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Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Unsolicited TXT Marketing: Payback Sux

By Marijayne Bushey
November 11th, 2010

SpideyQuote-1If you fancy yourself a marketing superhero, or even just aspire to marketing superhero status, you’re probably following the cutting edge of emerging technologies and their practical application to your craft. Early adopters of new technology have the rare opportunity of getting their point across before the space becomes so saturated that messages are lost in all the muddle. But take heed, oh good marketers of the world! For as any superhero knows, with great power comes great responsibility (click image at left to enlarge)!

Use Your TXT Powers for Good (Opt-In)

Back in June of this year, my colleague, Melissa Burdon wrote a post about trying your hand at SMS (or TXT, as some would call it) campaigns as a way to differentiate your marketing message from the white noise of ever-increasing email campaigns. The example Melissa describes in her post illustrates the “good marketer” way to do this.

In that case, the company invited her to TXT a number and promised a TXTed discount for their product in return. Their offer demonstrates a clear-cut, opt-in approach, whereby the consumer gives their explicit consent by virtue of taking a concrete action. The offer and terms are clearly stated, and the initial TXT by Melissa indicates both her willingness to engage via this method, and her consent to receive future TXT messages from this company.

The opt-in approach sets up a win-win situation. Because this company in our example decided to use their superhero marketing skills for good, the result was happiness all around: Melissa got her sweet tooth fix, and at a discount to boot; the company got her repeat business, and some free publicity (her blog post).

Don’t Use Your TXT Powers for Evil (Opt-Out, or worse)

Many websites’ persistent use of Opt-Out tactics belie a lack of appreciation for the fact that the Internet represents a Pull environment that favors customer-driven interaction rather than a more traditional Push marketing environment that favors the marketer. Their lack of appreciation for that translates into more of the same in-your-face tactics from yesteryear rather than the persuasive approaches demanded by these conditions. Furthermore, sites often insist on account creation to complete a purchase, requiring every last detail of your personal life, including your first born, in order to seal the deal. I’ve even encountered sites where my account creation form was pushed back to me as incomplete for having left blank the items that were listed as “optional.” These abuses of marketing superpowers desperately call for a lesson in basic Persuasion Architecture principles.

Call me behind the times, but I don’t have unlimited cell phone service or txt messaging. Subsequently, I struggle to think of a txt message marketing list compelling enough to opt into. Why should I waste my minutes, messages or money on your cheesy sales efforts? I even resent (yes, you heard me, resent) being required to provide a cell phone number because I feel that an email address is a sufficient form of contact (unless I deem it otherwise) for maintaining any of my online relationships. And when I do create accounts on sites, I am careful to un-check the box consenting to be sent all variety of marketing materials. Still, this doesn’t stop some companies from TXTing me. Shame on them! This should never happen….


Nov 4, 9:19 am


Thanks 4 Visiting Our Website Please Call 877-861-8581

To Claim Your $100 Walmart Gift Card Voucher!  Reply STOP 2 Unsub


Nov 4, 9:21 am



Nov 5, 5:03 pm


Thanks 4 Visiting Our Website Please Call 877-861-8581

To Claim Your $100 Walmart Gift Card Voucher!  Reply STOP 2 Unsub

Yes, that’s right: not only did this company text me without my consent, consume one of my limited monthly messages (two if you count the one I had to send back to them in order to unsubscribe), but they clearly ignored my STOP message and consumed yet another of my limited monthly texts. It’s not the first time this has happened; it’s just the most recent example.

Consequences of ignoring the Pull factor of the Internet (Payback)

Are there ramifications if you abuse your superpowers? You bet there are! Many companies find this out the hard way. Not only has the internet taught consumers that they drive their own shopping experience and to be wary of situations where that control is subverted, but it’s also shown them another important lesson that companies should be paying attention to: there is a fast and easy way to get your message out to the entire world. Hey, marketing superheroes, did you think you were the only ones who saw the potential power in the Internet? Well, so do your customers. And they are not afraid to use it (against you).

Now, I’m not telling you to tweet your friends to call the evil marketing company that keeps TXTing me, and overload their phone lines with hold music… but other consumers got so fed up that they did just that! Or, they wrote songs about how they had been wronged by so-called customer service, and posted them on YouTube (see video below). Who is your hero now?

YouTube Preview Image


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Comments (18)

  1. Unsolicited texts and calls are a real problem. Some of the worst offenders are the online business directories… I typically get 3-4 calls, 1-2 texts and 2-3 emails per day from them.

  2. Texting is like the last “untapped” market for me. I get spam e-mails, calls, facebook messages, tweets….please keep our texts free of spam!

  3. The truth is that most of the unsolicited texts are really captivating and tantalizing offers that you may find it difficult to resist. I have found my self in such situations many times

  4. I now see most texts as spam even though most of them are not

  5. I think the major networks are doing a good job stomping out unsolicited texts but I still get 2-3 a day. It’s infuriating.

  6. Agreed. Unsolicited texts are beyond irritating. My step son signed my number for a whole lot of “trivia” services. I can’t figure out how to permanently stop them.

  7. I do not understand why there are still companies sending masses of unrequested text messages. Besides: The comic brings it all to the point. Interesting article and great picture!

  8. Is realy anoid. I hate when dath hap

  9. Autsh, that’s alot! I get around 20 spam messages a day, but only through e-mail. I’m registered not to get any unsollicited calls.

  10. And too complicated to talk about it …

  11. MJ,
    This post was not only informative but rather enjoyable to read. In the last year, the amount of unsolicited txts I have receive has just about doubled. STOP. Why do I have to type in STOP for them to leave me alone?? If I do not respond to you, then assume I am annoyed and do not wish to do business with you! Again, great article.

  12. Make the most of the relatively spam free world of txt. It is only a matter of time before providors find a way to leverage the huge database of users; the biggest danger is the integration of social networking with cellular services; once facebook and the likes get their grubby hands on your phone number all will be lost!

  13. I have been conned in the past by an unsolicited text that I instantly texted STOP back to without checking the number first. When I got my phone bill I realized I had been charged over £1 for texting back (despite having free texts on my plan). Watch out for these conmen!

  14. The Internet made way to easy for spamming people, and they are starting in on TXTs too. god help us.

  15. Unsolicited text blasts are the same as the old SPAM mindet of yesteryear. The shotgun approach only works in the minds of lazy marketers.

  16. Seems like this unethical nature of making money out of non-suspicious consumer happened everywhere including the western world. All this while, I thought this unsolicited text thing only happened in Asia.

  17. I’ve been getting these lately as well, though not that many. I guess the cost of sending mass amounts of txts has gone done sufficiently for this to become a reasonable way of spamming people.

  18. I agree with Craig! It is only a matter of time before providors find a way to leverage the huge database of users

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Mj has been proselytizing the merits of customer-centric, data-driven, continuous Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) for FutureNow since 2007.

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