By Jon Hudson, Vice President of Customer Success at Digital Turbine
It sounds like a cliche, but there really is an art and a science to marketing.
You can think of the science as all the measurable elements of marketing: the KPIs, the metric tracking, the focus on performance. The art of marketing is less tangible in nature. It’s branding, reach, that magical mix of awareness and recognition that drives familiarity and eventually, conversion.
Put another way, art (brand) represents the top of the marketing funnel, while science (performance) represents the bottom.
Bottom-funnel strategies rooted in science and performance have dominated mobile marketing for the last several years, in large part thanks to their measurability. But, with the removal of IDFA and GID, measurability is changing in an unprecedented way. In just the past year, the number of iPhone users who have opted in to app tracking has fallen by half, according to the New York Times. Pretty soon, today’s concept of what’s measurable will be unrecognizable.
These changes coming to the industry are forcing mobile marketers to a decision point. For years, they’ve focused heavily on technology and performance-oriented strategies. Is it time to return to the simplicities of marketing, asking the question: where is my audience and how am I going to engage them? What does a successful user acquisition strategy look like in this new age of mobile marketing?
Does Art or Science Win in the New Age of Mobile Marketing?
With measurability becoming more complicated, it’s natural to wonder if marketers will be driven back towards the “art” side of marketing. Will they rely exclusively on brand-based marketing that brings in top-of-funnel users, choosing to buy advertising only from channels they know? For example, an app knows their audience is young and watches sports, so they buy ads on both Snapchat and ESPN.
While this strategy can deliver results, and feels safe in its reliability, it’s simply not enough to survive in today’s highly competitive mobile landscape, let alone reach enough users at scale.
In reality, savvy brands will need to reimagine their art/science marketing mix to incorporate more of both in the new frontier of mobile marketing. They’ll need to engage users at both the top and bottom funnel. To do this, they’ll need to find advertising partners that offer true deterministic attribution, while at the same time broadening their definition of attribution. You can see this shift already happening, with 59% of advertisers, according to MarTech, moving their ad spend from Apple to Android in Q3 of 2021. However, even big players like Google are creating their own playing fields. Others, like Facebook and Snap, will own their own inventory, but their ability to drive results beyond their own walled gardens has yet to be seen.
Without a way to connect the dots, it’s up to brands to rewrite measurability. The question will no longer be, “Can I measure this or not? (Is it art or science?)” The question becomes, “How else can I measure this?”
Historically, mobile marketers have built their advertising model on science, e.g. how many people downloaded my app and took action after clicking from this ad? But with everything becoming digitized, several forms of historically art-based advertising are now measurable in some way. Think of a digital billboard at a bus stop that has interactive features, or, perhaps a famous television ad with a QR code.
Coinbase: A Case Study in Next-Gen Mobile Advertising
Prior to the Superbowl, Coinbase had below average awareness and install intent among consumers. Then its groundbreaking Superbowl ad aired, and everything changed. Coinbase’s ad was so successful that as its App Store rank skyrocketed, the app briefly crashed, stated here on The Verge, from all the installs. Is Coinbase’s famous QR code ad campaign art or science? Brand or performance? Top or bottom funnel? It depends on when and what you’re measuring. Is it:
- How many people saw the ad, or scanned the QR code after seeing it?
- 30 days later, when the number of people who now consider financial apps and have awareness of their value proposition has grown?
- A year from now, when Coinbase can look back and say, “Hey, our user base has grown 5X, and we bet that Superbowl ad had something to do with it.”
The Coinbase ad is a prime example of how the best marketing leverages both art and science. The directive for any mobile marketer is twofold: 1) grow the number of users that use your app, and 2) increase the amount of money your business makes.
A lot of marketers focus only on the bottom of the funnel — the performance part. But, in order to fill that bottom part of the funnel, you need to be paying attention to what goes on at the top. There are plenty of people who haven’t heard of your app — or have heard of your app but don’t know what it does — they could all be users. You need to bring them in through the top of the funnel. The art side of marketing can help with that, whether it’s a bouncing QR code or a preloaded app on their phone. Big and bold, or small and subtle, brand-based strategies like these effectively invite users to consider and explore instead of always relying on converting users who already show high intent.
The Brand Pioneers in the New Advertising Frontier According to the BRAG Index
Coinbase isn’t the only app blending the art and science of marketing in their user acquisition strategy. The latest Brand Relative App Growth Index stated here on Digital Turbine, or BRAG Index, reveals plenty of examples of brands using art and science to stand out in their respective fields.
Take SHEIN, for example. In the past two years, SHEIN grew from a valuation of $15B to $100B. As of Q4 2021, the app scored the third highest number of installs in the Shopping category. How? The app promoted the hashtag #SHEINhauls on TikTok and YouTube, partnering with celebrity influencers who tried on a closet’s worth of their clothing they got through SHEIN. With the measurability of a hashtag and the intangible reach of celebrity influencers, this campaign married the art and science of marketing, while achieving both directives for mobile marketers: get more users, and make more money.
Food apps Dunkin’ and Chick-fil-A provide further evidence of this blended strategy. Dunkin’ partnered with Apple CarPlay to allow people to order from their cars, boosting growth and loyalty. Chick-fil-A gave away free chicken sandwiches whenever local NHL teams won their home game, as long as users had the app downloaded with location services on.
Looking at these strategies, some common threads emerge. Not only are these brands using both art and science, but they’re also redefining how they measure their campaigns. All three brands selected advertising partners that have strong brand affinity within their owned inventory: TikTok followers, Apple CarPlay users, and hockey fans. Finding partners who have their own inventory — be it a specific distribution network, platform, or person — will be key to advertising in the new age of mobile marketing.
About the Author
Jon Hudson currently serves as Vice President of Customer Success at Digital Turbine, leading the app media division that brings global brands on-device. Jon has been working in the media industry for 14 years and has held senior executive roles both in the US and internationally for Criteo and Jampp. He graduated from Portsmouth U.K with an honors degree in Business and Marketing.