MARKET BUZZ

CELL PHONES TO DELIVER BRAND, RETAILER MESSAGESST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Cell phones will be the targeted-marketing tool used in an upcoming retailer-specific initiative involving consumer packaged goods manufacturers. The small-scale pilot will be conducted at a supermarket chain in the Northeast sometime next month or December, according to Dave Diamond, president, emerging business, Catalina Marketing

CELL PHONES TO DELIVER BRAND, RETAILER MESSAGES

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Cell phones will be the targeted-marketing tool used in an upcoming retailer-specific initiative involving consumer packaged goods manufacturers. The small-scale pilot will be conducted at a supermarket chain in the Northeast sometime next month or December, according to Dave Diamond, president, emerging business, Catalina Marketing Corp. here, a targeted-marketing solutions provider that created the program. Diamond declined to name the retailer pending the launch of the test.

SMS (short message service) messages will be delivered to consumers who opt-in to the program by providing their frequent card number, as well as other personal information. Participating consumers will be provided with a new cell phone or an upgrade to their existing cell -- at no charge. The cells will be equipped with scanners and software that lets consumers scan bar-coded merchandise in the aisles as they shop. They then can bring their scanned groceries to a checkout lane.

National brands won't be marketed initially, but will be phased in gradually. About one dozen could be involved, although participants have not yet been confirmed, Diamond said.

The program will benefit retailers more than manufacturers, Diamond said, noting that consumers are most interested in messages that make their shopping experience faster, better and cheaper.

"Consumers don't want to be bothered about a new flavor of salad dressing," he said. "They're more interested in knowing what the soup of the day is in the deli and what products are on sale."

However, he said the program will still serve manufacturers, mainly in the form of cross promotions. Consumers who walk into a store and use their cell phone to scan, say, jam, could receive an SMS message about bread, for instance. They could also be alerted to product recalls and significant product news.

Manufacturers will also be able to target consumers via e-mail and direct mail when they're out of the store -- albeit always in conjunction with the retailer.

The program is the second cell-phone, targeted-marketing test that Catalina has conducted. About 18 months ago, it created a program for King Soopers, a Denver-area supermarket subsidiary of Kroger Co., Cincinnati. Under that effort, 500 cell phones were given out and used to deliver messages aimed at driving store traffic. Duracell was among the participating manufacturers. The test has concluded.

The difference with the upcoming program is that the retailer and manufacturer participants will see not only what consumers have purchased historically, but what they're buying as they shop, in real-time.

Citing that about 70% of the U.S. population have cell phones, Diamond said the test is just the beginning of how cell phones can be used in the marketing business.

"The world is moving in this direction, and brand manufacturers need to challenge themselves to get involved," Diamond said.

MEET BECKY ... KEEBLER'S NEW 'BOT'

ELMHURST, Ill. -- It's 4 p.m. and, like many consumers, you don't know what to make for dinner. No problem -- simply instant message "Becky," a married mother of two from the Chicago suburbs, who's always ready, willing and able to provide a suitable recipe.

Available courtesy of the Keebler Co., Becky is on-call 24/7 and is on her best behavior all the time. Becky is an interactive agent that mimics natural human conversation. Keebler, a division of Kellogg USA, Battle Creek, Mich., says it's the first consumer packaged goods company to launch an interactive agent that talks directly with consumers. Interactive agents are software applications, often called "bots," that interact with users over Instant Messaging services. They can interact with hundreds of users simultaneously, so they're immediately available round the clock to answer questions and provide information.

Officially launched Oct. 1, Becky will provide recipes based on food preferences, preparation difficulty and even the person's mood. Consumers ask Becky for recipe ideas by instant messaging the screen name "RecipeBuddie" using the AOL Instant Message (AIM) Service or MSN Messenger, both of which are software that provides instant messaging. Consumers who use this software can add "RecipeBuddie" to their buddy list and send it an instant message.

Keebler is using RecipeBuddie to give participating Keebler brands -- which include Keebler, Harvest Bakery, Town House, Club, Toasteds, Vanilla Wafers, Murray Sugar Free and Sunshine -- the ability to build personal relationships with the estimated 100 million people now using instant messaging software, Jeff Johansen, vice president, marketing, Keebler, told Brand Marketing.

"Keebler's goal in launching RecipeBuddie is to be seen not only as a manufacturer that markets some of America's favorite snack foods, but also as a valued resource to help consumers tackle the everyday challenges, like meal planning," said Johansen.

Becky knows more than 700 recipes. Many, but not all, of these will contact specific products from the participating brands. Keebler has also partnered with other recipe providers, including cheese and milk boards.

Becky is the result of a partnership between Keebler and E*Media, Ann Arbor, Mich., an interactive technology developer. E*Media developed RecipeBuddie with technology provided by ActiveBuddy's BuddyScript SDK (Software Development Kit). ActiveBuddy, New York, is a provider of software for developing and hosting interactive agents.

Keebler realized the potential for instant messaging during a Cheez-It promotion with ActiveBuddy last year. The click-thru to a link about the promotion provided through instant messaging was 6.5%, about three times what Keebler has experienced in the past with e-mail marketing, according to Johansen.

"Instant messaging creates an intimate relationship through its personalized and interactive experience," he said.