Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Jan-Feb 2015

In the cause of mobile marketing

A review of All Thumbs: Mobile Marketing That Works by Michael Dru Kelley.
Photo by Muhammad Ali/White Star.
Photo by Muhammad Ali/White Star.

Mobile marketing is new, largely uncharted territory not only in Pakistan but globally.

In fact, all things smartphone related are in such a state of flux that the very people building the devices have a hard time keeping up with technological advancements. This crazy churn of revolutionary ideas and innovation make those who have to integrate mobile into their business (myself included) intimidated to the point of throwing up our hands into the air in defeat. The gut instinct is to invest only the minimum in all things mobile; enough to ensure you are taking part in the ‘revolution’ but low enough to shrug it off when your ‘great mobile idea’ falls dead flat.

Mobile innovator Michael Dru Kelley says this is a terrible approach to the mobile revolution, and his new book, All Thumbs: Mobile Marketing That Works aims to be a “practical guide to help owners and marketers… build inexpensive mobile experiences and increase sales.”

Unfortunately, the book is not the hands-on, in-depth guide to mobile marketing that the sleeve promises. Instead, Kelley’s 212-page effort provides some useful broad insights into mobile marketing from a layman’s perspective, with examples mostly from his own company or personal work.

It is unfortunate (and strange) that the examples are not accompanied by hard data and quantified measures of success, given that mobile phones and the internet allow for the tracking and drilldown of even the minutest of details. Perhaps this was skipped to improve the reading flow. Perhaps it was skipped because as Kelley argues, Key Performance Indicators, “can be a devastating way to manage the development of such a medium as mobile, that is starting to emerge from its infancy… I ask that executives and business owners consider employing the term Key Performance Learnings (KPLs). KPLs still hold everyone to some level of measure, but feature a strong layer of learning versus determining if a new platform is a success or failure.”

So for those interested in “learnings” and alternate definitions of success, Kelley provides a unique rethink into mobile marketing.

‘Action screen’

Great emphasis has been laid on moving away from calling mobile phones the ‘second screen’ to terming it the ‘action screen’. In this, Kelley is quite right in pointing out that mobile phones allow direct, measurable actions by consumers (click, bookmark, scroll, select, pay, download, share, engage), while TV, print and radio should be thought of as ‘alert screens’ that inform and build large scale awareness. What marketers are supposed to do after terming mobile phones the action screen is less discernible.

Kelley lays out how important it is to include mobile as part of every marketing campaign, with budgets to match the size of the now-massive mobile audience, but the range of ‘actions’ that could be created are few and far between. Since the author’s company, Unconventional Partners, is very focused on TV properties and branded video content, multiple suggestions included getting consumers to take some form of mobile action in conjunction with the traditional 30-second TV spot; e.g. building a mobile ‘hub’ with additional videos that would be activated on the phone when the sound of the TV spot was heard. How successful was this campaign to get TV viewers whipping out their mobile phones and waving them at their TV when an ad came on? In Kelley’s words, “what we did was so groundbreaking that I’m not even sure where to look for comparable metrics. We are just at the dawn of mobile activation of traditional media and it will take time to compare the results to other similar mobile results, which will yield consistent, relied upon measures.” In other words, not really sure.

Build short term mobile experiences

Another important insight the book provides is the need to move away from thinking of mobile marketing campaigns as building a website or a full-fledged mobile app, and instead focus on short term, cost effective and engaging temporary experiences that range from days to weeks before being pulled off.

Kelley outlines key questions marketers need to ask when building this short term experience. What kind of action is required? How can you keep it to the bare minimum to avoid clutter on the small screen? What is the architecture and design for mobile apart from what is developed for TV or print?

Again, the examples themselves are not very clear, detailed or measured. Kelley suggests a “mobile experience that starts with a TV ad that could deliver a coupon to the mobile phone.” The mechanism to do this and the success rate for such a campaign are not outlined. He says mobile could provide added product info or a free video or app, or “gift request” – all interesting ideas that remain unexplored in terms of execution. He correctly points out that merely sending a consumer to a mobile app or website hardly constitutes a mobile marketing campaign, and he does convincingly argue for the use of QR codes to augment the in-store experience or create engagements at events. Pushing the scanning idea further, Kelley even suggests traditional magazines and newspapers could try inserting QR codes in print that would load up videos or interactive content when scanned. How popular QR scanning is, or providing outlines of any breakthrough QR code campaigns are left for the reader to Google.

Be a mobile evangelist

The one place All Thumbs succeeds is in driving home the need for marketers to include mobile in the mix at all times. Kelley’s writing conveys his enthusiasm and vision for the mobile future, and the wake-up call is much needed, especially in Pakistan where 3G has arrived, QMobile has flooded the market with affordable smartphones and mobile teledensity has climbed to 76.2% (Source: PTA).

This is a book that exudes zeal, if not outright activism for the mobile cause and maybe some of that energy will translate into actionable ideas, perhaps even successful ones. Even if intended goals are not met in these early days of experimentation, as Kelley points out, “failure is an option. Giving up is not, especially in mobile.”

All Thumbs: Mobile Marketing That Works
By Michael Dru Kelley
Palgrave Macmillan
218 pages. $26
Available at

Jahanzaib Haque is Editor, at The Dawn Media Group.