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Coca-Cola?s SMS opt-ins increasing 5-10 percent monthly: Study

Since Coca-Cola Co. launched My Coke Rewards three years ago, the mobile program has emerged as one of the most popular consumer packaged goods sites in mobile marketing, according to Harte-Hanks? Aberdeen Group.

To participate in the program, consumers enter unique codes under the caps of specially marked Coke products online or by texting in the keyword to a short code. When they have accumulated enough points to redeem a reward from one or more of the program?s participating partners, they make their selection and the points are deducted from their account.

?Best-in-class companies [such as Coca-Cola] are increasing their focus on mobile marketing as a percentage of their overall marketing mix, with 71 percent indicating that their mobile marketing activities are integrated with their other marketing tactics and media buys either somewhat or extensively,? said Jeff Zabin, Chicago-based vice president and research fellow at the Aberdeen Group.

One-quarter of best-in-class companies indicate that mobile marketing now accounts for more than 10 percent of their overall marketing budget, he said.

For 18 percent of best-in-class companies, mobile marketing now accounts for more than 15 percent of their overall budget.

?It?s no surprise that mobile marketing is winning a greater share of marketing budgets, given the business benefits including improved brand image, increased market research capabilities and better response-tracking,? Mr. Zabin said.

The Aberdeen Group, a subsidiary of Harte-Hanks, recently released its 2009 Mobile Marketing Report.

From the start, Coca-Cola sought to take advantage of as many consumer connection points as possible. This included mobile devices, which has now become a major focal point for growing the My Coke Rewards program.

Coke has a mobile site for its customer relationship management initiative at

Reaching on-the-go consumers via their handsets is a priority for the beverage giant. But Coca-Cola stresses the fact the program goes well beyond just giving consumers the opportunity to text in codes at the point of purchase.

The company?s mobile marketing initiatives are still in test-and-learn mode. Last year it sent out text messages to its opted-in database that were only somewhat relevant, according to Coca-Cola.

However, this year the company has learned from past experimentation and found increased success by fine-tuning those messages.

Event-based marketing is one way that Coca-Cola's Coke brand is creating interactive conversations with consumers via their handsets.

A recent example is a campaign that launched last summer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to promote the Coke Zero soft drink (see story).

The campaign encouraged mobile phone users, regardless of their handset type, to join the My Coke Rewards program and sample Coke Zero.

Coke achieved a 5.2 percent click-through rate with the mobile ad campaign.

Instead of pushing messages out to consumers, Coke?s marketing strategy is focused on encouraging consumers to pull content from its various platforms, including mobile.

Engagement with consumers is much more valuable when the brand interaction is initiated by the consumers themselves.

Coca-Cola believes that mobile marketing is an area where solid metrics are still lacking.

For that reason, the company is primarily focused on acquisition growth rate, which is currently tracking at 5 percent to 10 percent per month for consumers who have completed the two-step process of linking their phones and then opting in to Coke?s SMS database.

Coke sends out text messages to that database regularly, which reinforces consumers? brand loyalty.

Coke also looks at metrics around activity or participation rate, which reflects a combination of consumer behavior, including mobile PIN entry, email click and Web site login.

On average, the My Coke Rewards mobile program has a 9 percent participation rate.

Coke realizes how valuable the opted-in mobile loyalty club members are to its brand. Its job is to understand the best way to keep those consumers engaged and build those relationships over time, according to Coke.

The mobile agency of record for My Coke Rewards is 5th Finger, a mobile marketing agency with offices in New York, San Francisco and Sydney.

?Mobile is pretty key for Coke?s brand ? it is a significant channel in its marketing mix,? said Steen Andersson, San Francisco-based cofounder and vice president of marketing at 5th Finger. ?Coke has lots of different brands, and Sprite is one that is very heavily invested in the mobile under-the-cap download program.?

Sprite uses the mobile channel, specifically SMS, to reach the 13-24 target demographic and drive sales of 20-ounce bottles.

?Mobile is a fantastic channel to communicate with that demographic, because usually it?s more convenient for consumers than going back to their PC,? Mr. Andersson said. ?Coke wants to be seen as the brand that is most on top of mobile, because research has shown that consumers value that.

?Consumers have high expectations for what brands should be doing,? he said.

?The increase in mobile opt-ins to My Coke Rewards of 5-10 percent per month is a sign that more and more consumers want to communicate with Coke via the mobile channel.?