October 20, 2011
Case Study

Mobile Advertising: Sign-up ad campaign increases email database 300% among target audience

SUMMARY: New companies face many challenges, not least of which is building the initial customer base. That goal is even more important for retailers with a specialty product that appeals to a specific target audience.

This week's case study examines a customized children's book publisher and how it used mobile app advertising to quadruple its email database while reaching its desired market segment with a continually optimized campaign.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


Young companies have many priorities, and among the top is building a customer base. You may have the greatest product or service out there, but if you can't find that initial group of customers to grow from, it's hard to become successful.

Paper Hat Press was a fledgling company with an interesting product: personalized children's books, and an experienced team of writers, illustrators and producers creating those books. The company also had a clear primary target market -- mothers.

Because the product was made on demand and personalized for each child, selling through retail locations was not an easy, or ideal, solution. Early on the company determined direct-to-consumer was going to be the focus of its marketing efforts.

Find out how Paper Hat Press used mobile advertising to quadruple its email database with opt-in sign-ups and reach its desired market segment.


Because the buying process for its product was interactive, the company understood it needed to develop a relationship with each customer.

Paper Hat Press customers provide the company with information to personalize each book:
  • The name of the child

  • Their favorite food

  • Their favorite toy

  • Other similar personal details

Step #1. Go to your target market

Paper Hat Press had engaged in marketing across a variety of channels -- trade shows, PR, email and social media -- and through these efforts learned that its customers could also be found via mobile marketing.

Manish Naik, co-founder and CEO, Paper Hat Press, said, "We thought it would be a good idea to at least try and tap into that market and reach out to the mothers that have access to these sort of mobile platforms."

Mobile marketing offered Paper Hat Press two important features: it allowed them to target their ideal customer (mothers), and because the channel is interactive, the company could actually use mobile platforms to complete sales.

Step #2. Build a relationship with the customer

Paper Hat Press found its most valued target segment was a repeat customer.

"We had a lot of customers who were making repeat purchases," Naik stated.

He added the first purchase was typically for the customer's child, but "then they went on and bought it (the personalized book) for maybe their sister or brother's child, and so on."

With this knowledge, Naik said an important marketing goal was to cultivate a relationship with its target market and have more than a "one-time transaction" with them.

He said Paper Hat Press expects to develop new products and wanted to create and maintain relationships with its customers. To do so meant having access to their email addresses for a database and knowledge about where and how these customers were opting-in to the relationship.

Step #3. Use the mobile channel to drive relevant list building

There are a number of ways to reach potential customers on the mobile channel. You can create an app and drive traffic to that app for customer interaction. There is also third-party in-app advertising, such as banner and interstitial ads.

Paper Hat Press wanted to reach its target market on the mobile channel to accomplish its marketing goals of reaching a specific target audience and developing an ongoing relationship with that audience. However, the company wanted to do more than grab traffic through its own app or traditional third-party in-app mobile ads.

The solution was another in-app advertising platform, mobile sign-up ads. Unlike in-app banner or interstitial ads, sign-up ads wouldn't take the mobile user away from the third-party app:
  • A mobile user launches a third-party app

  • Before the app fully launches, the user is presented a screen to sign up for relevant lists

  • Whether or not any lists are signed-up for, the app launches as normal

These ads allowed Paper Hat Press to engage with its audience on the mobile channel while collecting contact information in a very transparent opt-in manner to continue that relationship.

Mobile users aren't required to completely leave their chosen app to interact with Paper Hat Press, and Paper Hat is able to grow its list with relevant and opted-in members.

Step #4. Plan and deploy the mobile ad

Paper Hat Press decided to offer a discount in the mobile ads ranging from 10 to 20% off a book order as an incentive to help boost user sign-ups.

Because the target audience was potentially found in every third-party mobile app category, the idea was to start the effort with a wide range of ad placement across the entire spectrum of apps, including entertainment, games, health and more.

Once the ad was designed and the initial placement strategy in place, all that was left was to actually deploy the mobile sign-up ad.

The process began when someone loaded a mobile application. They were presented with a screen titled, "Deals and Offers from our Partners," with three ads listed below the title. In Paper Hat Press's case, the ad opened with, "Create a custom book for your child," with body text including the discount offer.

If the mobile user chose the Paper Hat Press ad, they were then taken to a sign-up page asking for:
  • First name

  • Last name

  • Email address

  • ZIP code

The page included a clearly marked opt-in "complete" call-to-action button and a "No Thanks" option if the mobile user didn't want to sign up for the deal.

Once the submission was finished and the mobile user went on to their app, Paper Hat Press was sent the contact information for the prospective customer who clicked the "complete" button, and the prospect was sent an auto-response with a code to claim the discount.

This process separates mobile sign-up ads from mobile clickthrough ads because the entire process does not take the mobile user away from their chosen app except to complete the sign-up. With clickthrough ads, mobile users are taken to landing pages or other online properties away from the chosen app.

Naik said he liked the entire process because it provides Paper Hat Press access to a potential customer who has clearly opted-in to the offer in the ad.

"When they have this kind of an opt-in, there is a high probability that the person is a parent of a child or know somebody that they would like to buy such a book for, so it's extremely targeted," he added.

Step #5. Optimize the effort to improve ad targeting

One very important aspect of the entire campaign for Paper Hat Press was optimizing the effort to seek out its target audience of mothers.

Although the initial ad placement went to a full range of mobile apps, the campaign was continually optimized based on response rates from the targeted segment. Over time the mobile ads began appearing on the best-performing mobile app categories.


Going into this mobile advertising effort, Paper Hat Press had three main goals: keep costs down, reach its desired market segment, and increase its email database to begin creating relationships with that market segment.

The company was able to control costs by only paying for qualified, new sign-ups. And it was pleased with the very transparent 100% opt-in aspect of the sign-up process.

The effort resulted in a quadrupled email database, reaching 13,597 members. Paper Hat Press was also able to learn more about the mobile app usage of its target segment of mothers:
  • News and entertainment 35%

  • Health and fitness 19%

  • Games 19%

  • Music 14%

  • Utility 12%

  • Lifestyle 2%

  • Travel 0.34%

Although Paper Hat Press doesn't have its own app, it’s not only building its email database through mobile marketing, the company is also beginning to sell its product through the mobile channel.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples:
1. Mobile ad and sign-up screen
2. Auto-response body

Paper Hat Press

Pontiflex -- Paper Hat Press' mobile advertising vendor

Mobile Marketing: New program achieves 11% redemption rate on text offers

Mobile Marketing: How Redbox drove 1.5 million texts and added 200,000 mobile participants in 10 days

Mobile Email Marketing: 5 tactics to engage and convert smartphone users

Consumer Behavior in the Mobile Channel: 4 Trends Marketers Should Note

Mobile Marketing 101: Should you make the leap to a custom mobile site?

Mobile Marketing 101, Part 2: Ease of use and quality of content are key

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