Auntie Anne’s uses mobile to capture e-mail addresses

Auntie Anne’s, a fast-food chain specializing in soft-baked pretzels, is running its first national mobile marketing campaign in a move to build its e-mail database.

The effort runs through the end of the year and calls Auntie Anne’s customers to sign up for its Pretzel Perks e-mail program by texting into the shortcode “PRETZEL.” The company is promoting the initiative through in-store signage, as well as on its cups and pretzel packaging.

“We have the challenge of message clutter, especially in the mall environment, and it is difficult to get customers to go home and remember to sign up for our e-mail list,” said April Hoelscher, director of marketing at Auntie Anne’s. “So we are making it easy for them to sign up right at the point of purchase.”

Once a customer sends a text message to join Pretzel Perks, the company sends a request that he or she reply with an e-mail address. The address is then automatically transferred to the Pretzel Perks e-mail database. When the customer opts in to the program, he or she automatically receives a welcome e-mail with a coupon in it. The coupon, which can be redeemed in-store, includes links to share the offer.

Auntie Anne’s did not disclose how large the e-mail mailing list is, except to say that the total is in the six figures. It has no specific goal for how much it wants to grow the list.

“Any increase would be exciting to see,” said Hoelscher. “This is a way to test and measure if our consumer likes to be communicated with through text and e-mail.”

The effort, launched November 2, follows Auntie Anne’s reorganization of its e-mail marketing strategy in August. The company updated its e-mail program to include automated welcome e-mails and triggered birthday messages.

The e-mail and mobile effort is aided by ExactTarget. Richards Relationship Marketing is working on e-mail strategy.

“Being able to connect with customers during periods of high engagement is a tremendous advantage for brands,” said Mitch Frazier, corporate communications manager at ExactTarget. “This is an excellent example of using technology to make it simple. They are not asking customers to remember their Web site. Customers can text in right when they are in their store waiting for their pretzel.”

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