Is SMS and Bluetooth Marketing Legal?

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A lot of people today wonder about whether Bluetooth Marketing, and proximity marketing in general is legal, as people claim it can be considered as SPAM and annoying.

On the one hand, we must first see whether these marketing approaches are legal. Obviously, if they are not, there is no point discussing it any further, we can simply dismiss the discussion and file a law suit against anyone running such campaigns. The legal framework is different in every country around the world, and in some cases dramatically (take for example the death penalty). However, the European Union, now has some common guidelines across all its member countries, and so do the United States, for each state. Therefore, each country might have its own laws and I would be interested if any of you out there live in a country that has any specific laws about proximity or text marketing, I would be very interested to find out. Please leave a comment by clicking the yellow post-it note.

I am only aware of E.U. regulations by the European Commission, and I also came across this article, by Victoria Southern, a solicitor with Pinsent Masons, discussing the legal framework regarding SMS and Proximity marketing, in the U.K. She concluded that proximity and text marketing are both legal, as long as specific guidelines are adhered to, such as the ability to opt-out for the consumer in SMS marketing, and obtaining the consumer consent before sending them any content.

Even with the legality of the approach established, however, we all know (too well sometimes) that some marketing approaches, though legal, can be extremely annoying. In the case of proximity marketing especially, where the consumer is required to opt-in, we must take special care to ensure they have good reason too, otherwise the campaign is destined to fail miserably. I have written a separate article with some advice and tips on running a successful proximity marketing campaign, but the most important thing is not to pass your service on as spam. Proximity marketing is not just about broadcasting an image on to the passers-by mobile phones. It has a lot to do about the content of the message (be it video, image, audio, etc.) and the value the recipient of your message gets from receiving your message. For example, just sending out your company logo via Bluetooth to anyone passing by your shop, might seem like a good way to increase awareness and custom logo design recognition, but things are not always like that.

The first time an end user experiences proximity marketing and receives your message there's a sense of novelty, and interest about the new way in which the message is received, but the user quickly gets accustomed to this, and sees the message for what it really is. When proximity marketing has become more common though, (which, incidentally, is not too far into the future) messages such as these will be considered spam. What you need is to provide some true value-added services to your customers. Give them some reason to want to use your proximity marketing service.

Among the available online resources is also the Mobile Marketing Association website, which contains a code of conduct for mobile marketers, and also provides a number of other resources such as mobile advertising guidelines, etc. These can be useful tools if you are looking to run a successful campaign, and want to avoid common pitfalls, and it's a good place to start.

In general, I would say the legal issues are easily overcome. What is more difficult, and also of more value and to the point, is picking the right one out of all the proximity marketing services you can offer to your audience, and run a campaign which benefits everyone: the marketer, the end-user, and the service provider. Happy mobile marketing!

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