Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) Blog

The 5 Most Creative Mobile App Marketing Stunts

RunKeeper MarathonThere’s nothing worse than building an awesome, feature-rich, beautiful mobile app … then seeing just a trickle of downloads. You’ve heard it before, and I’ll say it again: Having a marketing plan for your mobile app is critical to your success.

There are several tried-and-true methods for spreading the word about your mobile app that seem obvious: having a sleek landing page, creating and using social media accounts, perhaps even producing a video trailer. But then there are also some wildly creative marketing stunts that companies have used to put their apps on the map. For good. Following are a few of the most creative app marketing campaigns in history:

RunKeeper Runs the Boston Marathon

RunKeeper, the “personal trainer in your pocket,” is a popular fitness app that makes it easy to track and manage your workouts to improve the quality of your exercise. Back in 2009, when RunKeeper was still a fledgeling brand, founder Jason Jacobs ran the Boston Marathon wearing an iPhone costume with the RunKeeper app printed on it. He also live-tweeted the race … while running!  The campaign was coupled with a video that received quite a bit of buzz (see below).

Takeaway: Become involved with an event that aligns with the goals and purpose of your app. Jason used the RunKeeper app during the marketing stunt, and he created buzz for the app by physically showing its capabilities. Not to mention, wearing an iPhone costume among thousands of runners is certainly one way to get attention!

Uber Becomes an Ice Cream Truck for a Day

Uber is a car service that allows you to use your iOS or Android device to dispatch a sleek town car to pick you up anywhere and take you anywhere … all in a cashless transaction. A nicer alternative to taxis, Uber pulled a tasty stunt this summer – the company temporarily added an ice cream delivery service to their fleet. Users could use the app to request an “ice cream truck” be sent to their location. The truck delivered a cold treat (plus some Uber swag). The #OMGUBERICECREAM stunt was so popular that it received more ice cream requests than could be delivered.

Uber App Ice Cream

Takeaway: Limited time, limited quantity offers exist for a reason. They work. Ice cream on a hot summer day, delivered right to your door – how could anyone resist? Couple scarcity with unexpectedness, and you’ve got a viral idea.

MusicBunk Creates Unbranded Guerilla Marketing Viral Video

MusicBunk is a social music player app that allows you to discover and share music and playlists with friends. It’s a crowded space, so they had to be ultra creative … and even a little sneaky. The company created a hard-to-believe video of vinyl records being thrown from various angles cleanly onto a record player, but made the video seem like a bunch of dudes just fooling around. There is very minimal branding for MusicBunk in the video itself. Even the video description doesn’t overtly sell the app – it just provides a few mysterious links to the app without any explanation. Provocative.

Takeaway: Simply do something awesome that people HAVE to share. Where else have you seen vinyl record’s being thrown onto a record player in so many impossible-seeming ways? Nowhere. The video is super cool, and any overt branding would have diluted its awesomeness and mystery.

Spotify Creates Pre-Launch Buzz with Influencers & Exclusivity

Spotify is one of the world’s most popular music discovery and sharing apps. Before it was well known in the US, the company had to figure out how to create pre-launch buzz for a “new” product that wouldn’t exactly be first to market. They did this by opening up the platform in private beta, creating a feeling of exclusivity for listeners. They then had the support of influencers like Brittany Spears and Ashton Kutcher, who tweeted about the service. They also partnered with influencer marketing service Klout, to make sure that the first users were music fans with large followings. Finally, their cherry-on-top was adding Facebook integration and the ability to easily share tracks and playlists, allowing the music and service to become quickly viral.


Takeaway: Start marketing your app before it launches, and create a countdown for the launch that future users can follow. Consider granting access to a limited amount of people to test it out and create buzz before it’s open to the public, creating an exclusive, gotta-have-it sentiment surrounding the product. And, social media influencers and celebrity support never hurts.

AutoCAD WS Creates Unique, Shareable Content and Testimonials

The founder of AutoCAD WS, a CAD B2B app for engineers, learned the hard way how to effectively market his app. His inspiring story begins with his preliminary struggles of marketing his app . His press and blogger relations strategy wasn’t resulting in downloads. So he took a different approach. His team created unique, funny content that anyone – not just the engineers they targeted – would want to share.  lIn a TechCrunch interview, the founder says:  “Instead of trying to pitch our product and new features, we tried to make people laugh and feel something about it.” This combined with calling users directly to create case studies about the app’s usage built up engaging, shareable content that created buzz and credibility for the app. As of July the app had 10 million downloads.

Takeaway: Your users might be your most important audience, but they aren’t your only audience. Appeal to a broader community to maximize word of mouth, social sharing and PR.

My final takeaways from these examples: think outside the box of the standard marketing tactics; create unique shareable content; and allow others to talk about how awesome you are, and the buzz will spread naturally.

What are some creative app marketing stunts you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments!

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