Opinion: Marketing Made for the Mobile Medium

Opinion Marketing Made for the Mobile MediumThe following is an exclusive guest contributed post to MMW from Dave Bell, CEO of Gummicube

Late in the 1990’s we were in the very early days of mobile. At this point in time wireless handsets started to become more than simple phones and there was a constant phrase that was used to describe the future of content. That phrase was “made for medium”. It represented awareness that to succeed with software for mobile devices, one had to create something that was specific and special for the platform. Bringing an app that was originally intended for the PC or web wouldn’t work because it didn’t cater to the unique ways people used their mobile device.

Since that time mobile devices have become more powerful and they themselves are a type of computer that is essential to everyday life. While this evolution has changed what can be done with a mobile device, what hasn’t changed is the fact that people still interact differently in a mobile environment than they do on the traditional web. The ways that mobile devices are used, the kinds of features that are popular, what people search for, and even the way that they search inside app stores are very unique to mobile. Understanding these differences are key for mobile marketers to succeed.

First, let’s look at a couple of key features of mobile devices vs. PC counterparts and how these features translate into real world use cases.


In the mobile world, people are taking pictures directly with their device. After a picture is taken, users modify pictures with “lite” editing apps before sharing socially. Some key mobile search terms in this category include: “camera apps”, “photo collage”, “photo effects”, “instagram” and “selfie apps”. If you look at each of these terms, very few logically have as much relevance for traditional web search. In fact, searching for camera using Google Web search reveals that most people are looking to buy cameras, compare prices or find their local cinema.


This category not only has people looking for functionality unique to mobile, but the top competitors are also very different than in the web world. In mobile, people want to ensure their messages are secure (searching for terms such as “message lock”) and that apps are customizable and offer personalization such as alternative background images. The top players are Tango, WeChat, Line and other companies that are not known for their efforts on the PC platform or in web. Performing the same kind of search using Google Web search reveals that users still search for the term “instant messaging” (an artifact from early web messaging – in mobile people tend to use the term SMS) and look for topics as diverse as “brand messaging” (tied to traditional marketing activity).


The intent of the word storage is very different on a mobile device than on PC/web. In mobile, people have the very real problem of wanting to carry around more media than can be stored on an inexpensive mobile device with 16GB of storage. Users don’t want to decide which photos, videos or apps to keep or delete, so on demand cloud storage is a sought after service. This is especially true as it overlaps with the photo and video category as a use case. In the context of PC/web use of this term, people could be searching for a range of topics from “storage containers” to “computer memory” to web apps like Google Drive that allow you to store and share documents in the cloud.

These are extremely good examples of how context, search terminology and intent can be very different across web and mobile platforms.

Taking this discussion to a higher level, where users are searching is very different in mobile from the web. In the world of the web, Google Search dominates how people find content on the web – and with so many websites in existence; users need to use very specific search terms to find what they are looking for. In the world of mobile devices, people search within the App Store and Google Play for anything that they want to download or “add on” to their device – with web search falling back to a more supportive or informational role. This means longer more detailed search queries for the web, and shorter (2-3 word) search queries on mobile that tend to be feature focused.

This behavior stems from the fact that most users can’t (or prefer not to) download files and applications from the web to their device. Indeed, Apple devices don’t allow you to download anything from the web and Android users are faced with serious security concerns downloading from third party sources. As a result, users are conditioned to taking their actionable & transactional searches to the App Stores and then using native apps to perform basic tasks like checking movie times, which would otherwise be a search on the web.

Looking at the examples provided above, it is easy to see how the differences between web and mobile filter down into every category and sub-category of any number of products and services. The importance of mobile apps and services being “made for the medium” clearly also extends to marketing, which needs to be tailored to the uniqueness of the platform and how users interact with it.