A Brief History of Text Marketing

Tracing the history of delivering urgent, wanted messaging

Mobile marketing is older than you think, dating to well before Alexander Melville Bell and Eliza Grace produced the one and only Alexander Graham Bell. Mobile marketing professionals and hobbyists alike can learn from this timeline of events in the history of mobile marketing.

Carrier Pigeons were one early way of spreading news

Middle Ages: "Town criers" – young boys who run through the streets shouting messages to all – are commonly hired to broadcast announcements.

19th century: Traveling salesmen hawk wares from household gadgets to tonic cures from brightly painted covered wagons.

1876: Bell introduces the telephone at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. By 1886, there are more than 150,000 telephones in the United States.

1925: Goodyear's first blimp, The Pilgrim, takes to the air emblazoned with the Goodyear name and logo.

1930s: Custom-built cars in the shape of hot dogs, peppermint rolls, lighters and more tour the country to build brand awareness before "brand awareness" even became a trade term.

1965: MIT's CTSS MAIL, the first true email system, goes online.

1967: Lester Wunderman coins the term "direct marketing" to describe direct mail and telemarketing initiatives used for at least 15 years prior to this date. The exact date of the first direct mail campaign and first telemarketing call were never recorded.

1973: Martin Cooper invents the portable telephone handset. It won't see mass market appeal for 20 years.

1992: Neil Papworth sends the first text message, from his computer to Richard Jarvis's mobile phone.

Zach Morris shows off an early mobile phone1993: First mobile phone capable of sending and receiving text is introduced.

1994: QR codes invented by Denso Wave, used originally to track Toyotas during manufacturing.

1996: First mobile web access via cellular phone introduced on the Nokia 9000 Communicator model.

1998: "Spam" as a slang term for unsolicited email marketing, is added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

1999: SMS messages can now be sent between users on different wireless providers.

2003: First commercial mobile SMS service launches.

2003: Introduction of short codes for use with text message marketing.

2005: Major brands launch major SMS campaigns, including Nike's Times Square design campaign and the Pontiac Spot a G6 giveaway.

Teenagers really know how to text2005: ICANN approves the .mobi top-level web domain, backed by Google, Microsoft, Visa and a host of mobile telecom providers.

2007: Apple releases the iPhone in the United States.

2007: The number of active SMS users worldwide reaches 2.4 billion.

2007: Number of average U.S. text messages per month (218) exceeds the average U.S. phone calls per month (213).

2010: Cambridge Dictionary adds "text" as a verb, meaning to send a text message.

2010: QR codes begin seeing wide usage as part of mobile marketing.

2011: 40 percent of U.S. mobile users report that they regularly use mobile devices to browse the Internet.

2011: Mobile platforms consume more than $14 billion worth of media, including $9.3 billion worth of music alone.

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