5 Ways You’re Doing Mobile Wrong

confused looking indian business male on a phone with office bac

There’s no denying we’re deep into the age of mobility. Mobile phones are universal, and smartphone penetration has neared 70% of all mobile devices. In fact, more smartphones have been sold than desktop computers for years now. Online time on phones passed that of desktop over a year ago. And mobility has spawned tablets, phablets, and, now, “wearables.” It’s a constantly evolving and growing space for consumers and brands. And, finally, marketers have dove into mobile in a big way.

But here’s the thing: mobile marketing requires new ideas, new approaches and new use cases. What worked before with other media types won’t necessarily work on this completely different, more personal platform. So, if you’re like most marketers, you’re likely getting mobile wrong. Here are 5 reasons.

1) You’re treating the mobile screen as just another screen.
Yes, the phone has a screen. And people are viewing lots of the same things that they view on other screens, like email, search and video. But that doesn’t mean your brand can act exactly as it has on the TV or PC screen. Because consumer behavior, and their expectations, are fundamentally different on the mobile screen. The phone is a highly personal and unique device, and not simply an extension of the desktop that you happen to carry with you.

But so many marketers are simply using the approaches, images, and videos they are using in other channels and just applying across all mobile placements. That’s a recipe for failure (or at least weak performance). For best results, you have to design and optimize for the mobile screen and the mobile user experience, taking into account context, environment and user location.

2) You’re impeding people from doing what they want.
Interrupting consumers with advertising in exchange for free content in “lean-back” media became quid pro quo long ago. Plus, irrelevance and annoyance in these media can be easily ignored. But the interruption-based ad model is DOA on mobile. Interrupting someone from accessing the information or activities they want on the phone — e.g., interrupting access to the weather report; stopping someone before they can check the game score; disrupting an entertaining video from playing — is not ignorable, it’s deplorable. Instead, your brand needs to figure out how it can add to those experiences, not simply take advantage of them.

3) You’re selling, not adding value.
I’ve heard the smartphone called a “companion,” because it’s always by your side, constantly helping you. But for some reason, brands don’t feel like they need to follow suit. Marketers seem to view mobile just as a handset to “ping,” and forget there is a person holding it. But Brands do have an opportunity to participate in the “companion” model. When they go beyond simply selling, and provide value beyond their own products and services, they can gain trust and long-term loyalty.

4) You are focused on awareness and acquisition, but not on loyalty.
Marketers see the enormous scale of mobile and think about the top of the funnel. It’s easy now to buy hundreds of millions of aggregated impressions. But where mobile is most effective is in driving deeper engagement, conversions and loyalty of existing leads and customers. The ability to reach those who already have your app, those you have data on, and customers who can take an immediate action on your brand’s site or app allows marketers to grow their relationship with existing customers and to make them feel more personally connected to the brand. Two approaches that successfully do this are push notifications and location-aware/geo-fenced notifications, which have proven to be extremely good at driving leads down the funnel and increase usage, sales and loyalty of existing customers.

5) You’ve gone gaga over in-store beacons, but not about driving consumers to the store.
It’s been said that marketing loves it buzzwords and fads, and iBeacons are among the newest and buzziest. And there’s nothing wrong with that – iBeacon and BLE are great new ways to engage with and gain data on your customers in store. But don’t disregard technology and approaches that help drive your customers into your store in the first place, like geo-fenced notifications. These can be particularly valuable in targeting your customers, even at your competitor’s locations, and giving them reasons to come visit your location.

Mobile usage and mobile marketing have matured and grown over the past few years. For consumers, it’s basically a mobile-first world, with mobile phone no longer the “third-screen.” So it’s time for marketers to shed their old approaches, as well. As more and more money and activity moves into the mobile advertising ecosystem, marketers must move beyond the old status quo TV and digital models and start to think like consumers – mobile-first.

Michael-BaerMichael Baer is CMO of Digital Factory, and has spent 25+ years in marketing and new media — including digital marketing, CRM, content-marketing, mobile and social media. Michael has launched initiatives for global and regional agencies such as Starcom, Cramer-Krasselt, Lowe & Partners and Ammirati Puris Lintas.

  1. Ruth Ayres
    April 15, 2015

    great article

    1. michaelbaer
      April 15, 2015

      Thank you, Ruth!

  2. Milind Raval
    April 15, 2015

    Really good insights here. Especially points #4 & #5, which often are overlooked. Marketers should start there, and work their way upstream, in my opinion.

    1. michaelbaer
      April 15, 2015

      Thanks, Milind. Agree – flip the funnel.
      Hope you’re well!

  3. gomobile
    April 17, 2015

    Good appropriate observations, but after 20 years of CMOs/marketers/agencies doing a mediocre jobs embracing digital executions, what is so different about mobile that they are finally going to put meaningful attention, budgets and creative executions that make a difference? My experience is that marketers will spend $2M on a TV spot but will not put the effort or even dime into creative that wins over the digital, let alone the mobile audience that is a personal media that we look at 104 times a day! As a publisher I want to do well for my clients, yet the messages that are supposed to excite and interest consumers are horrible and will fail. It has gotten so bad that we want to do well for them, we will do the creative for free if they can just give us basic assets, and still they cant get it together. Now we are over worried about viewability that demands a one second view? The core ingredient of viewability is giving the consumer something they want to look at. We are all failing miserably. We should stop this nonsense and all be more clear that storytelling HTML5 creative should be our standard- NOT the 85% of static ads that are our quasi mediocre standard. Would someone run a 15 sec static ad on TV with no sound and expect results?

    1. michaelbaer
      April 17, 2015

      Love the comments and points, gomobile. It is shameful. But the difference between those doing it right and those that aren’t is spreading wider and wider, as the successful ones are really taking the lead.

      1. gomobile
        April 18, 2015

        Michael. Then you believe that mobile itself is the difference that will change creative engagement options quality. For the first 20 years digital has never gotten the budget it needs to get creative investment and attention it needs to be less inert. Ned

    2. Ruth Ayres
      April 18, 2015


  4. David Claude
    April 17, 2015

    Now that’s a great article, that also gave me confidence that what I’m working on might very well hit the right buttons. Thanks for this.

    1. michaelbaer
      April 18, 2015

      Thank you, David!

  5. Eric Silverstein
    April 17, 2015

    Thanks Michael. I would add one additional point, 6 ways they are doing mobile wrong: Make your app social.

    Loyalty & advocacy are critical to every business, and social is what drives word of mouth. Brands need to facilitate continuous conversations with their customers.

    This is the reason we launched our new mobile & social engagement SDK around the gamification of visual storytelling, in order to keep brands customers engaged and active on their existing mobile apps.

  6. Alexis.Gil
    August 2, 2016

    Old story, but did not loose its actuality by present. The most valuable reminders for me №1 and №2. People indeed in different ways take the information for example on laptop screen and on the mobile screen. Also interrupting can cause a decrease in customers activity.

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