SAN DIEGO--For better or worse, text messaging has become, according to a company called Scientific Media, the most popular mobile application on Earth. And while many companies are trying to build marketing efforts around people's use of texting, it's clear there is a long way to go before those efforts are coherent.
At the DemoFall 09 conference here Wednesday, Scientific Media unveiled its Dot Go service, a tool it hopes large numbers of companies will employ to try to boost their text messaging-based marketing.
The idea? Blow apart the current texting/marketing dynamic, in which companies try to get users to text questions to them, but in which there's no easy way for people to remember the so-called short codes (the five- or six-number codes people text their questions to) used by most companies.
For example, Google offers a wide range of information via text message, and to access it, mobile users must text a message to 466453, which equates to "Google." That one is kind of easy. But Starbucks, by comparison, uses MYSBUX (or 697289), a much harder to remember code. Similarly, Fandango uses FNDGO, or 36346.
Scientific Media's solution to this problem is to do away with each company having its own hard to remember code, and instead have all text messages to companies go through its service, which is reachable by a single short code, "Dotcom."
Dot Go imposes a single rule, Scientific Media said: The first word of any text message sent to Dotcom (368266) specifies the Internet domain a user is looking for.
So, for example, if someone wanted to get information from Fandango, they would simply text "Fandango" to Dotcom. For Weather.com, they'd text "Weather" to Dotcom. By texting "Gasbuddy 92101" to Dotcom, a user would get a list of the five cheapest gas stations in the 92101 zip code.
One major value proposition of this, the company argued, is that text messaging works on every mobile phone, meaning that anyone with such a device can use the service. Also, while good domains are pretty well locked up in the West, there are plenty of great available domain names in developing countries, meaning, the company argued, that the marketing upside is tremendous in such parts of the world.
What this mean, Scientific Media said, is that Dot Go is "the Internet for text messaging." And while that's a very bold claim, you can see what they mean.
As far as monetizing this service goes, it's clear that Scientific Media is hoping to engage companies like Fandango, Starbucks, and Weather.com in co-marketing deals. Will it work? I don't know. I'm often skeptical of these types of services, because they represent nothing but potential. But if that potential pays off, this could be a big winner.