Thumb Stopping Guidelines – Creatively winning on mobile

One of the key challenges we face every day is how do we connect and engage with consumers in a mobile world, in a world where brands have to be live 24/7. The potential scale of social media platforms means that small, seemingly insignificant actions can have far-reaching consequences. That’s why I’ve created this quick guide to show you ‘thumb stopping’ creative best practices – ie. How to have the best visual stand out on mobile.

The Rules of Great Marketing Remain

Create ideas that are distinctive, captivating, and attractive to look at, rewarding entertaining or informative.  Avoid competitions, asking people to post photos or asking people to like you.  No one likes someone who asks too much of them. Don’t make apps. They cost a lot of money to make, people spend 80% of their time in 4 apps and 99% of apps have less than 2000 downloads. Ask yourself seriously, will your app be in that 1%? IF you do decide to build an app, these guys know what they're doing.

Solve for a Business Objective

Design campaigns to resolve a specific business challenge just like you would on any other media. ‘Social’ or ‘engagement’ objectives (likes, comments, shares) have no correlation to sales.
Measure to learn and improve. Commit to a study like Millward Brand, DLX to evaluate the business impact of the campaign.

Build Branded Memorability

Make it easy for people to recognise your brand by developing a consistent look, tone and feel across all your communications. Don’t change your tone of voice just because you’re on social media.

Also stand for something more than just your product features, and have that highly visible across all your communications. Persil’s ‘Dirt isGood’ is a great example from a big brand, but even small companies can have a social or community angle.

Smart Media Matters

Optimising for reach improves return on ad spend by 70% or greater. The greatest creative in the world can’t do its job if your target doesn’t see it. If you’re a FMCG brand for example, CMI guidelines recommend reaching 50-70% for your target audience (>10% of the population) 1-2 frequency a week for 6-12 weeks. Campaigns that follow these guidelines can see a 3X sales uplift versus those don’t.

Evaluate Work in the Way your Consumer will See It

This is bloody obvious, but it’s amazing the number of brand managers or even agency account handlers review work on the desktop as that’s the way they’ve received it. Always look at the creative work on a phone rather than on a giant screen.

Photo and Video Creative Considerations

Grab attention in the first 3 seconds – User data shows that, on average, you have 3 seconds to grab the consumer’s attention before they scroll on. Do everything you can to grab attention at the outset, and don’t leave your reveal to the end like you may do on your TV ads.

Video Length

Ensure your film is only as long as it needs to be. If your message is engaging in the first 3 seconds and relevant to the viewer, independent data say there is a high chance they will watch on. On mobile, you aren’t tied to 15, 30, 60 second lengths but this doesn’t mean you should create long form films for the sake of it. Be honest with yourself. Would you watch the film in your busy day if you weren’t being paid to do so?

Optimise for Sound Off

Most video on feed are watches with the sound off. Don’t relay on sound to tlel your story. Rely on visual or use captions to communicate your message.

Alternative Video Production

Consider cinemagraphs which use largely static images that use a bit of slow pan/scroll to give it movement. There are loads of great online tools out there to create slick videos, like Offeo.

Develop Picture Posts like you do Posters

Your posts need to be as striking as possible to stand out amongst the noise of not only competitors and other content, but also their friends’ posts. Use visuals to do the talking and make it as impactful as your poster or print advert designs (considering the size of screen and amount of text). We only need to see an image for 13 milliseconds to identify it.

Mobile Marketing Strategic Tips

1) Target Using Personalisation at Scale
Harness the unique power of Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat targeting and insights to make the campaign sharply relevant but still reach large audiences of the right people.

2) Exploit a Mobile’s Portability
Time, Location, Temperature. Create messages that are relevant at a certain time in a certain place or at a certain temperature and run them at the right time in the right place.

3) Consider your Consumer’s Device & Bandwidth
Smart phone? Feature phone? 4G? 2G? Avoid videos for feature phones and markets for low bandwidth. This should be a consideration for websites anyway, as Google penalises for slow loading assets on websites. Consider alternative formats like Slideshow or Carousel format to tell the same story.


None of the creative guidance will help if nobody sees it. Organic reach is truly dead and ‘viral’ success is a pipe dream, so make sure you use paid media on your social media posts. In short, make sure you grab attention in as little time as possible so that even if your consumer sees it for a split second, they’ll at least have taken note of the brand, and hopefully your product will more likely to be front of mind when they come to a buying decision.

Written by Jag Singh, Growth Hacker,


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