Marketing Communications Manager, mobileStorm
”I’d rather you text me”

 

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