Insights | April 12, 2013
Ditch the mobile ads, instead build apps
I hate mobile ads. When I’m playing my favorite game, and I accidentally tap on that tiny ad, taking me to their landing page, you can guess how I’m feeling about that brand at that moment.
Turns out I’m not alone. Harvard Business Review reports in the March 2013 issue that 4 out of 5 people dislike these ads. No huge surprise.
HBR went on to recommend that marketers stop focusing on mobile ads and instead focus on mobile apps. Ads are a throwback to the TV, Radio and the Web, and on these mediums they work (for the most part). But mobile users have a different expectation, and the combination of tiny screen size and a different mentality means they are highly ineffective (and downright annoying!)
Here’s my quick analysis of why mobile is different than web, and why ads don’t work well.
My phone is small
My phone is small, and moves a lot. If I can’t read the text, I won’t be compelled to click on it. If I click on it accidentally, I’ll actually have a negative experience with the brand. ‘nuff said. My relationship with my phone is very personal. Like most people, I never leave home without my phone. It’s already replaced my watch, and I expect it to replace my wallet and keys in the next ten years.
Viewing an unwanted ad on my phone is like opening a greeting card with an ad inside. It feels intrusive in a very personal environment. My phone space is limited. I can only fit so many apps on my phone, so I’m ruthless about cutting apps that don’t make the grade. My phone is not only personal, it’s a personalized tool that I’ve made work for me. Apps that rely on annoying ads aren’t going to make the cut.
Viewing an unwanted ad on my phone is like opening a greeting card with an ad inside. It feels intrusive in a very personal environment.
I expect a more personalized experience
I expect more from the brands that “care” about me. In a world of personalized shopping and marketing, I’ve come to somehow believe that the brands I interact with care about me. Amazon’s learned what to offer me, and Netflix knows what I like. In the same way, these brands continuously make my interactions with them easier, which reinforces that “I matter” to them. In this environment, ads are faceless, cold and simply an irritation.
Smart brands make apps
Smart brands have learned this and have moved to app creation as their primary mobile strategy. What kind of app would you create, you ask? Good question! HBR outlines 5 different types of apps that brands should consider:
2. Brand Interaction
3. Social Network
Apps which leverage your social network, like Wrapp, which allows users to send gift cards to their Facebook friends.
Apps that offer incentives to interact with the brand, like Coca-Cola’s recent "Refill Happiness" campaign in Brazil, which installed vending machines that “dispensed” 20MB of free data credits while an image of a Coke bottle being filled appeared on screen.
RedBull and Geico both create apps which are simply fun, bringing a smile to the users face while re-enforcing the brand image. RedBull’s series of mobile games, and Geico’s “silly” viral apps (such as a mustache app) both score well with consumers. They fit well within the brand personality, and are tightly focused at their current (or potential) audience.
As a thought exercise, I imagined what kinds of apps a traditional company like Roto-Rooter might use. Clearly focused on the home/business owner market, they have thousands of franchisees around the country and are a household name for folks over 40. They don’t have great brand recognition with the 20-30yr crowd, and certainly anyone under 20 has no idea what they do. How could they use a mobile app to get in front of a younger group? Here’s a few app ideas they could consider.
As a thought exercise, I imagined what kinds of apps a traditional company like Roto-Rooter might use.
• A branded game which challenges players to put pipes together to allow water to flow to hit a target.
• An app to help homeowners troubleshoot plumbing common plumbing problems.
• An app to help homeowners with step-by-step instructions on doing minor plumbing projects (like changing a faucet).
We're experiencing a cultural shift, moving us from an “Offer Culture” to an “Assistance Culture”.
I believe we’re experiencing a change in people respond to advertising, moving us from an “Offer Culture” to an “Assistance Culture”, and that the current generation of app users (12+ yrs old) will continue to ignore offers shouted at us, especially when they appear on their most intimate of experiences. I expect to see a continued rush towards more innovative branded apps over the next 5 years, as these users begin shopping for plumbers, banks, insurance and other “grown up” services.