The Use of Mobile Phones as a Direct Marketing Tool and Consumer Attitudes






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The Use of Mobile Phones as a Direct Marketing Tool and Consumer


Mücahid Zengin, Selçuk Üniversitesi, Turkey


Mobile phones are one of the direct marketing tools that can be used to reach todays hard to reach consumers. Mobile phones are very personal devices and they are always carried with the consumer, where ever they go. This creates an opportunity for marketers to create personalized marketing communications messages and send them on the right time and place. This study examines consumer attitudes toward mobile marketing, especially toward SMS marketing. Unlike similar studies, this study does not focus on the young, but includes consumers who are in the 18-70 age range to the field research. According to the results, it has been concluded that most participants think SMS marketing is disturbing. Most important problems with SMS marketing are about getting subscribed to message lists without the permission of the receiver; the high number of messages sent; and the irrelevancy of the message content.

Keywords: Direct Marketing, Mobile Phones Mobile Marketing, SMS Advertising, SMS


This article is derived from the Master’s Thesis entitled “Use of mobile phones as a direct marketing tool and consumer attitudes” which is prepared by Abdülcelil Mücahid Zengin in Selçuk University Social Sciences Institute the Public Relations and Publicity Graduate Program with Thesis in supervision of Assist. Prof. Dr. Göksel Şimşek.


SMS (Short Message Service) is a technology that allows mobile phones to exchange text messages. An SMS message is limited to 160 characters, but it is possible to send and receive longer messages using modern mobile phones. This is achieved by combining multiple SMS messages into one (Network Dictionary, 2007:439).

One of the main advantages of SMS technology is its being a type of asynchronous communication. SMS messages can be read whenever the receiver wants. The receiver has more control than voice communication. She or he can choose when to read SMS messages, when to respond them, while carefully crafting the response (Ling, 2004:151). Another important advantage of SMS messages is almost instant delivery. If the receiver’s mobile phone is open, and if there are no problems with the GSM network, messages are delivered to the receiver’s phone instantly (Doyle, 2001:274; Latimer, 2008). Other advantages can be listed as, inexpensive price, simplicity, and broad compatibility (Doyle, 2001:275-276, Mobile Advertising Overview, 2009:6-7).

Sms Marketing

Marketers can use SMS messages for various purposes. There are two ways to use SMS messages for advertising purposes. First method of SMS advertising is attaching the message to a service message. In these type of messages, advertising text is displayed at the end of the


messages that GSM operators send, such as weather information, news, or the information about the mobile phone bills etc. An example of this is the message Lipton attached to weather SMS’s sent in summer in Turkey: “Refresh yourself with Lipton”. The second and most common method is to send an advertising message on its own. These messages contain only the information that marketers sent (Mobile Advertising Overview, 2009:10; Mobile Advertising Guidelines, 2008:5).

SMS messages can be used for branding, informing about campaigns, and calling to action. Some SMS messages may promise to send more information to interested consumers (“Write CITI and reply to receive more information”), some may promise discounts or freebies (“Write BURGERKING and send to 2222 to receive your free drink”), while others may direct to a web site or provide a clickable phone number (Mobile Advertising Overview, 2009:6). SMS technology has significant advantages for marketers, such as (Mobile Advertising Overview, 2009:10, Muk, 2007:177, Rettie et al., 2005:305):

 Always together with the consumer: One of the differences of mobile phones from other communication vehicles is, its mobility. A mobile phone is always carried by the owner, where ever she or he goes. This makes consumers more accessible by the marketers.

 Personalization: Mobile advertising messages can be highly personalized. SMS messages can be sent to consumers according to their demographic profiles or geographic location, in a timely manner.

 Broad support of SMS technology: All mobile phones can send and receive SMS messages.

 Simplicity of the SMS messages: SMS messages can only contain text. This forces the messages to be simple, without any images. However, because of this simplicity, messages are easy to produce. In addition, even the oldest phone models can view the advertising message.

 Viral potential: Consumers can forward SMS messages that are sent by marketers, to their own friends.

 Measurability: Marketers can measure the response rates to SMS messages which are calling for action, and if the results are not satisfactory, they can change the messages before the campaign ends.

 Limited number of junk messages: When compared to e-mail, it can be said that consumers receive less spam as SMS.

SMS marketing is similar to tele-marketing and e-mail marketing in some aspects. Similar to these marketing methods, SMS marketing can be annoying for some consumers too. In order to prevent SMS messages to be perceived as intrusive, marketers must first gain the permission of customers, and then cater the messages according to her or his needs (Rettie et al, 2005:305-306).


The data for this study is gathered from visitors of Konya’s three big shopping centers, which are located in three different districts of the city. The questionnaire form consists of 37 questions. Last 18 questions are in Likert scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neither (Undecided), Agree, Strongly Agree. Out of the 250 respondents, 53% are female and 47%


are male. 66,8% of the respondents are married, while 33,2% are single. 15,2% are students, 14,8% are unemployed and the rest are working on different jobs.

Most of the participants are using a single mobile phone (70,4%), while almost a quarter are using two (24%). Participants using three or more phones are limited to 4%. When asked about their monthly mobile phone bill, 37,2% stated that they are paying between 16 and 30 Turkish Liras and 26% stated that they are paying between 31 and 50.

71,2% of the participants stated that they are not send more than 50 messages monthly. It is interesting to see that the second biggest group (10,8%) send more than 1000 thousand messages in a month. When asked about how many marketing intended SMS messages they receive in a week, almost half (49,6%) of the participants stated that they receive 2 to 5 messages and 21,2% stated that they receive 6 to 10 messages.

To the question, “What do you do when you receive an SMS message intended for marketing”, 35,2% responded with “I read it immediately”, 34% with “I delete it without reading”, and 28,4% with “I read it when I have free time”. In addition, 36,4% of the participants stated that, when they receive a marketing SMS message they quickly scan through the message, while 21,6% stated that they read all of the message carefully, and 20,8% stated that they read none of the message.

The first hypothesis proposed that, “Consumer are using SMS technology more than other mobile technologies which are suitable for marketing”.

Mobile Technology Usage

Min Max M S.D.

Sending SMS 1 5 2,42 1,48

Browsing WAP-Mobile Internet 1 5 1,5 1,03

Chat-Messenger 1 5 1,42 1,03

Sending&Receiving e-mails 1 5 1,4 0,93

Sending MMS 1 5 1,36 0,74

Downloading logos, music, ringtones or games

1 5 1,22 0,62

To be able to understand which mobile technologies are preferred by participants, six questions was asked. According to the results, it can be seen that SMS has the highest mean (2,42), so H1 is accepted.


Min Max M S.D.

34. I receive marketing SMS messages from companies that I didn’t gave my number

1 5 3,49 1,13

30. I receive marketing SMS messages that are irrelevant to me

1 5 3,44 1,03

22. Same companies send too much SMS messages

1 5 3,37 1,11

24. I receive marketing SMS messages in inappropriate times


31. Marketing SMS messages are disturbing

1 5 3,09 1,07

There are three variables tested in this study: Annoyingness, benefit and attitude. When looked at the items of annoyingness variable, it can be seen that the highest mean belongs to “I receive marketing SMS messages from companies that I didn’t gave my number” (3,49). This is followed by “I receive marketing SMS messages that are irrelevant to me” (3,44); “Same companies send too much SMS messages” (3,37) and “I receive marketing SMS messages in inappropriate times” (3,16).


Min Max M S.D.

19. Marketing SMS messages are good sources of information about products and services

1 5 2,92 1,12

35. I use marketing SMS messages to take advantage of low price opportunities

1 5 2,75 1,07

37. Thanks to the messages that informs about discounts, I can shop from stores that I normally couldn’t

1 5 2,70 1,12

23. Marketing SMS messages provides the opportunities I want

1 5 2,30 0,80

The benefit variable consists of four items. The highest mean belongs to the item labeled “Marketing SMS messages are good sources of information about products and services” (2,92). Other items are as follows: “I use marketing SMS messages to take advantage of low price opportunities” (2,75); “Thanks to the messages that informs about discounts, I can shop from stores that I normally couldn’t” (2,70); “Marketing SMS messages provides the opportunities I want” (2,30).


Min Max A.O. S.S. 33. I like being informed about campaigns

by SMS

1 5 2,88 1,16

27. I find campaigns conveyed by marketing SMS messages appealing

1 5 2,60 0,99

20. I attend to campaigns advertised using marketing SMS messages

1 5 2,55 1,05

29. Marketing SMS messages affect my buying decisions about products and services

1 5 2,51 0,93

The item labeled as “I like being informed about campaigns by SMS” has the highest mean (2,88) among the items of attitude variable. The second highest mean belongs to “I find campaigns conveyed by marketing SMS messages appealing” (2,60). The third item, which is labeled as “I find campaigns conveyed with marketing SMS messages appealing” has a mean


of 2,55; while the lowest mean belongs to “Marketing SMS messages affect my buying decisions about products and services” (2,51).

Comparison of Variables’ Significance

Variables Min Max M S.D.

Disturbance 1,40 4,80 3,31 0,66

Benefit 1 4,50 2,66 0,71

Attitude 1 4,50 2,63 0,79

When total means of the variables are analyzed; it can be seen that most important variable for the participants is the disturbance. Benefit variable comes second, and attitude variable has the least importance. The means of benefit and attitude is similar, while disturbance has a higher mean than those two. According to these data, H2 (Marketing SMS messages are disturbing for consumers) is accepted.

Correlation of the Variables (Pearson r)

Disturbance Benefit Attitude

Disturbance 1 -,215** -,227**

Benefit -,215** 1 ,748**

Attitude -,227** ,748** 1

** p < 0.01

According to correlation analysis, it can be seen that there is a negative meaningful relationship between disturbance and benefit variables (r=-0.21, p<0.01) and disturbance and attitude variable (r=-0.22, p<0.01). It can also be seen that there is a strong positive relationship between benefit and attitude variables (r=-0.74, p<0.01).

The Ages of the Participants and Disturbance

Sum of Squares df M Square F Sig. Between Groups 5,847 6 ,975 2,243 ,040 Within Groups 105,572 243 ,434 Total 111,419 249

H3 proposed that “There is a positive relationship between age and disturbance felt from marketing SMS messages”. An ANOVA analysis revealed that as the age increases, marketing SMS messages are found more disturbing. The mean for participants aged between 15 and 21 is 2,9; while it is 3,5 for participants aged 57 and above. According to these findings, H3 is accepted.

According to the conducted, chi square test, there is a meaningful difference among participants about the frequency of sending SMS messages. Participants aged between “15-21” sends SMS messages more frequently than participants who are 43 or above (x2=112,728, sd=24, p<.001). A similar situation also exists about the amount of text messages sent. Participants aged between “15-21” sends more SMS messages than participants who are 36 or above (x2=119,699, sd=36, p<.001).


To be able to test H4 (The consumers who are annoyed from marketing SMS messages are making an application not to receive such messages), an independent-samples T test was conducted. According to this, there is no meaningful difference exists (t=1,048, p>0,05), so H4 was rejected.


Mobile phones are must have tools for the modern individuals. This is a technology that is used by almost all consumers. It is also a personal piece of technology, maybe even more personal than “personal computers”. Unlike desktop computers or landline phones that are used by every member of a household, mobile phones are used solely by the owner and very rarely shared with others. Mobile phones also have the advantage of being “mobile”, thus always being close to its owner.

These factors create an enormous opportunity for the direct marketer. Marketers can call consumers mobile phones, as they call their home or work phones. However, there are strong negative associations about telemarketing. Fortunately, mobile phones feature a technology that landline phones don’t: Short Message System. SMS can be used as a subtle way of sending marketing messages to consumers.

The findings of this study suggest that participants think SMS marketing messages are disturbing. This result is not surprising since participants stated that they receive messages in inappropriate times of the day and they receive a lot of SMS marketing messages. They are also receiving messages from firms that they did not share their number. It is also found that most of the messages received are irrelevant to the receiver.

Firms can make their messages less disturbing and more valuable. Before conducting SMS marketing campaigns, firms should use up-to-date databases of interested consumers. There is a tendency to mass-send messages and hope to get some return, and this should stop. Firms should never send SMS messages to consumers without their permission. There is also a problem with the content and relevancy of the messages. To address this issue, firm need to tailor the messages for the receiver and make every message valuable. They should send messages in the right time and right place. The necessary technology already exists. It is time for firms to think before they send.


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Mobile Marketing Association. (2009). Mobile Advertising Overview. New York: Mobile Marketing Association.


Muk, A. (2007). Consumers' intentions to opt in to SMS advertising: A cross national study of young Americans and Koreans. International Journal of Advertising, 177-198.

Rettie, R., Grandcolas, U., Deakins, B. (2005). Text message advertising: Response rates and branding effects. Journal of Targeting Measurement and Analysis for Marketing, 304-312.





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