The article originally published in MediaPost

Time spent on mobile is made up of millions of moments; Checking the weather. Reading the latest headlines. Locating a restaurant or store and discovering the best way to get there. Socializing and sharing.

The opportunity for true mobile engagement lies in brands’ ability to become the heroes in these daily interactions by surprising or delighting customers with the right message or offering specific functionality at the precise moment they need it.

Marketers have rich customer data, behavioral insights and an ability to have a real-time pulse on a person’s immediate surroundings unlike ever before. But for the most part, mobile marketing efforts tend to interrupt our lives instead of bringing any sort of desired support.

The golden rule of mobile engagement is simple: It’s not about a brand or a product. Mobile – where screens are smaller, attention spans are shorter and demands for relevancy are stricter – is about the individual and what a brand can do for them at the moment of need. It’s about providing the experience that’s personal enough to trigger a dinner table conversation.

Effective mobile marketing is born out of organic, value-add, contextual interactions. To start, brand marketers need to think about the moments their customers are having, how they can genuinely participate, and what new moments they can create. Below are the four pillars for brands to be the heroes of consumers’ mobile moments:

  • Aid and Abet…Organically: The simplest way to win over your customers is to help them accomplish something easily and creatively. Charmin, for example, has one of the most successful CPG mobile programs because its app doesn’t focus on its product or distribution. Instead, it has created a community centered on searching, rating and adding public bathrooms. It adds value to consumers in their moments of need in a way that is true to the brand without blatantly shoving marketing messages in people’s faces, resulting in ongoing engagement with its customers.
  • Become an Active Part of Customers’ Lives:  Think about all of the customer needs you could help fulfill in an authentic way. The New York Daily News, for example, combined its editorial content with 30+ categories of city guide information, including restaurants, traffic and events. It become the single source of information that its readers need, giving them reasons to come back to the app beyond news.
  • Look into the Crystal Ball: Marketers now have the power to anticipate what their customers’ needs are before they even know them themselves. The magic lies in three things: the robustness of customer profiles, automating marketing efforts and integrating with a complete network of systems and data sources to provide richer experiences.

          A coffee chain, for example, could recognize that the location of a meeting scheduled in a customer’s calendar means they will be across town when they normally come in for their afternoon caffeine fix. In anticipation of the moment that customer searches for a location near their meeting, the coffee chain could provide convenient store locations.

  • Mind Your Conversation Etiquette: How do you talk to your friends? Do you interrupt them as they are doing something, shout a few words about something you want and walk away? Most of us realize that shouting is no way to get what we want, so why are so many marketers acting foolish on mobile? Consumers have trained themselves to ignore overt self-promotion and banner ads – even if they are blinking in an attempt to draw the eye’s attention.

          The relationships in your “real” life blossom out of mutual respect; you help each other and listen more than you speak. These fundamental drivers of real life relationships need to be the drivers of mobile relationships. Don’t interrupt. Help out.

Over the last few years, as mobile has become more entrenched in our every day, marketers have applied the same tactics from “traditional” digital channels. The results have been less than ideal click-through and conversion rates, and fairly dismal app download and engagement numbers.

The relationships between brands and their customers that can be nurtured on mobile are unlike any other because they can be highly organic, real-time and contextual. The brands that break through the noise will be the ones that understand their customers’ mobile lives and insert themselves authentically by providing value.

But remember, just because your customers are always on doesn’t mean you should always be trying to engage. Ensure the contextual relevance of push messages and interruptions. Personalize every interaction. Anticipate needs. And know when to tap the breaks, because the moments you choose to make will be that much sweeter.