Rebel Yell: How to not be obnoxious when advertising on mobile
Banner ads, coupons, and interstitials are becoming a thing of the past for many leading mobile brands. At this week’s Shopper Marketing Summit outside Chicago, Manuel Rosso, CEO of Food on the Table, said, “Nobody clicks on mobile banners, it’s a terrible message medium.”
Banners were once touted as a key tool for app promotion and monetization because they were easy to set up and wouldn’t distract users from the app they were using. But with newer apps that meticulously utilize every inch of screen real estate, many app developers are finding that sacrificing the lower-third (or full screen) of their app to an advertiser disrupts the experience for their users.
In addition, brand experts point out that banners (and coupons) tend to be poor drivers of brand engagement and loyalty. While they increase the brand’s presence, tappable in-app ads tend to encourage the wrong type of consumer behavior. Bryan Leach, founder and CEO of Ibotta, said, “Digitizing coupons is a poor investment” because “it reinforces a transactional relationship with the consumer.” It’s better to encourage consumers to engage than to transact.
The hard part for developers and brands is that creating engagement doesn’t follow a simple formula. Some brands have sought to tell stories or build games in order to encourage brand loyalty and trigger rewards. Target and Starbucks are two such brands that have steered their mobile apps towards engagement and rewards, and away from transaction (although they both offer in-app transaction capabilities). Both have seen significant increases in mobile adoption and sales.
Messaging is still an important part of the mobile brand toolset, but it needs to be selective, relevant, and timely. Selectivity means messages need to be delivered for special purposes, such as to announce a sale or event. Relevance means messages need to be sent to the right audience segments, i.e. the ones most likely to be interested in the content of the message. Timeliness means that messages need to be delivered at times when users are most likely to read them and take action.
Following these three rules will help any brand put together an effective mobile messaging strategy, but this is still secondary to the function of the app itself. Brands that want to benefit from mobile need to develop concepts about how to offer non-transactional value to customers. Whether this is done through storytelling, design, user experience, gameification, rewards, or some other method doesn’t matter so much; what matters is that the mobile app gets users interested in the brand apart from merely offering ways to buy. Interest breeds brand appreciation, which increases the likelihood of consumers to transact, which in turn helps to boost sales.