Text marketing will only work if rogue marketers are weeded out

There has never been a technological device that matches the mobile phone in the affections of us Brits. As a result we are very protective of what communication we receive on our devices, which means the receipt of a text from an unknown company is likely to push us over the proverbial edge.

Russell Parsons

Direct marketing using text messages is in the spotlight and not for positive reasons. Last week, the ICO announced it was to fine two companies a total of £250,000 for illegal marketing practices.

The news prompted thousands to take to comment boards across national newspaper sites to suggest that the two companies were merely the tip of a Titanic threatening sized iceberg.

It seems that spam texts are the scourge of the nation. Quite a feat considering the relative infancy of mobile marketing.

Other forms of direct marketing are no stranger to the public’s ire. However, direct or “junk” mail can be opted out from by registering with the Mail Preference Service, as can telemarketing through the Telephone Preference Service. Neither are a fail safe but both the channels and the opt-out services are at a stage of maturity that they stop more unwanted communication than they miss.

There are none of the same safeguards for spam texts. There are hundreds of shadowy operators sending millions of automatically generated texts to random recipients, each one wandering how the hell the sender got hold of their number.

Unless the ICO takes a firm hold of the situation through persistent fining and cease and desist orders for the guilty there is a danger that legitimate use of SMS could be killed because of the apoplexy caused by rogue practices.

John Lewis’ head of marketing, CRM and customer insight Chris Bates recently told Marketing Week how well text messaging has worked for them. As a follow-up reminder for a time sensitive messages such as communication about a clearance sale or competitor promotion, it works perfectly.

A rationale easy to understand when given by a brand that wouldn’t dream of communicating in such a way with consumers unless they felt there was a decent chance they would be warm to the message.

The problem, unless the powers that be get a handle on it, is that the avalanche of rogue texters is in danger of flattening perfectly legitimate use of the channel.

The mobile is such a personal item that any brand encroaching into consumers’ space needs to make sure they have a reason to be there. If those that do not continue to outweigh those that do, then SMS cannot survive as a legitimate marketing tool.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here