Mobile marketing: how to avoid being intrusive and creepy

When you enter a consumer’s mobile world with commercial messaging, you carry the responsibility to respect that very personal space.

A mobile device may be the last thing most users reach for before they turn off their bedside lamp at night. It’s also probably the first thing they touch in the morning, as they silence their alarms and make their first check for weather, news, and any impending crises in their coming day.

It’s kept close at hand all day long, as users obsessively check battery life and for updates. Most of us become uncomfortable if we are separated from our devices and will quickly retrace our steps if it is left behind – even if it is in a secure place.

We can’t bear to be parted, because we have become dependent, counting on it for productivity, entertainment, communications, and operating and documenting almost every aspect of our lives.

It’s a personal thing; we’ve chosen the device that suits our needs and style, and customized it for our unique preferences. We’ve downloaded the apps that work for us and programmed shortcuts and nicknames for loved ones and frequently-used programs.

Loyal users staunchly defend this machine or that platform because they have invested in it over time. One day at a time, little by little, becoming more and more dependent, thus making a switch more costly and less desirable.


Our devices are often the bridge between all the various dimensions of our lives. Work and home, friends and family, finances and fun all have a home in our device. Activities, hobbies, and shopping preferences rest comfortably aside serious business applications and productivity tools.

Our devices allow us to connect and engage with broader communities both near and far for information, entertainment or support and helpfully adjusts for the location, day or time when that makes sense.

It is the tool that allows us to share and comment, like and LOL our way through the day, each and every day.

OMG LOL flickr

Mobile devices document our life in pictures and videos, texts, links and check-ins in the million small moments that make up our day. Those collective days document a life.

It allows us to instantly connect to the people in our lives across all those bridges, without even having to think about how to reach them. Depending on our wishes, we can reach them individually, in groups, or on a worldwide scale.

Insert mobile brand or direct advertising into this critical, personal environment, and you have the polar potentials of either a really good experience or a jarringly bad one. The difference between those two extremes is in the marketer’s approach.

If you start with the supposition that mobile inserts commercial messaging into a very intimate environment, you will get better results.

To avoid being intrusive and creepy, set some marketing ground rules that may sound more like dating or relationship advice:

  • Guard your audience. Protect their security and privacy, and let them know how you will be looking after them to help build trust.
  • Don’t overwhelm your users or come on too strong too early. Set frequency rules or caps that are cognizant and respectful of the stage of your relationship.
  • Leave the consumer in control. When appropriate, let them decide how the communication plays out.
  • Be responsive and relevant. Respond appropriately and quickly, but in an intelligent way that is reflective of the insight you have about them.
  • Take the relationship to the extent the consumer desires and don’t push further. They’ll let you know when they are ready to take it to the next level.
  • Don’t waste their time or take them for granted. Continue to woo them.

Mobile is an intimate environment that can let you in to a consumer’s private world.

Acknowledging the special nature of that access will help you frame, plan, and execute the mobile programs that deepen your audience relationships, rather than alienate your customers and your potential customer base.

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