Carnival’s Mobile Marketing Platform Gets More Automated

When someone tells me that they’re introducing “trigger messaging” to their product, well, it’s not the most thrilling start to a conversation. But hey, mention automated FaceTime calls from One Direction, and suddenly I’m onboard.

(Not that I’m a huge One Direction fan or anything. It’s not weird that I think this sounds cool, right? Please tell me it’s not weird.)

Those two things really are related. Mobile marketing startup Carnival is indeed unveiling a new trigger messaging feature that allows businesses to automatically send messages to their mobile app users using things like geofences. And while there are existing tools for adding automated messaging to your apps, CEO Guy Horrocks said that they’re largely focused on text, rather than the “very rich content” that Carnival’s platform supports.

What kind of content? Why, automated FaceTime calls from One Direction, of course (and sure, other things like polls and coupons). Apparently Nabisco sponsored One Direction’s 2013 U.S. tour and mobile app, and it took advantage of the trigger messaging capability. Whenever the band arrived in a new city, it automatically triggered phone calls to local fans, and the calls promoted a competition to win tickets for that local concert. Those calls saw a 30 percent engagement rate, and they resulted in a 300 percent increase in daily app usage.

Carnival has actually talked about the One Direction campaign before, but they elided the details about the trigger messaging, because it wasn’t available broadly yet. That feature, Horrocks said, allowed the Nabisco social media team to set it up ahead of time.

And now the company is making these capabilities available to all of its customers.

carnival message create

Horrocks also gave me a quick demo of setting up different rules for automated messaging. Creating a geofence seemed pretty straightforward and also fairly targeted — Horrocks showed me how to automatically send a message 10 minutes after he entered the AOL building. The targeting isn’t purely geographic, either. You could also create triggers based on app activity, say if someone hasn’t opened the app in a month.

The broader vision behind Carnival, as Horrocks has said in the past, is to convince marketers to stop creating boring mobile apps that are little more than promotional billboards. Carnival gives them tools to feature more interactive, engaging content, and adding trigger messaging will make that process even easier.

The end result, Horrocks told me, is that brands might create fewer apps, but the ones they do launch should be better and “more strategic.”

“I think they’re hopefully going to do less stupid apps and a lot more smart ones,” he said.

(Carnival is backed by Bowery Capital, which itself has funding from AOL. And AOL owns TechCrunch.)