Mobile Return On Investment

Dear Marketing Directors of the World,

Please allow me to apologise on behalf of my digital brethren.

We have been, and for the most part, still are, terrible at marketing.

Marketing digital, that is.

Seriously, for the past decade or so, we have been simply awful at explaining how digital provides ROI in a format that you already understand. It’s sad really, because for all the opportunity to dramatically help your bottom line provided by digital, for all the amazing ways it can be more efficient than print ads or TVCs, we are still generally rubbish at explaining how.

Oh sure, it’s growing, and yes, we’re convincing more than a few of you, but frankly, given the incredible opportunity presented by digital – progress is far from where it ought to be at this point.

And within digital, nowhere is this inability to clearly and concisely demonstrate return on investment more evident than mobile. It’s shocking – mobile can be one of the most efficient and effective marketing channels when used correctly. You just have to understand how to read – and then explain – the numbers.

Let’s talk branded applications. In particular – let’s look at one of my favorite examples of mobile ROI: the Virtual Zippo Lighter.

This is one of the simplest apps you’ll ever see – it’s an animated Zippo lighter! Seriously – that’s it. Sure, you can buy new lighter designs through the app, but at its core, it’s really just about having a fake Zippo you can light at concerts. Despite (or possibly because of) the simplicity of the app, Zippo has clocked over 10 million downloads since its launch.

Studies have also shown that for every download, an app is on average shown to at least one other person.  That takes Zippo to 20 millionpairs of eyeballs.

Sure, you say, that sounds all well and good, but how much of your hard fought digital media budget was required to create this mobile app?

Zippo has publicly stated that it spent under $100,000creating the Virtual Zippo Lighter, which, given the simple concept of the app, can strike most marketing directors as a pretty hefty chunk of change.

Or is it?

At $100,000, combined with a reach of 20 million consumers, Zippo has achieved an absolutely astonishing CPM of $5!

The numbers don’t lie – we’re not even factoring in the engagement the app creates with consumers – which only strengthens the argument over traditional media like print or TV.

Every mobile marketer I know is hell bent on pitching the engagement/personal/tailor-made/always-on angle to their clients, when frankly, all they needed to do was extrapolate some cold hard numbers and present the ROI in a way that clients are already comfortable with – it’s not rocket science. We, unfortunately, continue to insist on making things more complicated than they actually need to be – when the real focus should be on making clients as comfortable as possible with digital first.

Yes, engagement is better on digital, but we need to get back to our fundamentals. Digital for all its potential is still in its nascent stages of development, and we continue to do it and our clients a disservice by selling it poorly.

Remember, digital marketing channels have only been around a very short time. Online marketing as a legitimate advertising channel has only been around for 10 to 15 years – mobile only finally took off in the last two years following the launch of the iPhone. In contrast, TV has been around for over 60 years, and print has existed for over 100. That’s a lot of time to figure out a standard, commonly accepted method of quantifying return on investment – and clearly, we have a long way to go in determining the right ways to quantify digital’s, but let it be humbly suggested here that we, as an industry, should first try framing the numbers in a way that our clients understand.

Related reading

A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.