Taco Bell acquitted in SMS marketing lawsuit

As many college students will tell you, there is nothing better than a late night Taco Bell run. Whether this idea is prompted by a night of fun or a promotional text message, it is always encouraged. However, that text could be evidence in a recent lawsuit.

A legal battle between consumers in the Chicago area and the Mexican fast-food eatery has been ongoing since 2005. This stems from a promotion of the then new menu item chicken and steak Nachos Bell Grande. As a way to spread the word, the owners of a dozen locations in the city came together and hired marking firm ESW Partners to run an SMS marketing campaign. This involved sending a text message to 17,000 residents asking them to respond with which variety of nachos they preferred.

Because the messages were unsolicited, some individuals believed it violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. This law prohibits companies from using an automatic telephone dialing system to make call to cell phones without the recipient's' consent.

According to Law 360, this sparked a lawsuit from plaintiff Tracie Thomas. After years of debate, it was thrown out in a unanimous decision of three judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California. U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney said that the fast food chain was not legally responsible for the text messages because it was started by a group of franchise owners and not by the company itself.

MediaPost featured an interview with Internet legal expert Venkat Balasubramani, who said that this could be "somewhat of a blockbuster ruling" because it is will make it hard for consumers to sue advertisers, instead of the agencies, when it comes to campaigns that may violate the text-spam law.

SMS Marketing strategy have major benefits

Even during this legal battle, Taco Bell has realized how important an SMS marketing strategy can be. Last last year, it launched a new service to stay in touch with loyal customers. As part of a five week campaign, the company urged individuals to sign up for special offers like a free drink and coupons.

During that time, 13,000 SMS subscribers signed up and more than 29,500 messages were sent out, which required action from consumers to stay enrolled. At the end of the campaign, 93 percent of those who subscribed at the beginning were still participating at the end.

"In an effort to limit the exposure of the promotional offer and encourage immediate action from customers, Taco Bell used rolling expiration dates in their initial text message offer," an SMS Marketing blog said. "This allowed Taco Bell to set the the expiration date 3-5 days out from the time that a customer subscribed to the SMS campaign."

Despite the benefits of SMS marketing strategies, companies need to make sure that they are running a proper campaign. This is far from the only lawsuit that has been on the books that focuses on unsolicited text messages. With the help of a experienced mobile marketing services provider, any organization will be able to ensure that all of their marketing campaigns are being conducted in the proper way.