The Original “Mobile Marketing”

Kitty Hart

written by Kitty Hart

Long before we started walking around with uber-powerful computers in our pockets,”mobile marketing” existed. We just didn’t call it as such. The term mobile marketing as we know it today refers to a multichannel marketing effort that includes mobile phones, other devices, and networks. It is an important focus for most brands’ marketing strategies and a highly effective way to “meet audiences where they are.” But there is another type of mobile marketing that goes way back in history and seems to be making a resurgence. I’m talking about brands that literally take their show on the road. These experiences are not within the confines of the digital sphere. They are one-to-one and 100% physical.


Having recently returned from Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, this topic is fresh in my mind. While surfing through my photos, I realized I was obviously drawn to the growing number of exhibitors who have evolved their traditional trade show booth to a mobile experience. In all of these cases, it appears these brands have developed mobile experiences for a variety of marketing efforts throughout the year but then also decided to use the experiences for their important trade shows. Here are some of my favorite examples from the show.

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This got me thinking. 

This approach of taking the brand on the road is definitely not new. One of my fondest memories from elementary school summer break was a visit from the Bookmobile. Do you remember the Bookmobile? My friends and I would anxiously await its arrival to our neighborhood. Once the Bookmobile pulled up, we couldn’t wait to step in. We stood outside with the very same anticipation as standing in front of the ice cream truck laboring over a choice of ice cream treat. Here’s the interesting thing though. I wasn’t a voracious reader as a kid. I wasn’t even a so-so reader, so why was I excited about this traveling library?

OR_Blog_1These mobile experiences date back to the 19th century and started primarily as a way of providing library services to underserved communities. Well, the Bookmobile evolved over time from the earliest forms of transportation to the modern forms we enjoy today. Wikipedia tells me that “bookmobiles have been based on various means of conveyance, including bicycles, boats, and trains, as well as elephants,

camels, horses, mules, and donkeys.” Again, if people can’t get to you, meet them where they are. No matter the method. 

I go back again to the curious question, why was I so excited for this library to pop up in my neighborhood? I was on summer vacation, for Pete’s sake! Well, I can’t put my finger on it other than to say the Bookmobile was there, driving down my street, parking in my neighborhood, specifically to welcome ME inside. It came for ME. I could spend as much time as I wanted inside. It was cool on hot summer days. And, I remember vividly how it smelled. The sweet smell of hard bound and soft bound books hit me within my first step inside.

So, long before the words “mobile marketing” took on the digital meaning they have today, people knew the importance of taking an experience on the road. And I surmise this experiential approach is on the upswing with tremendous opportunity. Here’s another example I find intriguing.

In celebration of it’s 50 years as a leading active outdoor brand, The North Face dropped a Pop-Up shop where? High in the Dolomites of Italy. Likely where one would least expect it, right? But also, where someone would most enjoy or need it.

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The North Face experience was only open for seven days but gave climbers a surprise, a place to rest, and a place to replenish supplies, if needed. It wasn’t a mirage in the distance. It was a real and perfectly executed brand experience paying homage to its recently launched Pinnacle Archives, an exclusive collection of archived pieces that had successfully transported the world’s best climbers and explorers to the most remote locations. Well done, North Face.

The long and the short of this blog post is simply an observation. The “original” mobile marketing has made a comeback as brands embrace making themselves available and accessible to people on their terms. People’s terms, not the brand’s terms. The team here at STAR has been involved in many of these mobile experiences over the years. Large and small. Simple to highly technical and complex. This Mobile Solutions Center created for ADC is just one example.

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Star built and wrote ADC’s brand story into a custom-designed bus that made visitors feel like they were in an actual data center. The design and build included traps in the vehicle floor so displays could be moved and fold-up counters to allow staff to pack up pieces when necessary. We also included unique items such as merchandising doors and drawers that could slide in or out with data center wires. The mobile marketing campaign made 220 stop in one year. This is a hard working effort that allowed ADC to reach more people and provide a highly memorable brand experience.

We’ve got many more experiences to share. If you’re curious about this type of Mobile Marketing, reach out. Our strategists and designers are ready to create the next show-on-wheels. Might as well be yours.

TOPICS: Insider, Tradeshow, brand strategy