Mobile is a highly personal form of advertising, so it feels particularly intrusive and annoying when the advertising is badly targeted or poorly conceived. Bad ad experiences represent lost chances at clicks and sales, and also drive increasing numbers of consumers to resort to ad blockers that deprive app and website owners of monetisation opportunities.

The following marketing campaigns are excellent examples of strategies to avoid when it comes to developing mobile marketing campaigns—to ensure you’re not delivering bad consumer experiences and losing sales opportunities.

Mobile marketing fail #1 – Kaiwei Ni: The Fake Hair

Coming in at the tail-end of 2017, this one warrants a mention for its egregious lack of ethics in trying to manipulate mobile users into clicking ads. Chinese sneaker manufacturer Kaiwei Ni’s approached was both clever and highly unethical: the company designed an Instagram stories ad, with an image designed to look as though a stray hair had landed on the screen displaying it. There was no hair, however; just a trick designed to get the viewer to swipe the screen to get rid of the hair. Swiping the ad would then force the viewer to the Kaiwei Na website. Annoying for viewers and definitely lacking ethics—and Instagram agreed, noting that the ad violated Instagram’s advertising policies, and was removed from the platform. In addition, the account was banned from advertising on Instagram. The obvious moral of the story is—don’t trick your audience. If you have to engage in unethical advertising practices to generate clicks, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

Mobile marketing fail #2 – Mercedes Super Bowl Game Fails to Pick a Winner

In the US, the biggest brands compete to see which can generate the most buzz around its Super Bowl advertising at the beginning of each year. The winners are always hotly contested, but this year there was a clear loser: Mercedes, and its “Last Fan Standing” Super Bowl Car game. The game missed its scheduled start time not just by minutes or hours, but altogether.

The “Last Fan Standing” game was created to mimic the classic stamina challenge where contestants compete to win a new car. In this case, instead of standing with a hand on a real car, contestants were supposed to keep their finger on their smartphone screen, touching a digital car that would change in size and move around the screen. The trouble was, Mercedes massively underestimated the server load the game would generate, and was unable to get it running at all After trying and failing to run the game several times, it was eventually cancelled, amid plenty of outrage from would-be contestants, and profuse apologies from the brand. Instead of running the game, Mercedes was forced to pick a random winner from among the registered contestants.

Bad Mobile App Experiences

Both the Android and the Apple app stores are chock-full of failed apps that were unable to achieve more than a few downloads, or any at all. With literally millions of apps available for both major mobile brands, it’s incredibly hard for new apps to gain traction. And if you make the mistakes that these companies did it’s even more of a problem, in terms of the bad publicity that the app failure generates.

Mobile marketing fail #3 – TSB’s IT Meltdown

One of the high profile examples in 2018 was the massive number of problems experienced by customers of TSB, when the bank attempted one of the UK’s largest transfers of banking data in April. The transfer was initiated over a weekend, intended to be completed by Monday, but instead, millions of people found themselves unable to use either the bank’s website or its mobile banking app.

While TSB admitted only that its 1.9 million internet and mobile customers claimed that they had intermittent problems accessing their accounts. Although many customers complained that they had been given access to accounts that were not their own, there was no reasl evidence for this. Where people had linked accounts (say a personal and business account) they could see both details, which isn’t so serious.

The IT meltdown has ongoing repercussions and it’s a concern for all major banks that need to upgrade their systems. A TSB spokesperson claimed “small number” of people had been affected, to date, more than 40,000 complaints have been laid against TSB. Putting this in perspective, that’s about 2% of the customer base. So the numbers may seem worse that they are. Other banks will learn from these technical issues and take immense pains to avoid as they review their systems.

Mobile marketing fail #4 – South Australia’s Emergency App Failure

The biggest failures tend to happen when they’re least wanted. The South Australian government found this out in January when the mobile app it developed to help people receive fire alerts failed to work, during a weekend in which the most dangerous fire conditions in years led to a serious bushfire outbreak. The Alert SA app was intended to make people safer, but instead proved to be worse than useless when it was most needed. The South Australian government ended its contract with provider Ripe Intelligence, which had contracted to provide 99.9% reliability for the Alert SA app, and indicated it would consider taking legal action.

Avoiding Mobile Marketing Mistakes

Luckily, most mobile marketing and app failures don’t cause life-threatening problems. But they can cause a major loss of goodwill, not to mention profitability. The main points to take from these mobile failures?

Engage your audience respectfully, advertise ethically, and make sure your mobile marketing efforts work in the way you intend.

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