If the Obama campaign and inauguration has taught marketers anything, it is to engage with the public in ways that get to them directly and in which they’re happy to respond.

But a Queensland University of Technology report has revealed that politicians who use text messages as an election campaigning technique are playing with fire.

Dr Lynda Andrews is a lecturer and researcher with QUT’s School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations and specialises in consumer behaviour and reactions to marketing through new technologies. Her current research delves into the growing field of mobile phone ‘m-marketing’

Dr Andrews says it will be interesting to see if Queensland politicians and their advisers choose to embrace SMS campaigning in the state’s upcoming election.

“Australians don’t have a lot of experience of mobile marketing. So far, it’s mainly been phone providers who’ve used it to text their own customers with promotions,” Andrews says.

“My advice (to them) is to be very, very careful – if you’re not, it could backfire.”

Dr Andrews asserts that m-marketing can be an invasion of privacy for some people, potentially inciting a negative reaction, which means a fence-sitting voter could swing the other way.

She indicates her research found that m-marketing was better received when it was accompanied by an incentive – such as the offer of a price discount, bonus phone credit or gift voucher, meaning it was an easier tool for companies to use than politicians.

Politicians are looking for new ways to engage with the public, particularly younger voters who are more technologically savvy – however, according to Dr Andrews’ research, it is important to do it right.

“Look at YouTube, for example, and the difference in reactions to how Kevin Rudd used that medium and how John Howard did,” she explains.