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The North Face pinpoints mobile as rainmaker but storm clouds loom

While The North Face is likely to drive traffic into its stores with a new campaign that leverages how consumers use their smartphones throughout the day for checking the weather, the effort’s use of long codes could be risky.

The #bringtherain campaign urges consumers in several cities to watch the weather and when the rain level reaches a certain threshold, they can be alerted by text message and have 24 hours to visit a North Face store for a chance to win a FuseForm jacket of their choice. While the use of long codes means marketers can acquire a unique more quickly than with short codes, it also opens the door to many potential pitfalls.

“Using long codes puts the North Face campaign at high risk for going amiss,” said Shuli Lowy, marketing director for mobile with Ping Mobile. “Carriers often shut down long codes, which could cut off the messaging portal mid-campaign.

“Furthermore, long codes have limited output – which means their ability to message in bulk is limited,” she said. “If the North Face campaign becomes popular and many consumers subscribe to receive the messages then North Face will be unable to message everyone at the same time.”

The North Face was not able to provide a comment by the press deadline.

Rainy days
Ms. Lowy explains that long codes can be a risky move for marketers because they do not comply with CTIA, MMA or carrier guidelines.

While the benefits of long codes are lower prices and the ability to get a campaign out in the market quickly, they come with a number of potential pitfalls, per Ms. Lowy.

“Since they bypass the carrier rules, they operate without any of the parameters and audits set up around sending consumers SMS marketing within a safe, protected environment,” Ms. Lowy said.

“You’ll notice that the North Face message includes none of the disclosures we are used to seeing in SMS campaigns such as ‘Message and data rates may apply,’” she said. “Consumers are also not given any clear way to opt-out of the messages.”

The messaging portal for the campaign could also be cut off by carriers and ability to message in bulk is limited, the mobile marketing executive continues.

“If the North Face campaign becomes popular and many consumers subscribe to receive the messages then North Face will be unable to message everyone at the same time,” Ms. Lowy said.

“If the raindrop fills up and the brand tries to push the messages to more people than the long code can handle then the messages will get backlogged,” she said. “This means that people could get be getting the text hours or even a day later.

“That would not only make the contest unfair – people are depending on that text to know when to go to the store – but is a sure way to make people unhappy; imagine if you got a text about this campaign at 3 am.”

Weather watchers
Outside of the long code issue, the campaign is noteworthy for the way it addresses how to interact with mobile users as they perform favorite activities on their devices such as checking the weather, receiving texts, scanning items and using the phone as a tool to enhance their shopping experiences. The campaign also drives awareness for The North Face’s new FuseForm technology and encourages consumers to take an action – in this case, visit a store.

The campaign is being advertised on Pandora, which has a strong mobile audience.

The ad informs listeners that the more it rains, the more they win. With many locations typically experiencing a lot rain during the months of March and April, the campaign seeks to turn this into a positive experience for consumers by giving them a chance to win a jacket.

Listeners can tap on a button to learn more, which takes them to a mobile-optimized site.

Consumers can scan a bar code in stores to enter for a chance to win a jacket.

Weather watchers
An oval-shaped icon that comes to a point at the top and which is meant to represent a raindrop appears on the ad as well as on the campaign site.

Users in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Chicago are urged to watch the weather in their city. Every time it rains one inch in one of these cities – or a half-inch in San Francisco and Chicago – The North Face will give away one FuseForm jacket.

Each city has its own raindrop icon on the site reflecting how much rain has fallen there. This makes it easy for interested consumers to monitor the rainfall in their city and insures they will keep coming back to site.

Visitors can also tap to check their local forecast, which will take them to the site.

Consumers can also sign up to receive a text alert when the gauge for their city is full.

Scrolling down further on the site reveals information about The North Face’s new FuseForm technology, which weaves together more durable threads with lighter, lower-density threads to provide weather protection and enhanced breathability.

The sweepstakes runs through April 15, 2015.

“It is very strange that North Face is using long codes for this campaign,” Ms. Lowy said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York