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An Interview With Google — Best Practices for Mobile Marketers: How to Go Viral

Danielle Levitas

Google’s Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas sat down with App Annie to share her industry expertise in a three-part series on best practices for marketing on mobile.

With consumers spending 3 hours per day in apps, mobile continues to take over consumers' mindshare and is a critical channel for achieving business goals. However, knowing where to start with mobile marketing can be difficult. App Annie’s EVP of Global Marketing & Insights, Danielle Levitas, and Google’s Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, Jane Butler, came together to discuss the mobile marketing best practices your business needs to achieve success. Our first and second posts in this series covered why apps are such an essential part of a business's overall marketing strategy, ways to optimize app promotion, and how marketers can tell if they're running successful advertising campaigns.  The third and final post in this series goes into detail about how to achieve app virality, optimizing ad spend for seasonality, and unexpected challenges you will face in the industry.

Jane Butler , Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google

Jane Butler is a 15-year veteran of Google, and has held multiple leadership roles on the advertising side of the business. She is currently the Managing Director of App Promotion for the Americas, where she oversees commercial strategy and sales for Google’s suite of app promotion solutions. Prior roles include Managing Director for Performance Solutions in the Americas, Global Director of Vertical Search Initiatives (Shopping, Travel, Finance and Auto), Managing Director of Sales for the U.S. West region, and Industry Director for U.S. Travel.

DL: Maximizing virality is the Holy Grail for many companies. What helps drive virality to get you that extra boost?

JB: You can’t expect to be viral with a mediocre experience. First, you need content that users can’t get elsewhere — a truly unique value prop. Next, you need to deliver on the experience they’re expecting. This will lead to strong ratings and organic word-of-mouth promotion. At this point, users are less focused on your marketing and more on how valuable and useful they find your app.


“The most important step is having the fundamentals in place — an app with unique functionality and great utility.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


To enhance this, you might be able to increase the buzz with paid promotion, to highlight deals and so forth. Hopper, the travel app, created Travel Deal Tuesday and promoted that as the best time to book flights. In the gaming space, Epic Games creates cross-platform buzz for Fortnite by launching new seasons every couple of months, which builds anticipation for new and special events. And Nike, with their infamous sales drops: A limited-time or limited-inventory offer that sells out in seconds. The goal is to create and promote a special opportunity that can drive the virality of your app.

The most important step is having the fundamentals in place — an app with unique functionality and great utility.

DL: The holidays are always are a key time for attracting new users. When it comes to the holiday season, do you have any particular insights or recommendations in terms of how to optimize ad spend and conversions? What are some best practices to help companies during that time of the year?

JB: We think about Q4 and the holiday season not only as the retail shopping season, but also as app download season. App Annie writes about this in their reports as well. People get new devices this time of the year and they start downloading apps. We often see companies — particularly ones that are not in the retail space — take a step back in December. They think it’s going to be too expensive, but we see it’s actually one of the cheaper months to start acquiring new users. We do a lot of education, and in part use some of App Annie’s research, to help businesses understand that this is when people are most engaged across categories on mobile, and it carries into January.


“With so much revenue coming from mobile on Black Friday and Cyber Monday — increasingly, half of that is via apps — we talk to our retailers about having their app strategy buttoned up, particularly for re-engagement. And, making sure that they’re driving folks into the app as much as possible.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


For retail specifically, we see clients, whether it’s Amazon, Alibaba or other retail consumer apps, tapping into Black Friday and Cyber Monday and creating their own event days like Singles Day [!in!]. There’s lots of fervor created around those shopping days and we’ve seen big brands generate one-third of their annual downloads during the holidays. With so much revenue coming from mobile on Black Friday and Cyber Monday — increasingly, half of that is via apps — we talk to our retailers about having their app strategy buttoned up, particularly for re-engagement. And, making sure that they’re driving folks into the app as much as possible.

DL: You mentioned a really good point, that people often don’t realize that Q4 is one of the best quarters to target new users, even if you’re not in retail, due to seasonal downloads. What are some other things people in the industry will face, be it challenges or pleasant surprises, that they might not expect?

JB: I’ve hit on it a few times already, but I can’t stress this enough: Don’t waste your money promoting a mediocre app.

Focus first on making sure the app provides an experience that users want to engage with. And when it’s ready, then you can promote it. It’s such an expensive mistake if you go out and just burn through users. App users will be less willing to engage and it’s a heck of a lot more expensive to try and win them back than it is to engage them correctly the first time. It’s our responsibility as partners to our marketers to tell them, “You have a lot of work to do before we would even suggest anything to do with paid marketing. So let’s talk when you’ve had more time to improve the experience.”


“I can’t stress this enough: Don’t waste your money promoting a mediocre app.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


Another best practice is to have good relationships between the marketing organization and the app developer teams. Make sure that they’re sharing insights about what is creating value that the teams can highlight. One great example we saw in Google was with our own growth team working with the Google Photos app. There was a feature on the app that allowed you to free up space on your mobile device by moving photos to the cloud. Everyone is concerned about space, or lack thereof, on their phones. Providing a mechanism for them to be able to create more space through the Google Photos app should not be a buried feature. The marketing and developer teams worked together to bring that to the forefront and promote it with marketing campaigns. Now it’s one of the most actively used features in Google Photos. Today, it is regarded as providing a really useful service that users possibly would have missed had these teams not been working so closely together.


“Another best practice is to have good relationships between the marketing organization and the app developer teams. Make sure that they’re sharing insights about what is creating value that the teams can highlight.”

— Jane Butler, Managing Director, App Promotion, Americas, at Google


In terms of pitfalls, unfortunately there is fraud in the marketplace. I think it’s a reality of the internet these days. It’s critical to make sure that you’re working with credible partners who are investing in preventing and limiting fraud. Google is highly invested in this space and we advise that anyone working with third parties should make sure that these partners are looking out for fraud on your behalf and proactively doing so. Make sure that people are paying close attention to data, and if something smells fishy, it probably is. We find that when folks really start studying the data, there are organizations and networks that will stand out as being reliable vs. not. It’s certainly something to stay attuned to.

DL: That’s a great point. And it’s so much more exasperated in a lot of other markets outside of the US.

JB: For sure. And that’s the nature of the app business too. It’s pretty easy to go global in apps. Since a lot of the US-based marketers that I work with are also in other countries, it’s something we’re keenly aware of, especially in developing markets. I’m just grateful for the infrastructure depth and breadth at Google — that it’s top of mind across the entire digital landscape.

DL: Are there any signs to look out for, that if you see this, it makes sense to dive deeper to check for fraud?

JB: One big area of focus is on timing. If something is registering as a download within fractions of a second from the initial click on an ad or a page, or if it seems to be happening too fast or at too high of a volume, then it’s definitely worth looking into.

DL: Thank you, Jane! Really appreciate your taking the time to discuss these topics with our readers.

JB: My pleasure.

For more tips on how to market your app, read our Paid & Organic User Acquisition Guide:

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March 12, 2019

Mobile App Strategy
Mobile App User Acquisition

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