The Nivea protection app lets parents keep track of their children on the beach. Image via creamglobal.com

The Nivea protection app lets parents keep track of their children on the beach. Image via creamglobal.com

Smartphones are the fastest selling tech device in history. In February, The Economist reported that roughly half of the global population owns a smartphone. According to eMarketer, spending on mobile advertisements will hit nearly $46 billion this year, meaning that’s where the global ad market is growing most.

While the people may have spoken, the marketing world is still aggressively searching for ways to connect them to brands on the smaller screen.

There are a few reasons for this. For starters, the mobile marketing space is still pretty new. Platforms, advertising networks and strategies haven’t matured yet.

Second, there is lots of experimentation going on in and around advertising technology. Google might account for a whopping 52 percent of ad revenue share worldwide, but plenty of startups are competing with unique offerings of their own. Take, for example, app install ads, which according to Simon Khalaf, CEO of ad measurement firm Flurry, exploded in 2014.

While out in public, people have typically been exposed to broad marketing messages via billboards and other out-of-home ads, smartphone proliferation means brands can experiment with direct marketing campaigns that let them track user behavior and record demographics.

Given the nascence of the technology and platform, there is still plenty to learn. So without further ado, from magazine-infused tracking devices to physical banner hijacking, here is what a few big B2C brands have been up to in the mobile marketing space.

Pirqing up to a great deal

Pirq, a mobile app that helps people discover deals and rewards at their favourite local businesses, paired mobile advertising with billboard advertising in a value-driven marketing campaign.

After texting the code “SHOP” to the required number, people were prompted to download the Pirq app. A whopping 92 percent of people who texted “SHOP” downloaded the app and started collecting deals.

Pirq earned a 92 percent conversion rate with its simple text-to-download campaign. Image via tatango.com.

Pirq earned a 92 percent conversion rate with its simple text-to-download campaign. Image via tatango.com.

The takeaway

While this approach certainly isn’t revolutionary, it’s a reminder of just how effective apps can be for businesses. If you aren’t yet using an app, consider how creating one could benefit both you and your customers. Small businesses in particular can use apps as a way to build brand awareness and boost sales – and in 2014 we saw many more of them doing so.

Nivea on the beach

In May 2014, Nivea Sun Kids used Bluetooth technology to help parents keep track of their children at the beach.

It worked by using a protective strip with a built-in locator tool. Parents removed the strip and downloaded the app before placing it on the child. The ad containing the protective strip was run in a print magazine in Brazil.

Tatiana Ponce, marketing director of Nivea Brazil, told Mobile Marketer, ”We want to offer…experiences that makes our customers’ lives better and easier.”

In 2013 Nivea did something similar, offering a solar charger in a print ad so people at the beach could easily charge their smartphones.

The takeaway

For Tatiana Ponce, this campaign is all about creating brand utility, “We went beyond our products and created this ad so parents could feel even more secure to enjoy some quality time with their kids.”

Taking a lesson from Nivea, aim to provide something useful beyond your typical product offerings and that resonates with your brand’s values.

Google goes public, simply

Google’s campaign to promote its rebranded mobile app, “Google app,” is a standout not for its scale but for its impact. In October 2014, Google placed outdoor ads throughout New York City that asked very specific questions to show the power of its vocal search feature.

For example, at a bowling alley in Brooklyn, bowling balls were emblazoned with the Google logo and the question, “OK Google, how many holes can a bowling ball have?”

According to Adweek, the reach of this campaign is “probably fairly low, but the playful factor is high.” A Google rep confirmed, “By pairing interesting questions with visually intriguing placements we hoped to cut through all the sights and sounds of the city that compete for attention.”

The takeaway

While most businesses can’t afford to go this far with advertising efforts, it presents a creative format to benchmark. Meet your brand advocates wherever they may be and present them with a witty sample of your brand.

Paying for a physical banner spot may be out of your budget, but what about those placemats at the local diner?

Without a doubt, this past year bore a variety of clever mobile marketing campaigns. The best of those mobile campaigns went beyond the boring ad display to give people a useful brand experience.

Which mobile marketing campaigns have grabbed your attention recently? Let us know in the comments.