When performing text message marketing, a company will come across two different formats, MMS and SMS. To the uninitiated, these are messaging terms used to overcomplicate messages on mobile phones. However, that is far from the case, and especially in the marketing sphere, the difference between the two can bring different advantages to a company’s marketing campaign. Before pitting MMS vs SMS, it is essential to understand what both communication mediums are, along with the difference between texting a message with one over the other.

What Is An SMS Message?

When people talk about text messages, they usually refer to SMS messages. SMS stands for Short Messaging Service. SMS is one of the most commonly used mobile messaging services, and also one of the oldest, with the initial concept of texting messages coming about in the early 1980s. Though development for SMS began in the early 1980s, the first message would not get sent until December of 1992, with the text reading “Merry Christmas.”

SMS Character Limit

SMS messages come with an alphanumeric character limit of 160, though only 70 characters if not using the modern standard alphabet. This character limit came to be because the inventors of SMS text messaging, GSM, wanted to make use of the spare data packets on the infrastructure used for telephone traffic, as taking advantage of unused resources kept costs down. Though the decision to have a 160-character limit was in part to technical limitations, there was also another reason.

One of the main people behind SMS messaging was Friedhelm Hillebrand. Friedhelm performed multiple tests to conclude the average length of short messages. From postcards to short informative sentences, 160 characters was the average number of characters, so the amount proved suitable for SMS messages. In modern times, the technical limitations behind the 160-character count were removed, though, for efficiency, the limit remains in place when texting SMS messages.

How Do SMS Messages Work?

No explanation of what an SMS message is would be complete without an understanding of how they work. A user types out the SMS message and then hits send on their mobile phone. That message then gets sent to the SMSC or Short Message Service Center of the cellular network. The SMSC will then forward the text message on to the intended recipient, though, if the message doesn’t send on the first attempt, it will get held for some time before the SMSC attempts to send the message again.

With most mobile carriers, a user can request a delivery receipt so that they can see the status of the message via their SMS app. There are occasions that the message will be lost, if not retrieved from the message center in time, though this is rare.

Some reasons why an SMS message may not get delivered include:

●      The recipient number is invalid.

●      The recipient blocks the number that is sending the message.

●      The recipient’s cell phone has no cell reception.

What Is An MMS Message?

MMS messages are effectively an evolved version of the above SMS messages, mainly as the technology got built using the same as the SMS message. MMS or Multimedia Messaging Service messages can, like an SMS, send text, but can also send a variety of multimedia content, hence the name. Video clips, audio files, images, and more can all get delivered via an MMS message. The ability to send such large files via MMS eliminates the character limit of the more traditional text message. Typically, if a user intends to send a text message with more than 160 characters, the wireless carrier will send multiple messages to accommodate, though charge each message accordingly, which isn’t a problem if the mobile carrier plan has unlimited text messages. However, with the use of MMS messaging, one single longer message can get sent, which won’t break up the text into multiple pieces. This message will cost more than a single SMS, though not as much as numerous text messages. There is a character limit with MMS messages, though the 500 limit is more accommodating than the 160-character limit of SMS messages.

How Do MMS Messages Work?


Though based on the same software of SMS messages, MMS messages do get sent via a different method. The sender types out or attaches items to the message and then hits send. The device sending the message then encodes the content within. The encoded content goes to the MMSC or Multimedia Messaging Service Centre. In some cases, the MMSC does not belong to the carrier of the recipient. If that is the case, then the message gets forwarded to the correct MMSC.

Once the correct MMSC receives the message, it will then determine whether the intended recipient’s device can receive MMS messages. If the mobile device can receive the message, the content gets extracted and then forwarded to a storage server with an HTTP front-end, which shows the content of the message. The intended recipient will then receive an SMS message, which contains a link for them to access the MMS message via their phone. 

If the recipient’s mobile device cannot receive MMS messages, then a URL will once again get sent, which must get viewed in a web browser.

MMS vs SMS In Marketing

The above outlines the difference between an MMS and an SMS, though how does that difference translate into marketing. Mobile marketing is one of the best avenues of marketing, with the most commonly used mobile marketing method being SMS. That may be the case as SMS messages are much older than MMS. However, just because SMS marketing is more common, MMS marketing does have a place. For a company to decide which method is best for its purpose, it must explore the advantages of both. 

The Advantages Of SMS Marketing

The most significant advantage of SMS messages in marketing is the fact that it is direct and immediate, with a higher open rate than other marketing mediums. Short messages of 160 characters ensure the point of the message is not lost. When an SMS message gets combined with a short code number, the SMS capability gets increased. With short code, the medium allows for messages to be sent in bulk through the use of an SMS API, allowing a company to reach out to consumers, thousands at a time. The short code number also stands out for recipients, helping to bring a sense of familiarity to the phone number sending the message.  Finally, SMS messages are cheap to send, which is always beneficial for a business implementing an SMS campaign.

The Advantages Of MMS Marketing

MMS messages are more expensive to send and smaller mobile carriers struggle to handle them in mass. They also require more complicated technology to send as the content is more varied. However, there are advantages to MMS marketing. MMS messages have a higher click-through rate than SMS. The most significant power of SMS marketing is the customizability of the messages. Images and videos are a great interactive tool for engaging a consumer. The type of content within a multimedia message can also get shared on social media, offering further engagement with the consumer with the MMS campaign.

Which Is Better?

Which is better when comparing MMS vs SMS? In truth, neither. Both mediums have advantages that a company should take advantage of. Each type of message has a different purpose and a successful marketing campaign will need to utilize both to get the best ROI or return on investment.

OTT Applications: The Third Contender

In recent years, mobile marketing hasn’t been restricted to MMS vs SMS, but has also included OTT applications. OTT or over the top applications are internet-enabled apps, such as iMessage found on iPads and iPhones, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and more. Unfortunately, unlike an Apple device, Android phones do not have a dedicated messaging app as of yet, though there are plenty of third-party instant messages apps that suffice. It is worth noting that for users of the iMessage texting app, it doesn’t matter which medium a company uses, as iMessage can receive SMS text messaging, MMS messages, and instant messages from the iMessage OTT application.

The primary reason why OTT services are such a hefty competition for both MMS and SMS marketing is that it is much more affordable, especially in locations where unlimited text messages are not typical on mobile carrier plans. Additionally, these apps can do the same as MMS, again without the cost. Whether text, audio, video, or images, OTT apps can send it all. Finally, because the OTT apps are those of instant text messaging, provided there is an internet connection, companies can have a constant link to their consumers.

In truth, with the infrastructure in place and overall familiarity with SMS and MMS messaging means they will remain viable marketing means. The most likely scenario is that a business can use all three forms of messaging in conjunction to provide a rich media marketing campaign, which will ultimately take its marketing and thus business to the next level.

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