Bonin Bough has a simple but game changing thesis: text messaging is the most underused marketing technology on the planet. 5.1 billion people own a smartphone and 4 billion of them are active users on a messenger app. (If you aren’t impressed, keep in mind that roughly 4.1 billion people own a toothbrush.) Text messaging is so prevalent, 97% of smartphone owners have used text messaging in the last hour – think about it, when did you last text? I had the pleasure of hearing Bough speak at the Regan PR Summit in April. He’s an incredibly enthusiastic speaker, as evidenced by Tweet from that day:
Bough is as forward thinking as he is charismatic and he believes the next major wave of marketing communication will happen in the text and messaging app space. In April, we were offered a sneak peak into his theories and the impact and future implications of mobile devices and digital communication on individuals, companies, and society. Last week, his book on these theories hit the shelves – TXT ME breaks down the often counterintuitive ways mobile devices and digital data are reshaping the way we experience, consume, and think, including how mobile phones have actually “rescued” language, why parents—not kids—should put down their phones, and why cell phones have improved our interaction with our surroundings—not hindered it. I’m looking forward to diving into this book and learning more about the ideas Bough has been talking about for the past year, but I’m so blown away by one aspect of this, I had to write about it now: the title of the book.
Your Phone Has Changed Your Life. Let’s Talk about It
Yes, that is Bough’s actual phone number and, yes, he actually wants you to text him. There are questions throughout the book that Bough asks you to answer via text and he promises to text back, which sounds crazy – but Bough has never been shy with his phone number and he’s been having personal text conversations with strangers for over one year now. He regularly gives out his digits on Twitter and when he presents at conferences he encourages everyone in attendance to reach out with their reaction to his talk.
Bough’s goal is to have 100,000 conversations with consumers around the world to talk about how mobile has changed their lives – so last month I hit him up and see how it’s going.
His response time was slower than your average text conversation, but still impressive considering he has no obligation to talk to me at all and, presumably, he is being inundated with texts. What exactly is Bough’s end game with all of this? To prove a point; that Personal Relationship Management (PRM) is the next evolution of the social network and texting is key to brands delivering personal experiences with their customers. By encouraging customers to come to you, Bough argues, brands can deliver better content, increase engagement, and improve overall brand identity. I have to admit, the chat with Bough – and knowing I can text him at any time – endears him to me. It takes what could be a gimmicky or forced interaction and makes it more personal. If Bough texted me today to let me know his book was out, it wouldn’t feel like a spammy promotion, it would feel like a friend giving me a heads up.
PRM is still very much in the early stages, but there are already some interesting ideas on the market, like Ryan Leslie’s Superphone, which allows individuals and companies to text directly with their customers while maintaining a bit of privacy on their personal phones. There is also the case of SLO Down Wines, where wine maker Brandon Allen puts his personal number on every bottle of Sexual Chocolate. You can also see PRM in action in the text messages from Favor runners. Instead of robotic responses to orders, Favor instructs its runners to add a hint of personality. This goes beyond your standard customer service and opens up a whole new avenue for people to connect with not just brands, but the people behind them. Only time will tell if Bough is right, but I think brands would be foolish to ignore his theory all together. After all, it really boils down to this: be available and be genuine. And that’s good advice for anyone.
So what do you think, do you want to text with your favorite brands?