Cell-ing Out: Using Mobile Phones for Social Marketing

You still think that cell phones are just for making phone calls? Oh ho ho! What an antiquated notion! While I have to admit that I don’t use my own cell phone for much other than placing calls and checking the time, many other people use their phones for text messaging, taking pictures, downloading music and keeping their rolodex.

Commercial marketers have been using this medium to reach out to their audiences and to make it easy for them to respond to marketing pitches. Social marketers are starting to find ways to use mobile technology for health and social change as well.

USA Today describes a new sex information and advice service offered to youth by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Using text messaging, the users can request information on everything from what to do if the condom broke to whom to call “if ur feeling down … like u wanna xcape ur life.”

Similarly, in Ireland, young people offered illegal drugs can find out the effects they can have on their life or health within seconds by texting the name of the drug to the 24-hour service.

Sprint is offering a new product called MyFoodPhone, which allows subscribers (for $9.99/month) to upload pictures taken with their phone of the food they eat, along with logging data such as weight, exercise, and calories burned to an online journal. Once a week, subscribers receive a video clip from a nutrition advisor providing feedback on their eating habits, based on the data in their Visual Food Journal.

The Canadian Diabetes Association has partnered with a company that offers a product called MemoText. This product “turns all your telephones into a personal health reminder machine.” After pre-scheduling reminders online, the service will either send a text message or turn your note into a voice call to any phone. This could be used to remind yourself or your loved ones (particularly aging parents) to take medications or test blood glucose at the same time(s) each day.

Rohit Bhargava recently listed some ideas for how companies could be using text messaging to make their services more convenient and time-efficient. His focus was on things like sending a text message to page people when their table is ready at a restaurant or when the cable repairman is on his way, reducing the time spent waiting around for service.

What are some other ways you might be able to take advantage of mobile technology? How about creating additional content that people can access by text messaging a number you include in your advertising? Providing ringtones of songs with health/social messages? Disseminating real-time emergency information in case of a disaster? Mobilizing large numbers of people to rally, meet or call their legislators?

This is only the beginning of what we will be doing with our cellphones in the next few years.

UPDATE: Just came across this report (via the MIT Advertising Lab) about a new technology being used with French billboards that call location-enabled cell phones with additional information about their products. People opt into the program and specify on what types of products they would like to receive messages.

1 Comment

  1. No! You don’t need to include a number in the advertisement to SMS back on. All you need to do is put a barcode tag there. Any reader who captures its image using a camera phone will be directly linked to the content the advertisor wishes to share! It’s true!! and its fascinating!! It’s called Kooltag: check out http://www.kooltag.com….its FREE!!! 😀

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