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Mobile marketing: The number 1 mistake you're making

Ari Jacoby, the co-founder of Philadelphia-based advertising agency Solve Media, is nothing if not brash: "Your smartphone seems to care about you in a way that almost nobody but your mother ever has," he declared in a recent article, Mobile Advertising: The Uninvited Guest. A tad hyperbolic? Sure. But Jacoby believes fervently that a consumer's bond with his smartphone is sacrosanct. "[Your phone] will tell you whether you need to wear a sweater or sunscreen," he argues, just like Mom used to do. His warning to those in the mobile marketing space: tread carefully.

Q: What don't mobile marketers get about consumers and their smartphones?

A: Have you every had that horrifying feeling when you thought that you had put your phone in your pocket, but suddenly you can’t feel it there anymore? And then a pang of terror shoots through your body? That’s what mobile marketers need to understand.

Smartphone users are very purposeful. They’ll be visiting San Francisco from out of town, for instance, and use their phone to help them find their way around. They might be wondering what restaurants are in Union Square and start looking on Yelp for restaurant reviews. That’s their goal in bringing out their phone. They don’t want to be bombarded with really small ads that they accidentally click on while they’re trying to accomplish a task on their phone. That’s a bad user experience.

Marketers need to realize that consumers are happy to engage with marketing content, but less is more. Otherwise we’re just repeating the sins of the past (think back to desktop advertising) on mobile.

Q: What's the biggest mistake mobile marketing professionals are making right now?

A: The first one is the frequency of relatively small ads. Marketers think, “Maybe if we keep showing our ad over and over and over again, one sweet day a consumer will pay attention.” This annoys consumers, because when they finally do pay attention, they're usually saying to themselves, “This ad is always on here. Why do they advertise so often?”

If marketers require tremendous frequency to get their points across, then they’re doing it wrong. A good advertising campaign really only needs one — maybe a handful at most — of significant engagements that are immersive, participatory and create value for the consumer.

Q: What are successful mobile advertisers doing right?

A: They are providing a good user experience with low-frequency, high-impact mobile advertising. They provide a value exchange, like access to free content that the consumer would have otherwise paid for. Many brands think of that as delivering an act of "brand kindness" and, as a result, brand sentiment shoots up favorably.

We all grew up in a symbiotic world of content and advertising. There’s no one who expects to watch a network sitcom with no commercials or product placement. The same expectations apply to mobile: most consumer prefer to engage with an ad in return for free access to entertainment. Effectively saying, "If you are willing to give me a few seconds of your time, I'm willing to give you something of significant value," really engenders goodwill between the consumer and the brand.

Q: What are some examples of brands that are doing mobile marketing really well?

A: One example that comes to mind is Wishbone Salad Dressing. They give their consumers 24 hours of continuous music play in exchange for entering a message into a type-in system that works like a traditional captcha, though instead of randomly generated numbers and letters, brand messages are entered. Wishbone can see that consumers are engaging with its ad and consumers are getting free uninterrupted music. It's a valuable tradeoff.

Q: Do you have any tips for how mobile marketers should go about designing an ad?

A: Sure thing, here are three:

  1. Keep the creative very simple.
  2. Have a frequency cap; less is more.
  3. If you're going to work with a mobile advertising agency, choose ones that are performance-based so you know you're getting the engagement you're paying for.

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