Category Archives: SMS

The Ron and Don Show’s On-Air SMS Fail

As I was driving home from work last Friday I tuned the radio in my car to 97.3FM, a News/Talk station here in Seattle. Not sure if it’s a sign of my age or an indication of the state of radio broadcasting in this area but I recently replaced 103.7FM, which used to have great contemporary rock programming, with a talk radio station.

On 97.3FM it was time for the Ron and Don show and they had started talking about the Colorado fires when I tuned in. The worst wildfire in Colorado history has destroyed nearly 350 homes and killed two people. When you look at the images and video it’s simultaneously amazing and troubling.  One of the radio hosts was beginning a call-to-action. He wanted us to donate to the Red Cross in order to help those affected by the fires. But I was a bit confused by what he was saying.

Listen to the audio here.

He says,

“Text the word redcross…Text redcross, and then what you want to do is text #90999″

Then, after some words about how awesome the Red Cross is he goes on,

“…after the bottom of the hour news updates I’m gonna jump on my phone, type RedCross and then #90999, that’s 90999, send that to the Red Cross… “

Huh? What am I supposed to do? Text what? Redcross or #90999? Do I put #90999 in the message along with the word ‘redcross’? Is ‘redcross’ one word or two? Where do I send the message? Is there a number for the Red Cross? Should I know it? It seems like he’s saying to send a text to a short code, similar to the efforts to raise money to support relief efforts in Haiti and Japan, but I’d never heard the use of a pound sign (#).

I’ll give Ron and Don credit for trying to rally the support of the Great Northwest but this was a disaster of its own.



 What could have saved this campaign?

Here’s what I think happened. Ron and/or Don or perhaps their producer did a little research about how they could promote mobile donations to the Red Cross.  They found the information on the Red Cross web site and wrote it down. Then when the time came the show’s host just grabbed the paper and tried to give the instructions.

Here’s what didn’t happen: Testing. The radio host clearly is not very familiar with mobile donations and doesn’t appear to do too much texting, otherwise he would have known how confusing he was being. He needed to try the donation process before delivering his call-to-action.  Had he done that, his instructions might have been something clearer like, “Text the word ‘redcross’ (one word) to the number 90999. Text REDCROSS to 90999″ or “Send a text message with the word REDCROSS to the number 90999.”

Feeding America: Who Should Care?

Shopping malls are a popular place this time of year. And it is widely recognized that teenagers often hang out at shopping malls. Add this to the fact that teenagers are far and away the most prolific text-messagers and you have an environment ripe for a mobile marketing effort that uses text-messaging/SMS.

Which is why I wasn’t too surprised when I first read the words on a display ad in a local shopping mall that said:


Clearly, this was a play on the shorthand used when sending a text message. Right? Actually, it’s not that clear. Intrigued, I really studied the ad (I’m guessing more than a teenager would, or anyone else for that matter). I was looking for the payoff, the something to do, the call-to-action.:

image: Feeding America Full Mall Ad

One thing is clear, this is an ad for an organization looking to feed the hungry.

What’s not clear is what the ad means and more importantly, what can I do about it as I walk through the mall? Let’s look a little closer, perhaps there’s something in the details that clears things up.:

image: Feeding America mall ad closeup

Whaa? I get that there are hungry people. You’ve got my attention with the text-message-like copy.  But now you want me to remember to visit to ‘do my part’?  Is there nothing I can do right now? In fact, isn’t even designed to be read by a mobile device, sigh.



What could have saved this campaign?

Feeding America has placed themselves in a bit of a tough spot here. They clearly recognize who is likely to be in shopping malls and seeing their ad; they have copy that is short and easy to grasp for a frequent texter. Lost, however, is the connection between who they are talking to and what they want them to do. First, a teen is likely not paying a nanosecond’s notice to the ad regardless of its familiar vernacular. Even if they did engage with the ad is there even the remotest possibility that they’d  write down the URL in order to ‘do their part’? Nope. These are teenagers. This ad is targeting the wrong people.

It is the parents in the  crowd that the folks at Feeding America really want to talk to. Grab them with a more standard line rather than one that looks like a crypic text-message (sorry, no suggestions here. I’m not a copy writer). Then, give them an easy way to do something right there, whether it’s sending an SMS or scanning a bar code. Once engaged, pull them along into a conversation about the cause and even solicit a mobile donation.

Sprint Fails in a NOW Moment

NBC’s Bravo network has been offering SMS/MMS engagements for some time now but not being a fan of that particular network I’ve never looked into what they were doing. During a conversation with a colleague about MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) I was told I could experience it for myself by sending WIVES to 27286 to start the sign-up process – one that turned out to be a bit painful – and begin receiving text and video messages – another often disappointing experience.

Naturally, I tried sending WIVES to the short code, presumably to engage with the Real Housewives television show (I’ve never watched it and never will, to be honest. From what I’ve seen it looks ridiculous.). However, nothing happened. Nothing at all. I got absolutely no response from my text message. Grrr. Committed, I went to on my computer. (Mistake! That’s a scam site being run by RewardsFlow LLC who appears to be harvesting both email and mobile numbers. Likely one source of the growing problem with SMS spam) Eventually, I found, which had a form for mobile sign-up:

image: Bravo Mobile Web Form

Entering my mobile number and clicking ‘Sign Up’ resulted in:

image: Bravo Web Form Submitted

This appears broken and I got nothing on my phone.


Looking around the page I noticed ‘mobile’ in one of the nav menus:image: Bravo Menu

Clicking ‘mobile’ I get to a page that lists out the “Mobile Clubs”:
image: Bravo Mobile RH

The first one is Housewives Hub with instructions to text WIVES to 27286. But I already tried this and nothing happened! Fine. I tried again. This time it worked and I successfully signed up for ‘wifey gossip & news’ (yay?). Interestingly, the confirmation message said, “Sponsored by Sprint” at the end.  I didn’t realize, however, that I was due to receive more than I was expecting.

The following day I received one message as expected. It was an offer to play a game to test my knowledge of ‘Camille Grammer’.  I didn’t play. The other message was a surprise. You can see it below. I have since received them fairly regularly. It appears that when I signed up for WIVES I was also signed up for ‘The NOW Moment’ (apparently a play on Sprint’s NOW Network slogan). This was sneaky. Are these messages related to the WIVES stuff at all?
image: NBC Bravo SMS

The one above says ‘Online Dating’. Are they trying to hook me up? A more recent message said, “Modeling Tips”. Always willing to give things a try I tapped the link. Here’s the result on my Nexus S on the Sprint network:
image: NBC Bravo WAP page

Uh. Hello? What is this? It looks like the details of a video file of some sort. No video played and there was no link to tap to watch a video. Was the video supposed to accompany the SMS (making it an MMS)? The irony is that the service is sponsored by Sprint and yet it doesn’t work on my Sprint device.

I’ve received three of these ‘NOW Network’ messages and all three do the same thing.



What could have saved this campaign?

Well, this isn’t so much a campaign as it is a regular part of the Bravo TV content offering, which is great, we all know mobile is here to stay.

I suspect the mobile offering from NBC/Universal is suffering from neglect. It appears that is has been awhile since anyone tested the program and processes across media (mobile vs. Web), across mobile operators, and on a multitude of devices. Testing is of course critical for any new efforts but is also vital to sustaining an ongoing program. Not to get too technical but shit happens and it always seems to happen when you’re not looking.

Bravo and Singlepoint (the mobile application provider in this case) really need to commit to scheduled, regular testing.

ABC Mobile: Lost In The Mobile Abyss

Like many smartphone users, I like to watch videos on my phone when I have a few minutes of down-time. (There are 200 million mobile video playbacks every day on YouTube.) I’ll even watch full episodes of TV shows if I’m going to be sitting somewhere for awhile, like on the bus or in a waiting room. It was the hope for access to full episodes of The View (just kidding) that had me typing in on my computer to see what’s available.

At the ABC website there was a menu link for “Mobile”.  It looked promising, I mean, what other content would ABC be offering via mobile if not video? Clicking the link I was treated to the following page and there it was, Mobile Video On Demand! Nice.

Now, how do I get the vids? I don’t see an iTunes icon or little green Android that would point me to a mobile app. Checking the fine print I see that the service is indeed available on Sprint (my carrier) and, “To find out how to access ABC Mobile Video On Demand by texting ABCTV to 22288.”  Simple enough, right? Nope. Here’s what I got back; a message from Sprint:

“9230: Message failed. Shortcode may have expired or shortcode texting may be blocked on your account. Msg 1051″

What the..? How do I get the VOD? This short code was my only option!

FAIL #1.

I try the other mobile ‘offerings’ with increasing frustration.

Text Alerts:

FAIL #2: No list of shows to get alerts on! I’m offered the opportunity to figure it out for myself.

Live TV:

FAIL #3: No way to get the service, which appears to be only available on my carrier.

This is starting to get silly.  As a last resort and with little real hope, I pick up my phone and tap into the browser. Perhaps they have a mobile site that will help me. Nope. It’s their full-site:

image: on a phone

actual size

Not pretty, and the video links take me to the full-on video player. I try adding ‘/mobile’ to the URL:

image: Mobile

actual size

Ugh. Same thing, a non-mobile site. It doen’t even pinch/zoom very well. In fact, the site crashed my phone’s browser forcing it to close. Neat.

FAIL #4.


What could have saved this campaign?

There is really only one thing to talk about here. I wasn’t able to actually get any of the content so all I can review is the way ABC Mobile is making their content available (or not available as the case may be).

1) Using a short code is a great way to allow users to discover mobile content but it should work on all carriers you claim the content is available on. In this case the content seems to be available on Sprint but the SOLE access method, a short code, is not.  ABC should remove Sprint from the carrier list or figure out how to get them to provision the short code.

2) When promoting content, in this case alerts and live TV, ALWAYS provide a simple and clear call-t0-action so interested users can actually engage on their device. Marketing 101, really.

3) Create a mobile web site and detect mobile devices that come to your top-level domain. This doesn’t have to be complex. A simple mobile landing page with instructions on how to get mobile content would be better than directing to a non-mobile site with rich content and flash elements.

To summarize, it appears the mobile efforts at ABC Mobile are fragmented, lack coordination and and exhibit little understanding of how to engage a mobile user.

Pampers Tries SMS But Leaks Out Anyway

I hate diapers. On the one hand you need them to keep your baby clean and on the other hand they are filling up landfills and decompose slowly.  And the reminders come multiple times per day. Sure, we tried cloth diapers but you may not realize how much water and electricity you go through cleaning and drying these absorbent things.  It’s insane. I’m not convinced it’s worth it. I’m back to disposables.

Which leads me to Pampers. I was taking a shrink-wrapped bundle of them to the daycare when I noticed a sticker on the pack with a long number/code on it. I’m actually surprised it got my attention because the sticker was so small. Seemed almost like a packing or shipping label of some sort.

image:Pampers GTG Sticker

Turns out it was a Call-To-Action!

Naturally curious, I tried to read the thing. Ever try to read the text on a coin? It was about half that size. I needed my glasses. It was painfully small. Here’s what I saw:

image: Pampers GTG Sticker Closeup

I guess you could text the code in as part of some sort of rewards program. I’m not a ‘member’ but not knowing what else to do I forged on sending the 15-digit code to 726777.

Expecting to be told I’m not a ‘member’ I received the following message in return:
“Sorry, we couldn’t find your mobile number. Please enter your email address. Msg&data rates may apply. reply STOP 2 quit, HELP 4help & T&Cs”

Fine. I replied with my email address. Here’s the reply:
“Sorry, we could not find your email @ Pampers GTG. Please register at Msg&data rates may apply. reply STOP 2 quit, HELP 4help”

(wow, those CYA bits about data rates and stop and help are really annoying)

Really? I need to go to a ‘regular’ website to register? I’ve gone so far as to stop what I’m doing, locate my glasses, find my phone, send the code, send my email and now you bail on me? This site is not meant for mobile and requires all kinds of data entry. Forget it.



What could have saved this campaign?

First, these stickers are way too small. I’m not a 20-something but I only got reading glasses in the last 4 months and rarely use them. I see fine in normal conditions. If you want people to participate, make it easy (maybe Pampers doesn’t really want participation?).

Second, follow MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) guidelines for promoting shortcode-based programs. This will keep you from being audited and subsequently shut off.

Third, allow people to sign up via mobile. Do NOT make them use your regular web site. People on their phones won’t type and confirm-type email addresses and passwords, fill in addresses and make a bunch of preferences selections. Let them sign up and then follow up with them (via email) if you want more info. This can be done on a mobile web site or using SMS. Contact Atomic Mobile to see how this might work.

iLoop Showcases Super8 Mobile Fail

I’ve been receiving promotional SMS messages from iLoop Mobile. Their “iLoop Market” program is intended to showcase mobile campaigns that iLoop thinks are good and interesting. Last week’s iLoop Market offering arrived on-time and on-schedule. Here’s what they like:

So far so good. I tap the url (, which looks like it was made for mobile so my expectations start to rise (seriously, few sites are actually made for mobile). Here’s what I see as I hold my phone in the ‘normal’ (i.e., vertical) position:

Hmm. Made for mobile? Doesn’t look like it. I try rotating the phone to check the horizontal view – maybe it was made for a wider screen (e.g., iPad)?

Hmm. The sky and clouds. I scroll down to see the menu I already caught a glimpse of a second ago.

This is starting to look better. It fits the width of the screen nicely and doesn’t require any horizontal scrolling. Though, why I had to scroll down so far to see it I don’t know. Curious about the movie I tap the VIDEO link. I’m taken to a page with the word ‘TRAILER’ and an image. I try tapping the image. The screen flickers but nothing seems to be happening. I click again. Same. Then, I notice the notifications area on the top of my phone. Something appears to be downloading. Hmm. Ok. I open the notifications screen and see that I’m downloading two copies of a file with a HUGE name that ends in ‘.tv’. I’m assuming this is a trailer for the movie. I cancel one download and 8 minutes(!) later have a video to watch.

Notice the file size – more than 5 megabytes; they could have warned me.. This video is larger than most apps I’ve downloaded. Well, I waited long enough for the download, I look forward watching it. I tap the video and a very high quality video starts to play.

Problem is, I don’t hear anything. It is a silent trailer? I put my ear closer to the phone’s speaker and while I do hear something it is soooo quiet. I have to keep my ear so close to the phone that I can’t watch at the same time. The audio is also messed up somehow. The voices sound like they are under water. I can’t understand a word.


I go back to the web site and try tapping ‘UPDATES’. A page loads that asks for my phone number, email and birthdate.

They don’t really tell me what they propose to ‘update’ me on. Hmmm. I’m on a mobile phone so I guess they’ll send stuff to my phone but why do they want my email and birthdate? Reluctantly I enter the information (though I did shave a few years off the birthdate!), check the “I hereby certify” box and tap Submit. A largely blank page loads thanking me for signing up and assuring me I’ll be the first to know about all the latest news for Super8 (apparently things will be changing often). A minute or so later I receive a text-message from 33287:

Really? They want my date of birth? I JUST entered it into the web page along with my email and mobile number!  They already know my (fake) birthdate. I’m not doing this.



What could have saved this campaign?

Well before we get into how this should be fixed I want to acknowledge that I received the url from iLoop Mobile and not from Paramount. I don’t know if Paramount intended for the URL to be accessed from anything other than an iPad, on which it works well. iLoop, however, should know better than to promote such a broken experience. Is this what their clients can expect? I’m just sayin’.

First, this site needs to fit the screen in the vertical position. This is the most natural and likely position from which someone will be clicking on the url from an SMS.

Second, the image of the sky and clouds is cool but this is mobile. Get me to the content without making me scroll down. The link menu on the web site should be ‘above the fold’.

Third, the font needs additional contrast. It’s dark grey over black and some of it is very, very small. Mobile – and the inherent variety of devices/screens – calls for something more crisp and easy to read.

Fourth, use a lower quality video, and stream it rather than download it to the device; space can be precious on mobile devices. This also helps you be data-plan friendly; not all users have unlimited data and 5mb is a good size chunk of a person’s data plan. If you insist on the high quality be sure to tell people up front. Video is a challenge in the mobile environment so be sure to test on many devices and networks.

Fifth, tell users what they are going to receive updates on and by what means. The subscription page asked for both mobile number and email address. What will be sent to these? Set a clear expectation here.

Sixth,  explain why you want – and require – a birthdate. Blatant and unexplained solicitation of data creates suspicion, particularly in a personal medium like mobile.

Seventh, connect the databases. The subscription page required a mobile number and a birthdate. The resulting SMS should reflect that knowledge and NOT ask for birthdate again. It should simply thank the person for subscribing and ask them to confirm by replying with “YES” or “OK”.

Eighth, test the program on multiple devices. This one worked ok on an iPad using WiFi but completely broke down on an Android phone using 3G service.

Alaska Airlines SMS Offer FAIL

Not long ago I signed up to receive text-message promotions and offers from Alaska Airlines. I like Alaska Air. They are probably my favorite airline and I fly them whenever I can. They also seem to recognize the needs of a mobile traveler (is that redundant? does travel = mobile?) because they have smartphone apps, a mobile web site, and offer flight alerts via SMS.

Their latest SMS promotion said the following:

Mildly interesting, I guess, but I immediately have a series of thoughts.

  1. Why do I need to register? Wouldn’t I just get the credit?
  2. I’m probably not going to book a trip just because I can get double miles. Does this incentive really drive new bookings?
  3. Is this offer only good for today or the next few hours?

With my head filling with more questions than answers I click on the url and my (smart) phone browser displays:

(life-size image)

Ouch. What the heck is this? It appears to be a page on their main web site that is almost completely filled with text that is far too small to read. Even when I zoom in to the point where the type is legible it means I need to pan side-to-side in order to read a complete line.  I’m not doing this. It will be far too painful.

I do, however, scroll to the bottom to see just how long this page is and I find a couple form fields. One asks for my mileage plan number (don’t they already have it?) and the other asks where I heard about this offer, presumably in an effort to track the effectiveness of different channels at driving people to the offer. Zooming way in I tap the selector and there isn’t an option to say I heard about the offer via text-message.  This SMS effort appears to be an afterthought.



What could have saved this campaign?

To put it mildly, there is a lot of room for improvement here. Let’s start at the beginning with the SMS message and work our way through.

The main issue with the SMS is that it doesn’t conform to the standards of the Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices. Any broadcast message like this needs to have opt-out verbiage such as “reply STOP to cancel msgs”.  This is not only a rule it is the right thing to do for the recipient.

Next is the landing page. It wasn’t designed for mobile viewing and is almost a guaranteed poor user experience. It would not have been difficult or expensive to build a single mobile landing page that displays the details of the offer, the terms, and an entry form to capture registrations. Using a non-mobile page will significantly impact participant opt-out rates (assuming you’ve told them how to opt-out). The odd thing here is that Alaska Airlines has a mobile site at

Finally, Alaska Air should be holding mobile marketing efforts to a higher standard of accountability. I’m pretty sure that they can’t track anything associated with this effort.

  1. They are using a vanity url which will only tell you the number of clicks. It won’t allow you to carry through recipient information like mobile number or even the mileage plan number. They will never know who actually clicked.
  2. They are gathering user-reported source info but not including SMS as one of the options. They will probably never know if the SMS generated any registrations.

iLoop Mobile Demo Fail

Having attended one of the many webinars put on by mobile marketing firm, iLoop Mobile, I visited their web site and noticed the following among their rotation of hero banners on their main page: Of course I did what I was told. I texted ILOOPDEALS to the number. Almost instantly I was a confirmed member.

“iLoop Mobile Deals Alerts: you are now a member. 1msg/week. Msg&DataRatesMay Apply. Reply HELP for help. Reply STOP to cancel. HELP: 877.561.8045.”

No problems there, though it wasn’t all that engaging. Two days later I received two text-message ‘offers’ (Oops! I was only supposed to get 1msg/week). The first offer was for TGIF restaurants and included a link to a mobile site to sign up for TGIF Rewards (Do people really go to TGIF so often?) The other offer was as follows:

I was immediately confused. Whose sweepstakes was this? Dodge? Maybe, but it didn’t really say. The TGIF message started out with “TGIF:” so I knew it who it was from. Confusion aside, I tapped on the url anyway and was taken to a page that took a very long time to load (not usually a good sign).  My patience was not to be rewarded, however. Here is what I got:

Really? A non-mobile web site with a painfully long form to fill out? This picture is just about life-size so you can see how small things are. It’s clearly a web site built for large computer monitors. No way.



What could have saved this campaign?

There is absolutely no excuse for this. iLoop Mobile bills itself out as experts in mobile marketing. Their demo should be flawless.

  1. If they say 1 Msg/week then they should have stopped after the TGIF message. Is their system broken? Are they disorganized?
  2. Few things ruin a mobile web experience more than being sent to site that wasn’t designed to be viewed on a mobile device. This one is doubly painful as it immediately asks you to fill out a huge form and doesn’t tell you anything about the sweepstakes.

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 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.

Old-School Doritos Fails With Smartphones

In an odd twist in the world of mobile marketing Doritos’ recent mobile promotion seemed geared more toward non-smartphones..

I recently bought a small bag of Doritos to accompany me on my drive home from work. Advertised on a full 1/4 of the bag of Cool Ranch chips they lead with the offerimage: Doritos Promo that “You could become a Green Lantern in an upcoming comic” and also “win 1000s of other prizes plus a free digital comic”. This was intriguing (me? the next Green Lantern?) and really made me want to learn how.

The process was laid out in three numbered steps. The first one said “Text HERO to CHIPS”. Hmm. Ok. Opening the messaging app on my Nexus S I type ‘chips’ into the To: box and ‘Hero’ into the message body and hit Send. Oop! I get an error that says, “Cannot sent this message. Your message has no valid recipients.” Grrr..


Step two says to “enter the 9-digit code from the front of the bag” but at this point I have nowhere to enter it. I don’t even try step three seeing how I can’t even get past step 1.

Fortunately they also offered a QR code for us smartphone users. Scanning it, I was taken to what I figured was a web page but what now appeared to be just an image that only filled a portion of the screen and had text too small to read.

image: Doritos Site
Confused, I tried zooming in. Nope. Can’t zoom. Hmmmm. Try again. No zoom but this time my pinching scrolled the page a bit; there was something below the image. I scrolled deliberately this time and revealed text that told me that the campaign ended on 7/31. Bummer, I really wanted to be the next Green Lantern.


What could have saved this campaign?

First, this wasn’t a complete fail. People carrying feature phones (i.e., non-smartphones) were probably able to address their text message to ‘Chips’, though it is unclear what that experience might have been. Also, scanning the QR code did result in a page that appeared to be built for mobile viewing.  Here’s what might have happened:

1) Just use the short code in the SMS call-to-action. In the printed context there is no need for the assisted recall mechanism of having a real-word equivalent. The use of real words in place of shortcodes was made obsolete by smartphones, which don’t have number/letter dial pads. If you do use the word then also indicate the number so smartphone users can play.

2) Give instructions for scanning the QR code. According to Comscore only 15% of smartphone users scanned QR codes in June 2011. That means there are likely a lot of people who don’t know the process.

3) Provide on-going engagement. Printed promotions like this will often be picked up and tried even after the promotion itself is over. This is an opportunity to engage in a variety of ways including asking for opt-in to future promotions.