Emerald City Smoothie Blends Up a Big Fail

This post contributed by Derek Johnson – Tatango SMS Marketing.

I’ve seen some pretty bad SMS campaigns since we started Tatango in 2007, but a new Emerald City Smoothie campaign here in Seattle takes the cake when it comes to worst SMS campaign of 2011, or smoothie in this case. Today I snapped the following photo of this new SMS campaign, encouraging customers to text “alltxt ECS1″ to 368674. Emerald City Smoothie SMS Campaign

Before even getting into what happens when you text “alltext ECS1″ to 368674, I wanted to start with what is wrong with this advertisement.

  1. Emerald City Smoothie has completely ignored the three requirements for print advertising set by the Mobile Marketing Association’s U.S. Consumer Best Practices. These include 1) displaying additional carrier costs “Msg&Data Rates May Apply”, 2) a resource such as a phone number or website where subscribers can reference all terms and conditions and 3) instructions on canceling or opting-out of the service “Text STOP to stop”. See section 1.2-4 for more info.
  2. Mixing of lowercase and uppercase letters in a keyword is never a good idea, as shifting between the two letter sets is confusing for some mobile users. The key for any SMS campaign is to make the opt-in process as simple and smooth as possible, but Emerald City Smoothie doesn’t care.
  3. Including spaces in a keyword is also never a good idea, as some would be subscribers will enter the keyword into their mobile phones without spaces, in-turn giving an error to the customer. Try it, text “AlltxtECS1″ to 368674.
  4. The last thing I saw wrong with this advertisements is the actual selection of the word for the keyword. With keywords you always want them to have some relevance to your product, industry, company brand, etc. Emerald City Smoothie in this SMS campaign has picked a keyword “Alltxt ECS1″ that has no relevance to anything, and sounds more like a computer command than an actual word. (Update: Someone just pointed out that ECS1 is most likely initials for Emerald City Smoothie, with a “1″ appended to the end. This makes more sense now, but shit, if I didn’t realize that, how many other customers won’t as well)

After you text message “alltext ECS1″ to 368674 though, that’s when the real shit-show begins with this SMS campaign.

Emerald City Smoothie Mobile Marketing Campaign

Lets breakdown what is wrong with the message above.

  1. First off, what the heck is ALLTXT.ORG, and what does it have to do with Emerald City Smoothie? After visting ALLTXT.ORG, the answer is completely nothing. It looks like possibly ALLTXT is the company managing this shit-show of a campaign, but I’m still not clear why it’s displayed at the top of the message. Very confusing from a customers perspective.
  2. Why does it say (1/1) in the message. I could see reasoning for (1/2) if there were multiple messages, but what’s the point of (1/1) if it takes up valuable characters and confuses the potential subscriber.
  3. Double opt-in from a mobile keyword? This is over-kill, even the Mobile Marketing Association’s U.S. Consumer Best Practices only requires a single opt-in when using a keyword from a mobile phone. This additional step is excessive and makes the process of opting into this SMS campaign more complicated than it needs to be.
  4. I’m still confused as to what ECS1 is, and telling me to reply YES to “follow ECS1″ is making me think Emerald City Smoothie is now talking about Twitter. As defined in Twitter speak by the Twittonary (Twitter’s version of the dictionary), “follow” is someone choosing to sign up to receive someones tweets.

Ok, lets say I bite and reply YES, then it gets worse… way worse. Emerald City SMS Marketing CampaignWhat makes this even worse?

  • Again with the ALLTXT.ORG – Who are these guys?
  • As before, Emerald City Smoothie has ignored the Mobile Marketing Association’s U.S. Consumer Best Practices and left out key information in the confirmation message such as additional carrier costs “Msg&Data Reates May Apply”, frequency of messaging and customer support information “text HELP for help”. (See section 1.5-7 for more info.) At least they told subscribers how to opt-out, I give them credit for that.
  • Again with the “ECS1″, still not sure who I’m following, or if we’re still talking about SMS.
  • Again with the (1/1)…
  • Another mystery word has been added… “DOMZ” now appears in parenthesis at the bottom of the text message. I’m familiar with DMOZ, but this DOMZ is a mystery to me and this whole thing is starting to feel like The Da Vinci Code with all of these mystery codes.

But wait, all may be saved as my finger hovers over the link to “get the app”. Have the mobile gods just been screwing with me up until now, possibly leaving the best for last? As I wait for my browser to load, I imagine downloading a beautiful mobile app, with mobile optimized photos, videos and even a cool nearest location finder. I even imagine myself letting out a little joyful shout as order my favorite smoothie right from my mobile phone. Unfortunately, after I click on the URL, what I see in front of me resembles what I would imagine it would look like if the mobile gods had taken a big ol’ shit on my mobile phones browser. First, this isn’t a mobile app, it’s a mobile website. Second, the mobile website isn’t even finished… I can’t even tell if it’s been started. Does anyone at Emerald City Smoothie even test things before they push them live?

Emerald City Smoothie Mobile Website

Ok, there may be one shred of hope here in saving Emerald City Smoothie from being put at the top of my list for worst SMS campaigns of 2011. I wince as I push the button titled “ALERT: Special Message”. As the page loads I pray for at least a mobile coupon, or after this train-wreck of an SMS campaign, even a picture of a cute dog or girl in a bikini¬†would have made me smile.

Emerald City Smoothie Mobile Website 2

NOOOO!!! Damn you Emerald City Smoothie, you’ve got to be kidding me. I’m back at the very beginning where we started, telling me to text “ALLTEXT ECS1″ to 368674. Without further ado, I crown you the worst SMS campaign of 2011.

Congratulations Emerald City Smoothie! You have just been crowned by @thederekjohnson as the worst worst SMS campaign of 2011. (Tweet This)


What could have saved this campaign?

Well, Derek pretty much points out the epic nature of this fail but here are your blog moderator’s comments:

This campaign is using a shared short code. While services that share a code exist for a very good reason they come with additional risk. A fail like this can raise the eyebrows of the mobile operators. If they don’t like what they see and it doesn’t conform to the MMA rules they have every right to shut off the short code. ¬†When that happens every company using the code will be shut off, too. Services like Tatango, enforce MMA compliance in the way their service is configured and are far less likely to have a single customer put the entire code at risk.

Also, I don’t really blame Emerald City Smoothie on this one – not completely at least. They are smoothie experts not mobile marketing experts. The problem is that ALLTXT.org. doesn’t (or likely can’t) provide their customers with strategic guidance as to how to promote the opportunity to engage via mobile. Though, you would have thought someone at ECS would have tested the process to see just how broken it is.

7 thoughts on “Emerald City Smoothie Blends Up a Big Fail

  1. Pingback: Emerald City Smoothie – Worst SMS Campaign of 2011 | SMS Marketing Blog

  2. Derek Johnson

    It looks like ALLTXT is using http://dotgo.com/ for their SMS provider/shared short code, which doesn’t make any sense at all as DotGo was developed for a completely different purpose. It seems like everyone here is at fault for such a shitty SMS campaign, and it sucks because I love their smoothies.

    From the fails I’ve seen lately, it’s almost better to use a shared short code, as our types of companies are much more stringent on following the rules as we have so much more at stake.

  3. Matt Silk

    Thanks for sharing and great analysis of all of the issues here. It is sad when businesses pick poor vendors and get guidance like this and deploy horrible campaigns. Let’s not just blame the vendor though, the business is at fault too.

    The customers of ECS1 (store #1 in a chain of many using this messaging provider?) just had a horrendous experience. They are not blaming ALLTXT or calling them. They associate this experience with their favorite smoothie place, Emerald City Smoothie.

    Keep the dialogues going as unelss more people see the successes and failures then our industry will not move forward.


  4. Troy Morris

    It looks like it’s it has little to nothing to do with ALLTXT.

    ALLTXT appears, at looking at their site, to be a provider of technology that enables SMBs to create mobile applications and SMS campaigns. But that’s where it ends. It provides business owners with the technical tools, but not the know-how.

    However, I’m unsure to what extent ALLTXT service allows an owner to customize the SMS messaging. If it’s very little, then their locked-in default messaging needs to be addressed.

    That being said, ALLTXT looks like an awful chunk of technology, but this was article critique of the SMS campaign– which rests singularly on the shoulders of whomever is doing the marketing for that ECS location (see what I did there?)

  5. Kelly McIvor

    @Troy I agree that this is ultimately the responsibility of the marketer for ECS. This is an on-going challenge with self-service mobile platforms; no matter how much on-line training you make available the program/campaign is still in the hands of someone who lacks experience and expertise. Not that the approach can’t work – it just leaves much wider openings for a fail.
    That said, there are good platforms and then there are ones like ALLTXT.


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