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Messaging isn’t new. It has existed for several decades, starting in the 1980s with basic text messaging functionality on mobile devices and evolving into the interactive, rich messages we know today.

Nowadays, SMS, Please Call Me (PCM), interactive messages, and even rich communication services (RCS) — have become a staple in our daily lives and in the way we interact with our friends, families and social network. But despite this, it remains a largely underused channel beyond P2P (person-to-person) communications. While brands around the world are looking at new ways to reach their consumer, it seems the messaging channel isn’t getting the right attention. So why aren’t brands using it to better engage with their consumers? 

Shifting perception

While messaging has become an important part of the way in which we socialise with others, it also has its downsides: namely, spam messaging. We have all fallen victim to brands sending irrelevant, mass text messages to their contact lists offering discount codes or the like. For the most part, these messages are ignored, quickly forgotten about, and the contact number blocked as spam.

But this behaviour pattern has, over the years, had an impact on how both brands and consumers have viewed and interacted with the messaging channel from an A2P (application-to-person) perspective. Brands have come to view text messaging as a spam channel that yields little value when it comes to customer engagement. They have brought into this misconception that messaging equals bulk SMS, which doesn’t provide the sophistication or targeting they need. 

What’s more, for too long brands have used messaging as a performance channel instead of a reach channel, which has limited their ability to drive awareness, consideration and, ultimately, salience among their target audiences. In some parts of the world, brands are beginning to use messaging as a customer service channel, but this function remains limited and transactional with few brands using the channel to create meaningful interactions with their consumers. 

But things are changing. The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on how we interact with our devices and with brands, and has shifted consumer and brand willingness to venture and try out new channels.

According to business messaging intelligence firm Mobilesquared, A2P SMS spend grew by 30% in 2020 and is expected to reach more than $30bn by the end of 2021. Suddenly, brands are rethinking how they perceive and use the messaging channel to interact with their consumers. They’re beginning to recognise its value and, as a result, they’re shifting their investments.

Messaging is now looking a lot more attractive in the eyes of brands when it comes to engaging with their consumers. They’re now starting to see its value as an advertising channel, especially as other methods, such as banner advertising, are proving to be costly and ineffective. 

Telco-driven mobile advertising: the antithesis to spam messaging 

This shift towards messaging as an effective channel is seeing brands discover the benefits of telco-driven mobile advertising. By working with telcos, leveraging native messaging applications — that is, the messaging apps that are already on a device — brands can achieve the reach and scale they crave to interact with their audiences in new and exciting ways. 

And doing so means brands can access precise telco data providing invaluable information about telco subscribers — for example, their age, gender and location, as well as insights such as the type of device they own, and packages they have in addition to their mobile tariff.

This data, combined with the scale and reach of telco networks, gives brands the sophistication and the targeting they once thought was unachievable via messaging. Indeed, by leveraging telco-owned mobile advertising, brands can deliver highly personalised messaging campaigns that target specific demographics and drive higher click-through rates and engagement. It’s the antithesis to spam and bulk SMS campaigns. 

Connecting in new ways 

Telco-driven mobile advertising has proven to be an effective channel for brands to reach consumers in new and exciting ways. We have seen it first-hand through our campaigns with Disney, Mandela Mile, McDonald’s, Nivea and countless others. Regardless of previous perceptions brands may have held about messaging, the tide is certainly changing and the numbers speak for themselves: campaigns that exceed industry benchmarks for engagement and conversion by up to 70 times. 

Many brands in SA have reached a ceiling with middle-to-high-income audiences, and they now need to pivot to the masses again for growth. The ignorance about targeted messaging campaigns therefore needs to stop if brands are to see new growth from new audiences. Even political parties can no longer canvass door to door any more because everything is mobile. So brands, what’s stopping you from using telco-driven mobile advertising to connect with your consumers and engage them in a new way?

About the author: Donald Mokgale is CEO of Sub-Saharan Africa, OTM.

This article was paid for by Out There Media.


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