The missed call: a marketing powerhouse

The missed call: a marketing powerhouse

May 30, 2016

A missed call is a popular way of communicating in many emerging markets, because the caller doesn’t have to spend money. Marketing companies, politicians and banks have found a way to use this practice to reach millions who have cell phones but otherwise limited means.

This method of communication has become particularly popular in India. Want to transfer funds from your account? Give your bank a missed call. Want to hear Bollywood music? Dial a number and hang up.

Here are five things you can do in India just by ringing a number and hanging up:

Bank
Some banks let customers check their bank balance or get a mini statement on their cell phones by giving a missed call on the bank’s number. The information comes via a text message.

Recently, south India’s Federal Bank went a step further, and introduced a facility for customers to transfer money to an account-holder in any Indian bank, via a missed call.

The client has to first register the recipient in Federal Bank’s system, by sending an SMS, including the mobile number of the recipient, and the amount to be transferred, said Babu K. Anthony, head of digital banking at the bank.

Connect with the Prime Minister
Prime MinisterNarendra Modi haspopularized the missed call as a way to connect to political leaders and parties.

Give a missed call on +91 8190 881 908, and you’ll get a call back on which you can hear a recording of Mr. Modi’s monthly radio talk with the public named “Mann ki Baat” (Matters of the Heart).

Modi’s political party, Bharatiya Janata Party, has also in the past used the missed call as a way recruit new members. The party launched a number on which individuals could give a missed call and become a member.

The strategy was so popular that it drew criticism from its rival Congress party, which said that the same people were giving missed calls from different mobile numbers and were being counted as new members. A Congress spokesman termed BJP a “missed call party”.

BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli has said that perhaps the Congress party was irate at the success of the BJP’s membership campaign. “They may feel anguish for having missed the bus,” says Kohli.

Find a job
People who don’t have Internet access can find jobs posted on listings Web site Quikr.com, by giving a missed call.

Individuals can call +91 1800 1033 331, and hang up. An employee of Quikr calls back, and asks for the caller’s personal information, education and experience, to prepare an on-the-spot resume. Within minutes, the caller gets a text message listing a few jobs available, including a number to call to apply for the position.

Enjoy Bollywood hits
A prime example of how companies use missed calls as a marketing tool is an on-demand music channel launched by consumer-goods company Hindustan Unilever.

Callers give a missed call on +91 1800 3000 0123, and they get a call back from the automated system, which plays an entertainment channel. Callers get to hear Bollywood songs and banter between anchors, but also several ads for soap and other products from Hindustan Unilever.

Vote
People can vote for their favorite contestants in Indian reality dance shows by giving a missed call. Shows like Dance India Dance aired on Zee TV, and Nach Baliye on the Star Plus, flash numbers associated with contestants on their shows. Viewers can give a missed call on the number associated with their favorite couple to vote for them.

By Shefali Anand for www.blogs.wsj.com