I was walking through the upper west side in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago when I felt my phone buzz on my hip. I had my hands full with my camera and a venti coffee from Starbucks so I let it go to voicemail. A few blocks later I finished my coffee and grabbed my phone to see who called. To my wonderment I saw a bluetooth connection request from a merchant I had walked past. I even took the picture you see in this post because it caught me so off-guard.
I've posted about bluespamming before, but this is the first time it happened to me. It is a very risky, short-term tactic for companies to engage in and could potentially cause some damage to the brand (unless you're a marketer who doesn't care about your branding). Mobile phones are still very personal for a lot of people. They don't want tele-marketers calling them, rogue text messages or unsolicited bluetooth offers.
I also just came across this post at Helen Keegan's blog which is a great read for marketers thinking about this risky and untested space. In her example, HSBC bank is trying it out in the UK to both of our amazement.
The low cost of this tactic is enticing to many companies and it's only going to get worse I fear. But, this is spam no matter how you dice it. So unless you have the license to send messages to every single phone (like you own the company and the employee phones) you are going to tick people off and damage your reputation.
If you're smart, stay away from this invasive, unrequested form of marketing. If you're innovative, consider (for example) creating an SMS campaign which you promote on a sidewalk ad in front of your store. Tell people that for an immediate X% discount, send a message to your shortcode and show the cashier the reply message. This way you're using technology, but the user is pulling you in.
UPDATE: I read this article on Businessweek.com, via Silicon.com, and the tone of the article paints this as a "mobile ad push". NO! This is spamming. No ifs, ands or buts. Please people. Just say no to unsolicited messaging.