How to Fail at Mobile Marketing – Three Examples

Mobile marketing provides an opportunity to connect with customers when they are most likely to buy. It can be used to upsell, cross sell, introduce new items, and motivate people to spend more. And, the market is huge. An estimated 93% of the U.S. population have cell phones and 72% of them text.

The opportunity is there, but capitalizing on it requires more than setting up a text messaging system. It requires a marketing strategy that includes vision, testing, analytics, revision, and an open mind. The planning always comes first because you need to know where you want to go before you start the trip.

When companies jump into mobile marketing without a plan, they are risking customer alienation.

Mobile marketing is new to most people in the United States. They have to be taught how to use a QR code to access information. While comfortable with texting, they have to be motivated to share their contact information with companies. The best motivator is a time sensitive offer.

Crocs provided a great example for simultaneously capturing contact information and generating revenue, but they failed on the follow up. Signs posted throughout their stores encouraged people to text a number for a 15% discount. When I tested it, it worked flawlessly. The code came back quickly, followed by information on how to opt out. The sales clerk knew exactly what to do with the information. It encouraged me and two people in line to buy more than originally planned. Even so, it apparently was a one shot deal. The signs are gone and there weren’t any follow up messages. Grade: A+ on capturing information and employee training. F on follow up.

Office Depot is dabbling in mobile marketing but their invitation to participate is misleading. The sign posted in the printer ink department encourages shoppers to text for savings. The responding text messages provided the opt out information followed by a link to a website for the discounts. When I clicked on the link, the page informed me that there weren’t any offers available at that time. I asked a store associate about it and was told, “We don’t know anything about that. It’s all corporate.” Grade: F on capturing information, employee training, and follow up.

JC Penny is also testing the waters, but their heart doesn’t seem to be in it. The invitation to participate is posted in the Ladies room. They must think that when you are washing your hands, you’re bound to see the sign on the mirror. Using the code “cpn” implies that you’ll receive a coupon by return text. There were two responses received. The first, “Rply w/email or rply Y to receive txt coupons/alerts. To review Terms&Conditions: or 800.273.7011 Msg&DataRatesMayApply RplySTOP2OptOut,” required a second step. After replying with “Y,” the second message read, “Thanks! You are now signed up to receive mobile text alerts from JCPenny on this phone number. Msg&DataRatesMayApply To Opt Out reply STOP.” When I mentioned the texts to an associate in the customer service department, she responded, “Really? They do that?” Grade: F on capturing information and employee training. There hasn’t been enough time to assess follow up.


  • Your customers and prospects will readily share their contact information in exchange for a discount. The delayed gratification offered by Office Depot and JC Penny leaves people feeling tricked.
  • Don’t capture information if you aren’t going to use it. People wonder why they shared it when there isn’t anything forthcoming.
  • Plan your strategy BEFORE capturing information. This includes the immediate offer and weekly follow ups for a minimum of six weeks.
  • A one time offer is not an effective test of a mobile marketing strategy. Would you send one direct mail piece or one email and call it quits?
  • Reminding people that rates may apply is a good touch. People don’t like financial surprises.
  • Using mobile marketing to capture email addresses allows cross channel marketing. It’s a good idea that needs a reward attached for motivation.
  • This is new for your customers. Make sure that you provide detailed instructions on how to use QR codes and text 2 save coupons.

Kudos to Crocs, Office Depot, and JC Penny for jumping in to a new channel. Now that you are there, make it work. Text 2 Save should be that – customers are more likely to participate if they are receiving savings in return. I’m looking forward to seeing an integrated multichannel marketing strategy.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Practical Text Mobile Marketing

    Mobile marketing is one aspect of a complete marketing program, but it is also a part of it that will help you measure the effectiveness of email, website offerings, Facebook and other mediums when it is fully integrated into those mediums. It shouldn’t be seen as a separate platform, and that seems to be where many small business owners are struggling.

    Also, need to update your Comment luv plugin.

  • Debra Ellis

    It seems that integration is the challenge many companies are facing today. Thank you for the heads up on CommentLuv.

  • John Mech

    Dear Debra,
    I am planning for a mobile version for my company website and looking for the possibilities in mobile marketing techniques.
    Thanks for the blog, its really informative.

  • Debra Ellis

    Good. I’m glad to hear it.

  • Richard Thompson @ Alphagraphics

    This article is great! I think mobile marketing is trickier than most people realize. Thanks for the tips and pointers. 🙂

  • Debra Ellis

    Thank you Richard. I agree that it can be tricky. Thank you for the comment.

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