Over the past 30 years, traditional print and TV advertising has morphed into a pixelated digital mashup called “online marketing.” Today, 10% of U.S. Internet users access the Web exclusively on mobile devices, according to a 2015 report from comScore, Inc. sited in internetretailer.com. The same data reports that 13% of Internet users don’t access retail or e-commerce destinations at all on desktop computers. For brands and e-commerce businesses, the “mobile” medium simply cannot be ignored, and smart mobile marketing is more important than ever.

Brands are just now getting their thumbs into mobile marketing, and predictably it’s a bit of a shit show. In the good old days of 2010, marketers treated mobile like TV on a smaller screen. But TV is generally a passive, “lean back” experience. Mobile users on the other hand are actively “leaning in” to their devices; anything outside of the native experience is interruptive and maddeningly intrusive.

UNLESS… a value proposition is attached. Mobile consumers have been trained to accept a certain amount of “disruption” in exchange for value; free game play, free fitness tracking, freemium features in productivity apps. In fact, these disruptions are generally touting premium upgrades or retail offers related directly to the experience the user is having at that moment. Mobile audiences tend to appreciate and even welcome these kinds of native offers.

It’s this type of thinking that creates interesting opportunities for e-commerce businesses that want to succeed in the mobile space. But it requires a new mindset; one that eschews “spray and pray” ad models in favor of targeted engagements that add real value to the user experience. Here are five disruptive mobile marketing tactics to get you started…


Imagine you are playing “Wheel of Fortune” on your phone. Your final guess is wrong and the game is about to end when a message pops up: “do not fear; we’re giving you one more guess. Click here for another try. This do-over is sponsored by <brand name here>.” Perhaps it’s a brand that is relevant to the correct answer, or targets the game’s demographic. In any event, the brand is present in a time of need with something native, relevant, and valuable; it becomes an organic part of the moment.


Example: Runkeeper, an app that helps runners set goals, create music playlists, plan routes and more.

Every week, a brand of running shoes could sponsor the “Sunday Run-day.” The message is simple: Push yourself to go one minute faster or one mile longer. Perhaps the brand logo replaces your GPS location marker. When the runner hits their goal they are offered congratulations in the form of a virtual high-five, a digital badge, or even a gift from the brand’s online store. The brand has now added real emotional value to the runner’s life. It’s the sort of brand affinity that a banner ad will never EVER be able to buy.


According to mobilecommercedaily.com, 96% of all mobile users will search for coupons this year to find the best deal when shopping online. Why make them search? Considering how easy it is to target mobile audiences based on the content with which they are engaged, it’s a wonder more brands don’t offer valuable coupons in-app or as a relevant part of a mobile web experience.


Example: Lootsie, a white-labelled loyalty platform for brands that want to reward game play and participation.

In the case of the new “Shrek” game from Dreamworks, brands participating in Lootsie’s rewards marketplace have the potential to be seen by 15 million diehard Shrekkers. Hitting that many captivated eyeballs via traditional media would cost thousands of dollars. Here you get millions of impressions for the cost of a few rewards.


Example: Map My Ride by Under Armour

This is old-school in a cool new way. In the early days of television, laundry soap companies (think Tide or Ivory Snow) sponsored afternoon television dramas like “Days Of Our Lives” or “General Hospital.” They targeted stay-at-home moms who were often folding laundry while watching their shows. Hence the term, “soap opera.” Keep it relevant, with a low barrier to entry, and your brand gets 100% share of voice.

Should every brand build an app – no. But there are plenty of other mobile opportunities that can be brought to you by <your brand here>.

Mobile marketing is not effective when aimed at the lowest common denominator or carpet-bombing the maximum number of consumers. But it does give brands an opportunity to do two important things at once — cut significant costs from ad buys that are becoming more expensive and less effective every day (your boss is going to love you), and hyper-target ideal audiences with customer-centric offers that add value, solve problems, and provide something really useful and unique (your customers are going to love you). Brands that don’t risk missing valuable opportunities to connect with their best customers.

Special thanks to Brandon Werber at Lootsie for his insight and contributions to this article.

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