Jan 19, 2022

Episode #29: Why Incrementality Is Like Heaven

Is incrementality the answer to mobile marketing measurement’s crisis?

Let’s be honest: mobile marketers exist on last-touch attribution, whether they’re using GAID, SKAdNetwork, or probabilistic methodologies. But declining signal on iOS has led some to suggest that incrementality is the answer. And there is a place for it.

Today’s guest Moshi Blum of Beach Bum (owned by Voodoo) has been there and done that, and he has the scars to prove it. Armed with hard-won knowledge gained from leading user acquisition at Viber and being a country general manager for Adjust, Blum shares what he’s learned about incrementality and measurement with hosts Peggy Anne Salz and John Koetsier.

Plus, Blum gives us his three tips for mobile marketing success in 2022.

And we see the youngest mobile hero ever: Golan, who’s 4 months old!

29 min
John Koetsier: How is incrementality like heaven and maybe a total failure at the same time? Hello and welcome to “Mobile Heroes Uncensored” where our super-smart guests give you cheat codes for growing mobile apps. My name is John Koetsier, my co-host is Peggy Anne Salz. And today, we're talking about incrementality. And apparently, it's kind of like heaven but also somewhat hellish at the very same time. Plus, we're also going to chat about what to do when incrementality fails, and a ton of other insight on measuring mobile growth campaigns. Peggy, who's our expert?

Peggy Anne Salz: Expert is the right word, John. We couldn't do it better. Our guest today is VP of marketing at Beach Bum, so a games company, but also a frequent keynote speaker sharing his first-hand insight on UA. And he's seen it from all sides. So not just marketing, John, he was head of UA at Viber before taking the position of General Manager, Israel for the mobile measurement company, Adjust, recently, of course, merged with AppLovin. So UA, growth hacking are the focus, but his chief talent is telling us the hard truth about app marketing, what it takes to succeed. That's probably why he compared it to heaven, and that it's not possible to reach it. Welcome to our guest, Moshi Blum, great to have you.

Moshi Blum: Guys, hi. Pleasure to be here.

John Koetsier: Super happy to have you. It is late where you are and where Peggy is and you are watching a couple of kids, so we're going to try and do this fairly quickly. If they come in, just say hi, introduce them to a global audience. All good. No worries. We're working at home. This is real life. Let's start here. We're going to dive into incrementality. We're going to dive into why it's heavenly or hellish or whatever. We're going to dive into a lot of other stuff, but let's start here. What are you doing right now? You've had a crazy interesting career and why is what you're doing right now awesome?

Moshi Blum: All right. So today, I’m the VP of marketing for a company named Beach Bum. Beach Bum is a game publisher and incubator. And we take evergreen games such as Backgammon, Spades, Gin Rummy, and we are now launching our domino app. And what we do, like, we put the special spice that we have to kind of make the game more engaging, make it more exciting for our users. And we are very good at it, apparently.

John Koetsier: Excellent. Excellent. I'm glad to know Beach Bum isn't about swimwear. That's what I was thinking. Or maybe a surfing company or something like that. You do make games. That is good. Now you went from growth to measurement to getting back in the growth game. Why?

Moshi Blum: So when I was at Viber, I was fascinating about how to, you know, how to track my campaigns, how to make my marketing work, and how can I leverage all of the tech tools I'm using at the best way to create the ultimate growth pack, right? And then I thought to myself it would also be like a really good way of getting into the business and learning what others are doing, how others are creating their growth stack from scratch. And the best way is just, like, to get on board with one of those ad tech companies, and Adjust were there for me. I enjoyed working there. It was a unique opportunity to see what others are doing and to kind of talk with, I would say, ex-colleagues and now potential clients in understanding what their needs, how are they thinking for the same ideas and the same concepts that I was placing when I was the head of acquisition in Viber.

And it was fascinating, you know, and it was actually expediting my knowledge and my experience. Not only dealing with what I do but talking with hundreds of times and see what they do. But, you know, when time passed and I kind of felt a little bit nostalgic about what I'm doing, and every time that I was talking to a new client I would say, “Well, I wish I was in his place. I wish I was in her place.” Right? It's that time when you’re kind of thinking, “Well, maybe I should come back to my natural place.” And an opportunity occurs. And one of my best friends actually moved to Barcelona to join Scopely. And he was the VP of marketing at Beach Bum. He called me and said, “Well, I have this amazing company and I can kind of fix you my job if you want. And I really want to fix you with my job because I want somebody to lead the company to great achievements.” I met with the team. They were fantastic. And so far it's been an amazing experience in Beach Bum.

Peggy Anne Salz: Well, we love having you in growth, Moshi, because you've gone full circle and you've seen a lot, and you've done a lot. Now we are going to talk about incrementality in a moment, but I want to just look back because it is January, it is the beginning of the year, Q1. We had an incredible 2021. What were some of the biggest changes for you in the last year?

Moshi Blum: Besides switching from ad tech?

Peggy Anne Salz: Besides switching. Tell us more about the hands-on marketing challenges.

Moshi Blum: Actually, one of the things that I felt that I'm missing out is the iOS porting, right? I know that everyone is looking about this like amazing obstacle or great obstacle, I would say, and wished that it was never there. But in my opinion, it's like it’s a disruption event in the marketing system. And I thought that I knew stuff about it because I was sitting in Adjust learning about…

John Koetsier: Insider information.

Moshi Blum: Yes. Every bit inside of what we can do and how we can deal with it, and talking internally with Apple, talking internally with Facebook and Google, understanding what their solutions are all about. And clients were starting to ask some questions. So you need to speed up your knowledge very fast. And one of the thing that I was missing is that, well, I have this amazing knowledge about how can a perfect solution to the iOS porting would be, I need somewhere to implement this solution.

You can ask my team. But one of the main focuses for 2021 is actually tackling the scheme, tackling the events, understanding how can we actually make it work or make it work again for our Apple marketing activities, for our iOS marketing activities? And it seems like we are on the right track, or it feels like we are on the right track. I'm happy to say that I think that we kind of made a lot of progress into kind of addressing it. And, you know, I think that if you asked me like half a year ago and now, I'm feeling much more comfortable in buying iOS traffic and in making it work.

Peggy Anne Salz: So can you lift the lid a little bit on your strategy for dealing with this in 2022?

Moshi Blum: As a performance-driven marketer, I can tell you what's going to happen. I can tell that we will try everything. And everything that shows some vital signals of opportunities, that's where we're like we're going to dig in, and that's where we are going to kind of make the most out of it. Or starting by spreading very thin and wide and then understanding where the potential in every game, and from there dig into what counts and what makes impact.

If you ask me specifically about where's the potential that I can see now, I've definitely said that, you know, iOS users are there to be found and to be bought in very sophisticated ways. I would say that's another thing that is very exciting about it. 2022, from my point of view, is predictive LTB Modelling, which is something that we are experimenting and something that, I would say, have a lot of potential and a lot of future. And, you know, recently we were acquired by Voodoo, and that opened many opportunity for us. And it's like a small or medium-sized developing company meeting the giant or the leader of the hyper-casual industry. And, you know, it's very interesting to see the collaboration and the synergies that our companies, as a casual game developer, and a company can do with the power, the methodologies, and the experience that we have in the publishing world.

John Koetsier: Love it. I mean, that's obviously part of a big theme of 2021 as well, right? All of that consolidation, bringing that first-party data together, being able to do cross-promotion over a wider suite of apps, right? So there's a lot going on there. I also love what you said about the changeover, you know? Deprecation of IDFA, iOS 14.5 and 15. In a disruption is opportunity if you're able to seize it, right? So that's really cool. Now, we wanted to talk about incrementality. In the pre-chat with Peggy, you kind of said that incrementality was sort of like heaven. How come?

Moshi Blum: Well, I didn't say it was like heaven, I said we can compare it to heaven, right? In a sense that everyone is speaking about it, but no one know how to get there. Everyone wants to get there, but I don't think that somebody was there to kind of speak about it and went back to kind of teach everyone how to get there. It's much more of a concept more than a reality. To kind of get there I would probably need to kind of go with you to the journey I had with incrementality, which started back in 2016 when we were developing our first campaign with Viber, our first big campaign with Viber.

And we had like a lot of money and we said, “Well, we are going to explode and it's going to give us a lot of advantage over our competitors.” And we spent that money, and what we discovered eventually is that, you know, when we increased the…although we increased the spend, we didn’t increase the number of users. And then like, you know, how it can be? It's, I guess, everything that we know, everything that we learned, and everything that we knew so far. And then like after exploring a little bit of it, I kind of discovered the fact that some activities were cannibalizing other activities. And then it took us into a long journey of understanding what's incremental, what's not incremental, how to calculate it, how to kind of measure it in the context of installs, right? And I think that back in 2017 to about 2018, I had a series of like lectures about incrementality. It was nice lectures. One of them actually was recorded by Adjust and made me half-famous I guess.

John Koetsier: Everyone's famous for 15 minutes.

Moshi Blum: Yeah, 15 minutes of glory. That's correct. But, you know, in a more, I would say, mature approach to it, and over the fact or over the experience that we had with trying to understand how to calculate it, or bring it even further from installs to revenue, from revenue to paying users, from paying users to actually understanding how much a dollar that I spend on Google or Facebook or Apple or any other networks is actually contributing to my bottom line of profit. That's something that I found absolutely or almost impossible to get. It's one thing to try to understand your incrementality when it comes to installs, it's a whole lot of things to try to get your incrementality when it comes to revenue because you can say that installs is something that solely depend on your activity, on the marketing activity.

And maybe it's true, maybe it's not true, but you have your value of channels, which are in cooperation with your CRM team. And you have your branding activity, which is maybe part of your marketing or not part of your marketing. But more or less that's something that you're responsible for. But when you take it one step further into incrementality of revenue, it becomes more complexity, like much more complexity, 10 times more complexity because, you know, app is not something that is constant. It's very similar to a living human being or a living creature. Everything is changing all of the times, all its departments including their work. You have your R&D fixes, you have your R&D development, you have your product mini-games, you have your product initiatives, you have your CRM personal offers, and CRM activities.

And each one of those activities is impacting the revenue or the users of behaviour in a certain way, right? Most of the times, or a lot of the times you can kind of maybe isolate the specific impact that you have in a certain period of time, but you won't be able to do it over a longer period of time in order to kind of get all the attributes, the revenue correctly to each one of your activities. And when you look at it from the marketing perspective, right, your Facebook campaigns, your Google campaigns, you can say, “Well, those are the ones that generate more revenue than others.” But that will be a little bit of a lie because you don't really know what the users have done, or what the users did, or what the journey that the user made in order to kind of make this purchase and this revenue stream. And most of the time, it's not going to be just seeing my creative. It's going to be a lot more than that.

And therefore, it's super challenging. And, you know, Peggy said that a lot of marketing that she was speaking with talked about how they want to invest more in incrementality over the next years. I would say, well, yes, of course, do that. It's very important to kind of make an impact with your marketing, but don't count solely on that, or don't make it your sole goal, that can be very disappointing to the point of like impossible to make it happen.

John Koetsier: I really like that perspective actually. And I was kind of preparing a little bit to argue a little bit with you, because I've seen some interesting things on incrementality. I've seen what Maor Sadra is doing with INCRMNTAL, for instance. And he comes out of the ad network world, doing some interesting things. But I love the way that you're positioning it, it’s not a total failure but it is very challenging. And if you have other sources of data, so on Android, obviously you've got very, very granular sources of data, still on iOS, you still have deterministic sources of data. You still have, with modelling, very good data on what's actually going... It's limited, it's more limited than it was, but it is deterministic, it's available, it's right there. And it's, you know, very hard to introduce fraud into that equation. Not impossible, I've seen it, but it's hard. So that is really neat.

And then adding some of the flavours of incrementality around there, especially as we move a little farther, maybe Android gets a little harder to measure along the lines of iOS 14.5 or 15, maybe, you know, as third party cookies are going away and other things like that, and happening in different realms for more and more privacy, it becomes more and more important. But layering in multiple forms of measurement including your spend and all that stuff seems to make a ton of sense. And then having the incrementality stuff that just is kind of like a second guess, a second check, are we insane here? Are we not? And maybe even doing some intentional tasks like, I'm only going to do this campaign for a while, I'm only going to do that one for a while, and just see what happens. That seems to make some sense. Is that what you're talking about?

Moshi Blum: So first of all, let me put it very straight that like, you know, incrementality is a competition to some of the last-click-attribution model, right, that we are having always. It's like a different way of measuring stuff. And maybe it will contradict everything that you found with your attribution, with your last touch attribution system, right? As you said, it's a different way of measuring your performance in a different scale and with different tools. That’s for sure.

Now, I agree with you that in today's world, which, you know, we no longer have user-level data, in which like, you know, if we used to talk about multi-touch attribution models or metrics now, you know, it's long gone, right? No one is sharing. And even if they are sharing, you don't have anything. Even if you have something about attribution, it's not going to be very accurate due to the privacy thresholds. My baby is crying. That's…

John Koetsier: Okay, go ahead. Go ahead. We'll take a little break. Who are we looking at right now? Who is this growth marketer?

Moshi Blum: His name is Golan. It’s a mountain in Israel. And he is four months old.

John Koetsier: Wow, amazing. Youngest ever mobile hero, Peggy.

Peggy Anne Salz: Yes. I was just going to say that. And just adorable with the little ears.

John Koetsier: Yep. Yep. Awesome.

Moshi Blum: All right. Let's me see if I can make it happen. I would say like this, right? First of all, let me be straight and say that incrementality and last touch attribution is competing with each other. It's not something…or they are both ways of measuring impact of your marketing and spend-in marketing activities. But, you know, measuring it with each one of those systems can bring you to totally different results.

Secondly, I would say that, what other companies are doing, and you mentioned Maor Sadra for a reason. I think that he's the closest one to reach incrementality, and to reach acquisition of reaching there or making it work. However, I would say…let me be very accurate here, that, in my opinion, measuring the bits and bytes of every campaign, the bits and bytes of every creative change with a measurement of incrementality is impossible. In my opinion, it can be a measurement of whether it's good or not, whether I'm on the right position, or on the right direction or not, but trying to take incrementality and make it in the sub-campaign level, in the creative level, whether my green creative is better than my blue creative or not, that's something that is almost impossible.

Peggy Anne Salz: And he agrees.

John Koetsier: Golan agrees.

Moshi Blum: Maybe that's the first time that we are bringing a mobile hero here.

Peggy Anne Salz: Okay. You lay it on the line, it is not easy to do incrementality. But if someone still says, “Hey, I like a challenge, I'm going to pursue it,” what would your suggestions for that be?

Moshi Blum: So definitely, you know, definitely explore incrementality. Definitely think about ways to kind of measure your campaigns, measure your installs, make sure that you're increasing the number of installs with every campaign that you're making with every budget that you're spending. That's for sure, right? And there are some easy targets that you can kind of find and then measure your incrementality. For example, Apple Search Ads. It’s really, really interesting because you can understand why that's a challenge to incrementality when you're searching your own brands, when you're searching your keywords and those ads are competing with like the first top couple of organic results.

So, you know, over there, it's a little bit more easier than other sources to kind of measure your impact and understanding whether you're spending, you're buying your own traffic or whether you're spending, you're defending your branded keywords or maybe you're just making yourself a new install that would never have arrived the other way around. And, you know, that's a start, that's where you can kind of find incrementality.

And by the way, I don't know if you ever saw it, but there are some activities which you can absolutely see the incremental impact that we have. For example, when you're launching a new application, you know, if you just put the application on the store, nothing will run. You will not see even a single install. And the moment that you start spending, you actually can see that you're building more traffic and actually some organic traffics are also coming into the…organic installs coming into the application. Or if you're opening a really good campaign, you can see the trend, you can see those organic installs rising up or piling up. You can see the installs in total or the total installs that you're having with the application piling up and actually understand that this campaign is very incremental.

So what I'm saying is, like, don't try to kind of find incrementality where it's hard to get it, just do your work amazingly well and incrementality will come. Or you will see or sense this incrementality when you’re actually there.

John Koetsier: I kind of love that because, you know, when you're launching a new app from time to time, and that's a great time to just look at, is this particular traffic source incremental? I'll just start a campaign there for this brand new app. And you're not testing on every app and a mature app that has 5, 6, 15 different sources of traffic and users coming in. That's really quite smart.

Okay. Briefly, because we know that you've got a very small mobile hero that is waiting for your attention right now, what are you doing at Beach Bum for measurement right now?

Moshi Blum: So we use last-touch attribution. And to maybe take a Winston Churchill quote and put it into use of attribution. Like last-touch attribution is the worst kind of way to measure your marketing campaigns, except all other metrics of measuring your marketing campaigns, right? And, you know, we do look at, what did you create by the end of the day? How much did you increase the share of users, the share of paying users, the share of our first-time depositors? Both of those are being accounted when we are kind of analysing our campaigns, but most of the time it's just like focusing on what makes the difference or focusing on the sources that perform well according to our last touch attribution.

John Koetsier: Wonderful.

Moshi Blum: Yeah.

Peggy Anne Salz: Good lessons there. I do want to just zoom out a little bit to you as a person, right, VP of marketing at a games company. What's your favourite game?

Moshi Blum: Oh, my favourite game? Mobile game or like just game? Mobile game. So I love Brawl Stars, by the way. I have like eight years old son now, he was six when he started playing Brawl Stars. And I had to show him that his father was something. So I started to kind of play myself and like teach him some tricks and some tips in order to kind of be better at the game, and then I fell in love with the game. And you know, by Brawl Stars, I actually understood how Supercell is doing it amazing work.

I'm a big fan of Supercell. I would say that's the one studio that I have to give credit. They can stand up above everyone else in what they do, in the way that they design their games, and the way that they design their, let's say, marketing, but it's not marketing, it's more of an influencer marketing. And I think that they do an amazing work, you know. I've been burning from what they're doing in their games and suggesting them to what we can do in our games.

John Koetsier: Wonderful. So we know where Moshi is going next. I mean.

Moshi Blum: But I'm not going anywhere. I think that Beach Bum is an amazing place.

John Koetsier: I was just joking.

Moshi Blum: The other thing that I would try to do is maybe turn Beach Bum into the next Supercell.

John Koetsier: Oh, great answer. Great answer. Love that answer. Excellent. Last question. We know you've got to go. Your top three tips mobile marketers in casual games heading into 2022? Top three tips.

Moshi Blum: I don't know. I don't know. Try to make an impact. Don't go where everyone else was meant. Make sure to kind of do everything that you do in a data-driven, in an experimental way so you can kind of actually understand that what you did made the impact and not other things did. And I would say that there is a place to be more sophisticated in the way that everyone is using or everyone is doing user acquisition, whether it's in iOS or team creatives, network buying, Google, Facebook, TikTok, everything can be…you need to just find the right…or you need to explore the system, find its weakness or find its potential, and then you can kind of find places where no one else has been. And there you will strike. That's what I'm thinking. And I think that's like…try to learn because, you know, experience and knowledge can go a long way.

John Koetsier: That's the hacker marketer right there. The hacker marketer. Find that spot, find that weakness, find that…

Peggy Anne Salz: That sweet spot.

John Koetsier: …virgin territory. That's excellent. Thank you so much, Moshi. We know you've got a very young mobile hero waiting for you there. It has been an absolute pleasure. Great insights. Great time. Really appreciate it.

Moshi Blum: Thank you. It was a pleasure. And hopefully, I will be invited again.

Peggy Anne Salz: Absolutely.

John Koetsier: Maybe with a slightly older mobile hero with you.

Peggy Anne Salz: The eight-year old one. No, I'm just kidding. No. Absolutely.

Moshi Blum: Next generation. Yeah.

Peggy Anne Salz: Great. I love it.

Moshi Blum: All right, guys. Take care and good night. Bye-bye.

John Koetsier: Thank you so much.

Jan 12, 2022

Episode #28: Top 3 Tips for Growing Your Mobile Marketing Career

Everyone wants to grow. Today we’re learning from an expert, Vishal Korlipara.

Vishal leads growth at Future, the fitness startup, and has held roles at Morgan Stanley, Credit Karma, and Intuit. He’s essentially not just a growth expert, but an expert at ending jobs successfully, transitioning to new roles successfully, and initiating new stages in his career.

Hosts John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz chat with Vishal about ending well, when to switch jobs, how to start well, and Vishal’s unconventional but clearly effective top three tips for advancing your career in growth marketing in the coming year.

28 min
Vishal Korlipara: The growth space is very specific, but it's like, hey, what are the channels? What are our efficiencies? What's our CACs? What are the LTVs? What's the LTV by CACs per channel by device? Kind of learning this stuff very quickly. What ads are working? Let's do a whole inventory of what ads are working and not working. What have we tested? Then you put this is in a list. Prioritize your plan going forward with what is the biggest gaps and maybe things you want to fix. What is working really well? How can we lean into that stuff? Then you kind of start making a plan, 30, 60, 90. And how I like to do this personally is I use the ICE framework.

John Koetsier: What is the best way to quit, change, and start jobs in mobile marketing and user acquisition? Welcome to "Mobile Heroes Origin Stories" where we go one on one in-depth with mobile marketing experts. And today, look, let's just be real. In tech, we change jobs like some people change underwear. Hopefully not us, hopefully not you, maybe not quite that fast but pretty fast. Question is how do you do it effectively? What are some tips for making a job change successful? Today, we're chatting with not just a Mobile Hero but also an expert at starting new jobs, ending old jobs, and transitioning. Peggy, who are we chatting with?

Peggy Anne Salz: Well, we have Vishal Korlipara. He is a two-time Mobile Hero, John, which is a first on our show ever because he's coming back. Today, he heads up growth at Future. It's a health and wellness app that brings human connection to digital personal training. And before that, he was featured as a Mobile Hero in 2019 long before our show, but they had some great heroes. He's back, as I said. Back at that point, he was in a marketing role at Credit Karma. Then the company was acquired by Intuit, so he took a senior role there, loved the challenge. A few months ago, he made his move to the fitness industry. So, we've got someone who's gone, I guess you could say, from financial wellness to health and wellness. So, welcome, Vishal. Great to have you.

Vishal Korlipara: Thank you, Peggy. You are way, way too kind, but I am happy to be here.

John Koetsier: We're happy to have you. Let's start here. Why can it be a good thing for people to change positions frequently?

Vishal Korlipara: I think for me, the number one thing is personal growth. I think a lot of people try to bucket everything into career growth. For me, more than anything, it's continuously being challenged and trying to be the best version of myself. I think a lot of people will stay with something, a specific career, or path, hobby, and just continue doing it without progressing because it's easy, it's comfortable. It's within your comfort zone. I think most personal growth comes when you're outside of your comfort zone when you're learning, trying new things, pushing your personal limits, so, yeah.

John Koetsier: Is there a downside to switching pretty frequently?

Vishal Korlipara: I think there can be, depending on how you do it and the reasons why you do it. I think if you're getting let go quite a bit and changing in that regard it's probably not a good thing. But if you're building relationships and doing it in a way that's, you know, the right thing, and it feels right, and you're not leaving people stranded in a bad spot, I think it's definitely okay.

Peggy Anne Salz: So, you're switching, you're changing a lot. It's about personal growth. How do you actually end a job successfully? Because there's an interesting point, John, I was just reading an article about this, how do you end a job without upsetting your boss and burning your bridges? So, there's an art to this.

Vishal Korlipara: Yeah. And this is where I think there is a little bit more of an art than a science to this, but I think relationship-building is probably the most underrepresented skill to have in modern-day tech companies. I think we put a lot of focus on skills, actual hard, tactical skills. When it comes to building relationships and getting buy-in from your leaders, their leaders, people below you, it takes a certain amount of actual personableness and learning and meeting people at a human level.

Everyone has KPIs, everyone has goals, everyone has targets. If you're leaving and putting someone in a position where your team can't cover or you're not going to succeed because you're leaving and you're kind of just saying, "Okay, I'm out," that's not the right thing to do ever. If you're like, "Hey, we're in planning mode, and there's a lot of stuff I want to do that I know I'm not going to get to do in this next season," or next, like, seasonal peak, whatever it is, I think it's an okay time to make that transition.

What I do, and I think I do a good job, hopefully, my bosses if they hear this will agree, is I try to make real relationships with people I work with and my bosses, I try to definitely look out for them as much as I hope they're looking out for me. So, when I leave, it's not a, "Peace. I'm out. This was a pretty miserable experience." Usually, I'd say, "Hey, here's how I'm feeling. Here's what I'm looking for. If we can’t make it happen here." How can we do it as a collaborative effort on what I'm looking for normally, and they kind of know when it's coming. It's not a surprise at any time. And then it's, "Hey, here's our KPIs. Here's our goals. Here's what I'm going to do for a successful transition. Here's a transition plan that I'll try to backfill. I have people I know. How can I get people to replace me? How can we hire people up with a lot of potential to fill this role?" There's a lot of stuff like that that goes into it that's not thinking about, hey, how do I be the best growth marketer. It's also how do I be a good employee and a good person in these transitions?

Peggy Anne Salz: I think that's incredible, John.

John Koetsier: I love that.

Peggy Anne Salz: I was just going to say getting a backfill plan in place and everything, it's like easing someone into the idea. It's not just, "Hey, 30 days notice. I'm out of here, guys." And also trying to say sort of like, "Hey, you know, didn't quite work out. I want to grow in different ways." It almost sounds like really like a relationship. I think I've had dates like that, but...

John Koetsier: Hopefully not recently, but I agree with that. I think that's very cool. I think that's awesome because I think that it can be the right thing for you for a while and then you need to move on, and that's totally fine. And you shouldn't be stuck someplace where...you know, and stuck is a word that maybe I shouldn't use either. But you shouldn't be someplace where you're not being the best person that you could be, the best employee that you could be, but you should also have those great relationships. It's great to be talking to an expert on this. I think I'd done a couple things right there because I've been rehired by companies that I've left. So, maybe I've done something right there, so that's good. But let's talk about starting. Starting is also important. What do you have to get right in the first 30, 60, 90 days of a new role?

Vishal Korlipara: Yeah. I think this conversation could go on for a little bit probably, but honestly, I'll start with the very first thing which is actually before 30, 60, 90. It's like by the time you get an offer or you're transitioning to a new role in the same company, you have to really know the org structure of where you're going in my mind even before you get there. I think the most critical thing is to get early wins and, like, really hit the ground running. It'll build confidence in yourself at an early stage. You'll feel good about yourself right away. You won't be digging out of this idea of tactical debt is what I call it where you're trying to constantly prove yourself.

When you come in and know here are the decision-makers, hey, is the CFO in charge of budgets? Is it the CMO? Who is responsible for our landing pages? Do we have the tools necessary to do it? Is it me? Is it outsourced? Then you can come in, audit all the stuff that you're trying to do. And the growth space is very specific, but it's like, hey, what are the channels? What are our efficiencies? What's our CACs? What are the LTVs? What’s the LTV by CACs per channel by device? Kind of learning this stuff very quickly. What ads are working? Let's do a whole inventory of what ads are working and not working. What have we tested? Then you put this is in a list. Prioritize your plan going forward with, what are the biggest gaps and maybe things you want to fix. What is working really well? How can we lean into that stuff? Then you kind of start making a plan, 30, 60, 90.

And how I like to do this personally is I use the ICE framework. I don't know, it's really, really basic. You can Google it. It's like impact, confidence, effort, you rate them on a scale from one to five, sum them up, and that's your ICE score. Sort your list by this, and then, all of a sudden, you have this priority list of, okay, now I know what's the biggest impact, easy to execute, start just knocking these things out, and then finding the resources, navigating the team. These are all really tactical things.

I think the other main thing to do with your 30, 60, 90 is get to know... And I said this earlier and I keep kind of reiterating. In this virtual world specifically that we're living in more and more, getting to know people outside of just your job responsibility is essential. At Future, we just had our first work offsite with our whole marketing team. And if you were A/B testing team energy before and after, it's like, you know, now we all know each other and we can relate. It's not just this request for this creative or this, you know, whatever it is. It's not like a tactical resource, you know, based thing now. It's like, "Hey, we have a relationship. We know who each other are," invest in that early. And you can do it via Zoom. Make your first one-on-one. Make, like, 25%, 30%, 50% of it about, "Hey, what do you do? What are your hobbies? What is your passion? Where did you come from? Where did you grow up?" You'd be surprised what you get to know about people, and that's kind of how you get to start, I think, a lot of your times at new positions in new companies.

Peggy Anne Salz: I’m blown away by this, John.

John Koetsier: Go ahead.

Peggy Anne Salz: I was just going to say, though, you know, such a plan. I mean, right there, it's like life coach here. But I have to ask, where do you start your research? When you say you come into the company and you know, is the CMO or CFO in charge of budget, I mean, that's not something I'm going to find in LinkedIn necessarily. So, can we step back to that prep? Because that's a great tip. Where do you find this stuff? Unless, of course, you’ve got some private detectives you're paying, I don't know. But, no, seriously, though, because it's a lot of research, a lot of legwork.

Vishal Korlipara: Yeah. And so I think there's two parts, and it depends on the role and what you're doing. If you're going within companies, you should have some idea, I would hope, of what's happening already and you can kind of navigate that. But when I joined, my current boss, great guy, Brian Han, I basically reached out to him via LinkedIn to even, like, start talking about this role. And before that, I asked. I was like, "So, who are the people I need to talk to to get to know?" And he would actually happily set up meetings for me to start meeting people.

You know, within the interview process, I think the standard interview now, you meet three to four people on the team as well. And so right there, you're kind of getting to know people, navigate, even this interview process. At this point, you have four people within... If you're a startup like I am, it's like a pretty big portion of the entire team. And then at this point, I hope your manager is willing to do this. If they don't see the benefit in getting you introduced early and often, might be almost a red flag, to be honest with you. Because it almost is like they're either too busy, which means when you join, it's going to be a little bit chaotic for you, or they don't care about you spreading your wings and growing within this org. And so I think for me, lean into that.

And I wouldn't say it's a complete red flag, like, they should avoid that rule. What I would say is don't be intimidated. Go to LinkedIn. It's not hard now to go be like, "Okay, Future Fitness, Growth, CFO, CMO." Set up a meeting. Say, "Hey, I got the job offer. Really curious to see what you're doing, how I can help. What can I learn? What can I bring to the table?" Usually, anyone at your company should be willing to work with you in that way and learn and talk to you about stuff.
John Koetsier: I like that a lot, and it speaks to the fact that when you're being interviewed, you're also interviewing, right? And you're interviewing them, and you're understanding them, learning from them. What I was going to say earlier, Peggy, as you said as well, I love that we're having Vishal here. I love that we're having this conversation. So often in mobile, in marketing, in ad tech. We're talking about the numbers, we're talking about optimization, we're talking about the money, we're talking about many other things, and all of those matter. But the personal relationships are the critical factor that helps people be successful in roles, be successful in teams, and be successful over the course of a longer career. I'm really glad we're having this conversation.

Peggy Anne Salz: Absolutely. And so tactical, you know? I hate to say, but there are Mobile Heroes we've had on the show, John, I haven't even gotten around to thanking them so much for the time they spent, and, poof, they're gone, right? You know what I mean? It's not even a six-month period that I'm far behind in my email, but, you know, it happens. And this is such solid advice to do it in such a way that it's productive, it's positive. It's growth in the truest sense. It's personal growth.

John Koetsier: Let's move here. So, you're moving quite frequently, sometimes you're not. Sometimes you stay in a position for a long time. Are there reasons to stay with the same company for a long time, even maybe in the same role for multiple years?

Vishal Korlipara: So, yes, I do believe there are reasons for this. I think I'll put this as generically as possible. I think everyone has different things that suit them. So, if you are someone that loves the corporate environment, loves big business, and loves growing in that way in their corporate ladder and want the longevity to move up in that way, I think it's essential that you do that. If you don't, it's really hard to grow into a C-suite at an Intuit or something like that. I intentionally have been a startup guy. You know, I was at Morgan Stanley early in my career before I decided, hey, I did not want to do that, got into something a little more interesting and a little bit more...I don't know what the word is, but a little bit newer, a little bit more interesting, a lot to learn. And I recently was like, hey, I've never done big tech. With this Credit Karma acquisition we went through with Intuit, I was like, "This is a great opportunity to go try a big company," you know, a little bit more of a senior level. Let's see what that's like. I've been pretty tactical on the ground growing things, like, actually building things for most of my career, and I was like, "Let's see what it's like."

What I learned was that it's a different skill set at these companies. And so longevity matters because, for them, there's an element of persuasion. And I don't want to say these are the politics because it's kind of negative, but it's like the more you know someone there, the more you're able to move resources around, which to me is how those businesses work. And so longevity matters because people will know you, will have confidence in you, etc.

But if you go to a startup, I think the biggest difference, it's not really about how long you've known someone. It's about the numbers at the end of the day, and it's kind of survive or die, right? Like our company, it's like every quarter matters right now. Like, it really, really matters. I was going to get a little bit explicit there, but, yeah, it matters. And for us, I love that about the startup. I love that, hey, I go in, I can bring a certain tactical skill set, I can bring certain experience, bring this to the platter, and now, all of a sudden, we can apply this to a different product and see what we can do with it. And there's a lot for me to learn in a different industry. It's not like it's cut and paste, right?

And so, yes, there's a room for it. I think a lot of people do it. I have people I know at Credit Karma that have been there for 10-plus years. And so I think there is room for it. And someone who's junior...I think this is the other element. I still haven't started my own company or gone to that level yet of being an early founder, which I think is something in my future I would love to try to do. I think you stick with it for sure at that point, right? But someone that's still learning and trying to grow, still, like, rounding out his skill sets, I think it doesn't have to be that way, essentially.

Peggy Anne Salz: I was going to ask you what's different about each, but you jumped right in there, and it's fascinating. It's like this longevity to get to C-level, and you can just feel a little bit of the grind there. So, that's part of the answer, you know? When you're a startup, it's fresh. Every quarter is new. Every quarter is a new chance to evolve. Looking at all of your roles that you've had, and they have been a number, I didn't know about the Morgan Stanley, what's your personal accomplishment or frustration you have experienced, and what's it taught you, both at the startup, maybe, as well as the C-level or more senior level? You haven't had C-level yet, Vishal. That's in your future. Senior level.

Vishal Korlipara: Oh, hopefully. Hopefully. We'll start with the harsher one first, I guess. So, you know, I think the corporate... For me, I really care about results, and I'm a very competitive person in that way, I think. And what I found was in a corporate environment, results actually can be secondary sometimes to ego. And I hate to be that guy, but it feels that way at times where it's like, hey, the more senior you are, the more your opinion matters and results maybe don't matter as much, to the point where you might be working in the dark. You don't have attribution figured out. You don't have budget sorted in a way that's consistent and normal. That, to me, can be frustrating.

In the startup world, I think everyone in the startup world can relate to this, it's like a love-hate thing with the grind and the kind of...the hustle, right? It's like, hey, it's exciting, it's new, it's fun. When you get that round of funding, everyone's celebrating, but you're also living stressfully, right? When a budget changes, you're like, "Hey, I've been building this whole marketing plan to this moment," and it's like, hey, we got to turn this off for a little bit because money's low, etc. That's like the worst feeling, right? It's all this work you're putting into something, and then all of sudden you have to pivot. You have to be okay with pivoting. If you're not okay with it, the startup world is not for you pretty much. And so those are my frustrations.

The benefits are corporations, man, I'll tell you what, corporations, you live a good life, and I mean that positively. Like, you are working your hours, you're going to get paid above average most likely at most corporations, and you're going to have job security, just to be honest. I think those are good things, and I think a lot of people seek that, and that's okay. The good thing with startups to me is the momentum and, like, that kind of visceral feeling of momentum in growth where you're excited. You wake up, you're like, "Hey, what's going on? What's new today? What's happening?" Like, everyone has that same kind of collaborative feeling as well, and so that's cool to me, like, and I actually love that.

John Koetsier: I can see both those things. I think there's also a personality piece to it. I mean, if you're the person who likes to do one thing and focus on it, then there are slots in big companies for that. If you're a person who likes to do multiple things, and I get bored by this, so I turn to that, and then I get bored by that and I turn to this, well, guess what? In a startup, you're going to wear three or four hats and you're going to have to do three or four things and maybe even more than that. Let's turn here a little bit and talk about that point of transition. When do you know that it's time to go, and how do you know, "Actually, I need to stay?" How does that thought process go?

Vishal Korlipara: I think it all comes back to the personal challenges, and I think that's what it comes down to. So, I'll use Credit Karma as a perfect example. I had a lot left to learn within Credit Karma, but the role I was in specifically was kind of getting emerging verticals off the ground. Me and Peggy actually talked about this. So, there were some cool things around org structure, like how do we do a growth pod with branding growth marketers working together. That was a really cool project. But it kind of came to a point where the decision was now should I just pick a team and go a little bit more senior and stick to this team, and kind of do what I was doing but just go a little bit more in-depth with it a little bit and kind of commit to one specific vertical. And it was out of this role of kind of doing a little bit of everything. And at that point, I realized that, okay, I could do this here. I've done it. I have great connections. I love everyone I worked with there. But, like, I could also try going senior somewhere else at a bigger company and also try to apply my knowledge at a different level and see what happens there.

And to me, it was like I'm going to be learning a lot more about myself and about a different position in my industry by doing so, and that's kind of the decision I made. So, it was, like, really about personal growth. Like, where am I going to be maximizing my learnings? That's such a growth marketer thing to say, but it's very true. And when to stay, I think you know when to stay. You don't even think about it, right? It's like, hey, I'm happy, I'm content. It's exactly where I'm at, like, right now. It's like you wake up fresh, energized, you’re challenged, you're learning, and that's it. I don't have, like, you know, a qualification method for that, but I think you should know when you feel good, you're in rhythm and stuff. That's where I'm at.

Peggy Anne Salz: And you didn't just move on. It was just about personal growth. I mean, you literally moved. You left the Bay Area, right?

Vishal Korlipara: Yeah. Well, so my story, and just, like, this is the interesting thing.

Peggy Anne Salz: Okay.

Vishal Korlipara: So, I was in Atlanta. In Atlanta, I was, like, grinding startups from, like, the beginning. I even, like, started my own digital marketing agency at one point. A lot of failures, not going to lie to you guys. I failed, like, three startups. None of them actually turned into anything significant. So, during the third one, I applied to my alma mater's MBA program, got into that. And I sat down, and I was just like, "Do I want to be in Atlanta with an MBA kind of grinding startups here," like, you know, "Is this work, like, putting myself in the best position?" And at that point, I said, "No, I don't think so." I was like, "Let's go to the Bay Area. Let's figure out what... You know, let's go to, like, the epicentre and see what we can do there."

And then from that point, I got there, joined Credit Karma... I was super, super lucky I got to join Credit Karma. Then went to Intuit, which was a great experience. Intuit was in-person in Mountain View. Upon leaving Intuit, Future was fully remote. So, I have now given up my lease. I'm actually travelling, a completely remote nomad. Now, if you want to talk about challenges other than career stuff, it's travelling living out of a suitcase which you have to learn and you adapt to, but that's, like, another personal thing we can get into. And so that's kind of where I'm at now. And so it's a fun life, and it's fun and exciting.

John Koetsier: It reminds me of the Steve Jobs quote where he would say to himself...he'd look in the mirror every morning and he would say, "If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I'm about to do today? And if the answer is no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something." And that kind of gives you a clue of what's changing. Boy, living the digital nomad life while also doing the startup life, that's a lot of change and that's a lot going on.

It's coming near the end of the year here and maybe transitioning into 2022. And Peggy and I were chatting about New Year's resolutions and stuff like that. You're doing a fitness thing. Talk about what you're doing right now, what the challenges are there, and what you're learning about growth in your new app.

Vishal Korlipara: Yeah. So, it's a great segue. So, talking about New Year's resolutions, number one, I actually...not going to focus on fitness this time for the first time because since a month before I joined the company, like I told you, I tried to get invested, I actually bought into Future the first month I got involved and I loved it. Like, I actually haven't missed a workout in, like, four months or something crazy like that. And I'm not, like, bragging about our app, but, like, that's literally what we did. So, for me, I don't have to think about that. Maybe diet or something I should think about, or settling down, who knows, but that's on the New Year's resolution.

At Future, for me, there's a lot of challenges. And so, number one coming from fintech to fitness, they're very, very different spaces. I'll give you a really specific example to illustrate this. At Credit Karma, we had a bunch of free users. When I say a bunch, there's, like, 100 million-plus, right? To get these users, it was like how do we get them in the door, and then our product delivers immediate value? How do we retain these users? And LTV came from giving them really targeted offers, right? So, the goal with growth was two parts. One was new users, the second was onboarding them to our sub-verticals, which is our mortgage product or our auto product, etc., which we can then upsell.

Now, going to fitness, it's very different. So, we go from ads that are, hey, get your credit score for free. Free, free, free. Everything's free. Now, we're actually selling a high-end product with an elevated brand that people are going to come to for our brand and feeling good about themselves, and it's a whole different experience. The people are different, and the margins are very different. And even the CACs are incredibly different. And so when you're working with 100 million data points versus whatever small amount we're working with, it really changes how you test, how do you learn fast, what are the proxies, how do we get smarter, how do we get really niche, and our creative has to be super on point. It's very different challenges in that way. So, that's one challenge.

The other challenge is, honestly, just a high-end brand... Well, I kind of mentioned this, but a high-end brand versus a low-end brand. It's, like, not low-end but one for the masses and one with how it is. How do we price our stuff? It's like what do we price it to? Right now, we're pricing it as high-end. Do we change our pricing structure, introduce new products to actually reach out to a bigger audience, which is something I'm bullish on in 2022. There's a lot of things we're going through right now, and so, yeah, it's fun.

John Koetsier: All right. Very cool. That's awesome. Well, this has been very interesting, and I love talking about some of the interpersonal and also career-type stuff of growth marketers. We can't let you go. We ask all our experts for three actionable tips, and here's the question we're going to ask you. What are your top three tips for growing your career in 2022?

Vishal Korlipara: Very, very relatable. And so I think one is, I hate to say it, don't focus on promotions. Iif you focus on promotions, you're just going to set yourself up for failure because once you get a promotion, you're not going to be excited. That's not how the world works. Be excited in what you do, and then that will translate to growing in your actual personal career.

Second is I didn't realize this until later in my life, but it's align your passion with the industry you generally care about. So, for me, fintech was right where I needed to be, being kind of not the most successful yet, figuring out my finances. It was a really cool place to learn about it while also bringing people to it. Now, fitness is exactly the same thing. It's like I coached basketball, fitness was always something I cared about, and so now it's aligning perfectly with my own personal motivations as well, as well as bringing people to it. So, that's like the second thing.

The third thing is I'm going to say this one because it's kind of different, I think, is don't get fixated on this brand versus DR versus all this kind of internal growth stuff people talk about. Like, it just doesn't make sense. We're all one team trying to grow something together. And if you don't have a brand team that supports you and you don't have a growth team that supports your brand, no one is going anywhere. So, learn to build bridges. Learn how do we make everyone happy and how do we make it work. Use data as your guiding light, right?

Peggy Anne Salz: That's awesome. That's like the world according to Vishal, and I really like it. It's got a personal touch, too, which makes me feel good. Because I'm usually, like, the warm and fuzzy person in the room, you know, talking about teams and things. It's like, "Yeah, well, you know..." But, no, this is part of it. This is part of what you need to strive for. So, thank you for that reinforcement. There is a place for all of this. It's all about collaboration, understanding your coworkers, having vision, doing what you love, passion. There you go John.

John Koetsier: Absolutely.

Peggy Anne Salz: That's why we're here, right, John?

John Koetsier: Absolutely. That's why we do it with you.

Peggy Anne Salz: Absolutely. We get to talk to cool people like Vishal. So, thank you.

John Koetsier: Cool people like Vishal and others as well. If you want to be on the show, hey, you know how to get in touch with us. Thank you so much, Vishal. It's been wonderful.

Vishal Korlipara: Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Dec 29, 2021

Episode #27: 3 Ways for Mobile Marketers To Win in 2022

We have had a year. In some ways an awful, horrific, challenging year. In other ways a crazy, wacky, but growth-filled year. What happened? What did it mean? And, more importantly, how will mobile marketers achieve massive growth next year in 2022?

In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored, hosts John Koetsier & Peggy Anne Salz chat with Shamanth Rao, who has led growth for games leading to acquisitions by GSN Games, Zynga, and GameLoft (!!!). He now runs Rocketship HQ and might just possibly have a podcast that maybe potentially a few people might listen too. (It may or may not be called the Mobile User Acquisition Show.)

We rant and rave about the highlights and lowlights of 2021, then get Shamanth’s top 3 tips on how to win in 2022.

25 min
John Koetsier: So, we thought 2020 sucked, and then 2021 happened. And the pandemic didn't go away, and ATT dropped, and Apple canned 420,000 apps from the App Store. 2021 is almost over, and we're going to wax a little sentimental or maybe cry a little bit about the year that was, and look forward to the year that is coming. And, Peggy, who are we going to cry into our beer with?

Peggy Anne Salz: Well, we certainly need it, John. When you rattle that off, it sounds like one of your upcoming science fiction books, you know, like, “This couldn't have happened.” Yes, it did. And we're going to talk about the highlights with Shamanth Rao. He is the founder and CEO of RocketShip HQ. And if you don't know it, well, hey, maybe you should because it's a full-service growth marketing agency that helps top grossing games and breakthrough B2C apps grow sustainably.

And he’s the man for the job as well, as he has also led growth leading to three acquisitions. We're talking about Bash Gaming by GSN Games, PuzzleSocial by Zynga, FreshPlanet by Gameloft. And if that wasn't enough, John, growth is also the focus of the podcast he hosts. So he's one of us. He hosts “The Mobile Acquisition Show.” So, we…

John Koetsier: Never heard of it. Don't mention it.

Peggy Anne Salz: Never heard of it, no.

John Koetsier: Not a thing.

Peggy Anne Salz: It’s major, it’s epic. So, here we are, and here we are with Shamanth. Great to have you. Before we deep dive into 2021 and some of the disasters, but the highlights, how was 2021 for you, Shamanth?

Shamanth Rao: Well, it was intense. It was quite a roller coaster, right? I think it was a lot of figuring out of what to do post-ATT, post-April. I think, pre-April, there was a lot of speculation about what it could be like. We knew the theory of what ATT would be like. A lot of the speculation was about what the practice would be like. And post-April, it was like actually adapting to what was happening with all the privacy thresholds, the censorship web flows, and all of the stuff we've done to really adapt and adapt to ATT. But really, ATT has been the big thing all year.

John Koetsier: I almost feel bad about it in some ways, because I feel like, I know Android is like 80%, 75% of the globe. And we keep talking about iOS, iOS, iOS. And of course, you know, I live in North America, Peggy's in Europe, you're in Europe, I believe, so we're kind of Western-centric, in some sense, where iOS has its strongholds. But I feel bad for Android. And I feel bad for Google. Maybe they're very happy to not be the topic of the conversation.

Shamanth Rao: Yeah. No news is good news.

Peggy Anne Salz: It could change in 2022, though, Shamanth. I mean, there are signs, so.

Shamanth Rao: Yes and no, right? So, there certainly are signs, but a lot of folks we work with have been more or less business-as-usual on Android. Certainly, there's been more spend that’s diverted to Android. But, John, I think you mentioned this when I spoke to you on our podcast, which was like, the important thing is that Apple is not an advertising business, and Google is. So, Google, while they want to change aspects of the landscape, they have their privacy sandbox, they have FloC, they're not going to upset the applecart in a way that completely jeopardizes ads in the way that Apple has done.

John Koetsier: I think you're right on that. And you're 100% accurate. There's a vested interest that Google has. I'm actually doing my predictions post, my famous predictions post for 2022 right now. I have literally got submissions from about 500 CMOs and UA specialists and everything. And one of the predictions is that FloC 2.0 will come out and it'll be topic-focused. And so we'll see how that goes.

There was a lot of pushback on FloC, Federated learning of Crowds, when it came out, because it seemed to privilege Google, obviously. But we'll see how that goes.

Let's talk about some of the topics that were really big in 2021. And maybe some that weren't and might be in 2022. There's been a ton of ad tech consolidation and aggregation. So, kind of in a revolution what an ad network looks like, feels like, what it encompasses. What's going on there?

Shamanth Rao: Yeah, definitely right. And we've definitely seen, just on the buying side, we've seen a lot of spend shift towards some of the bigger ad tech players that are not Google and Facebook. And just that's, I think, driven just sheerly by the consolidation that you're speaking of. And that is really on account of everybody realizing the value of first-party data, because you can't track IDFA and say, “Hey, this particular user, John or Peggy, made a $500 purchase,” you can't do that. But you can still say, “John or Peggy, who's in our network of 50 apps, made a $500 purchase,” right? It's still a valuable piece of information.

Definitely we’re seeing consolidation of first-party data. And I expect that sort of consolidation to just be a virtuous cycle that continues to build on itself.

John Koetsier: Little hint here, I'm not done compiling. I'm literally 1/3 of the way through all the submissions I have. So, yeah, I have lots of data crunching due in the short few days that remain before the Christmas break, which I plan on taking, Peggy, and you do too, that's an order. But first-party data seems to be kind of the winner right now of things to focus on in 2021.

And, Peggy, if we look at the landscape, I mean, ironSource has bought Upopa, SuperSonic, Soomla, Luna, Tapjoy, Bidalgo, Aura.

Peggy Anne Salz: And they’ll be in AppSumo, that's one of my former clients.

John Koetsier: Absolutely. We’re doing this for Liftoff. Liftoff and Vungle came together. Vungle had already bought a few things like GameRefinery, JetFuel, AlgoLift, TreSensa. AppLovin is out there, right? Lion Studios, MAX, SafeDK, Machine Zone. Members of Machine Zone, how massive Machine Zone was in the day, right? It’s still big. Adjust, a billion-dollar acquisition, right? Which had bought acquired.io. MoPub, a billion-dollar acquisition that just happened, right?

Digital Turbine bought AdColony, Fyber, Appreciate. Unity has even bought companies. And Unity has so much organic growth because they control so much of the development stuff.

I mean, this is a new world that we're entering. And what I'm trying to figure out right now, Shamanth, is this good for marketers? A. And is this good for users? Is this good for people like us?

Shamanth Rao: Well, I would say it's different for marketers and different for users, right?

Peggy Anne Salz: Can’t pin you down on that one. So, you’re right, it’s different.

Shamanth Rao: Always the diplomat, right? But, you know, just to elaborate, right? And I feel like I've been in a lot of behind-the-doors conversations on this. When I say it's different for marketers, it just means it's much, much less of being what I called, you know, the kind of person that I would call an Excel person or Excel monkey, if you wanna speak of it that way. I consider myself one, so, I don't consider that a pejorative term.

So it's less of being super analytical, super deterministic, if you will, and much more about stepping out of the almost-certainty, near-certainty that the MMP-driven world offered for close to the last decade, and just being comfortable with understanding that you don't know what the actual truth is. You're going to have to be more touchy feely, if you will, to understand what true incrementality is and make your peace with the fact that it's not going to be exact.

John Koetsier: Mm-hmm. Peggy, I had to think of one of my favorite “Lord of the Rings” quotes when Shamanth was answering, it's different. The quote is this, from Tolkien, “Go not to the elves for advice for they will say both yes and no.”

Shamanth Rao: That's a good one. Yeah.

Peggy Anne Salz: That's a good one. That is really good. I have to follow up, though. Because you said, you know, is it good? Well, it's different, right? Let's talk about games marketers, though. We've both been out there talking to people. I've been at conferences. It's a very different landscape. And there's a lot of confusion. What happened there? Can you maybe give me a view into what that means? When we look back, are we going to say, “This is when you didn't only just have to face the consolidation?” I mean, it's confusion, really.

Shamanth Rao: Yeah. Yeah, I would say games are hit harder than some of the other verticals. And I would say, somewhat well-driven games, games that have relatively low payer percentage have been hit harder, just because, for those apps, it's just harder to isolate conversion values with the nuances of Apple's SKaN, the way how SKaN works. So games have been hit harder.

What also makes it challenging for games is that networks like Facebook and Google also have their own behind-the-scenes setup. Because of Apple's privacy thresholds, conversion values get obfuscated. And I think, John, this may have been in a webinar that you and I were on that I shared how some of the folks we work with saw like 2,500 CPA, 3,000 CPA, right? And those are obviously not real, right? That's just because Apple is obfuscating so much of conversion data that you just don't know what is real and what isn’t.

John Koetsier: Exactly. Essentially, you have to turn to modeling in that case, and then you can get some version of reality that allows you to proceed. That was really interesting. That was a super interesting period of 2021 for me, when people were just adapting. Some people had gone all-in in SkaN and just gone wrong. Some people had said, “No, no, no, I’ll do it when I have to,” and were scrambling.

Everybody was just kind of confused. And you were seeing these massive CPAs, these massive CPIs. And the ones that had faith that, in spite of the data craziness that I'm seeing and kept spending, actually told me they got a discount on installs on iOS, because money that wanted to be measured went to Android, and people took a while to get going on iOS.

Shamanth Rao: Yeah. Right. But it took a certain level of bravado, if you will. Bravado, foolhardiness.

John Koetsier: Faith-based marketing.

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah. Faith-based marketing.

Shamanth Rao: Marketing to go all in on something that you weren't sure was going to come back to you.

John Koetsier: Yep. One thing I have to, and I'm going on this, Peggy, for a bit, so forgive me about this consolidation. One thing I'm trying to understand is if this is good for marketers, it can mean fewer partners, that can be a good thing. I mean, if all else is equal, fewer is better, right? It's less overhead, it's less maintenance, it’s less back-and-forth, all that stuff. So, that's a good thing. It could also, I'm wondering, I'm going to ask this, Shamanth, does it mean less layers in the ad tech stack?

And I say that because we've seen studies over the years where, you know, how much of every dollar spent by a marketer actually goes to putting an ad in front of somebody's eyes? And we've seen some really scary numbers there like 50 cents, 30 cents, that sort of thing. Because you’ve got ad networks, you got to exchanges, you got SSPs, you got DSPs, you got retargeting, you got on-device, you got mediation, you got agencies in there, you got measurement that's costing something as well. You have a lot of those little bits and pieces that everybody wants, it's like the mob, right? Everyone wants a piece, right? Where's my piece? Is that a potential benefit?

Shamanth Rao: You know, that's a good analogy. And I would say, again, yes and no. Yes, you’ll have fewer people in between, you know, but you're going to reach…the accuracy of your targeting, you're going to reach users that are much less precisely your ideal users, right? Yeah, so the accuracy of your targeting is so much lower. So, I don't know if fewer middlemen or middle people actually makes a difference.

John Koetsier: Also, because I think the price goes up. Facebook has very few layers between the advertiser and the actual consumer, but it's still very expensive.

Peggy Anne Salz: It’s just worth, in a day, very expensive. It's just going to be making some people happy.

Shamanth Rao: Yeah, they got their quarterly numbers to hit.

John Koetsier: They do. And that's a good segue, because we should talk about who won and who lost in 2021. In terms of the platforms, in terms of ad networks. You already mentioned that some of the midsize players, especially the ones that were consolidating, aggregating, have done better, and I've seen that in the data as well. Who else has done well, and who's maybe failed a little bit?

Shamanth Rao: I think, you know, definitely the ad tech networks have done well, as we talked about. Folks have moved more budgets to influencers. That's certainly a sector that's done well that we've seen. Web-based flows have definitely done well. And, again, I would say, when we've done web-based flows, that's been through Facebook and Google. So, certainly, those dollars have gone to Facebook and Google, but as a strategy, web-based flows have continued to do well.

Yeah, I think those are the things that come to my mind, top of mind. Curious what you guys are seeing.

John Koetsier: Yeah. Peggy, I mean, maybe be cool to hear what you have to see here as well. I mean, I think Google did well because intent is still strong, right? Search really did well, even though there was a lack of data. I think Facebook had a significant dip in the middle of the year, but I think they figured it out.

And I'm just speculating here, I have no insider knowledge, but it may have something to do with the return of Apple casting applied eye to fingerprinting. I'm just guessing, although Facebook doesn't return data, it does get data. Snap had a tough time, right? Snap, it impacted their quarterly numbers, right? But I think the biggest winner is a fruity company in Cupertino, Peggy.

Shamanth Rao: Yeah. Yeah.

Peggy Anne Salz: I do watch a few of the other things going on, because I look at the now, but I also look at developments in 2021. And, you know, maybe it's the same for you, Shamanth, but when I would talk to marketers, and I would say, where are you putting your money? Where are you placing your bets? It was the usual suspects. And I heard some new names in that group, right? Everyone was talking about TikTok.

I just talked to a company that sells bathroom ceramics the other day, right? And it's like, “We’re in TikTok,” and I'm thinking, “What can you do? What dance can you do to show off a toilet?” I won't go there. But…

John Koetsier: Oh, Peggy, wow. You cannot drop that grenade and walk away from it. Peggy, the toilet dance has to be…

Shamanth Rao: Yeah. Yeah, John would be surprised, yeah.

Peggy Anne Salz: I still get known for that. I was keeping with the Rolodex, John, it was bad enough. But, you know, TikTok and the most amazing apps, the most amazing scenarios. And you have to also look at Reddit, you know. We're all very empathetic, we're very concerned about being in the right conversation the right way. You've got, you know, all these apps you wouldn't expect, looking at that as a platform. So, you saw this come up.

John Koetsier: And Reddit…

Peggy Anne Salz: Yes.

John Koetsier: And Reddit is a very good example of something that Eric Seufert has talked about, content fortresses, right? Reddit closed the doors. Reddit said, “Hey, if you wanna access our inventory, come in through the one door.” It's kind of become like a Facebook, and that's interesting. That's something that we've seen as well, Shamanth.

Shamanth Rao: Yes. I would also say Reddit… So, I think it's interesting to look at how Reddit has approached it versus TikTok. TikTok has been very direct response-friendly. They’ve been open and receptive to our feedback. They've had a sit-down with our product teams, they’re like, “Make things work.” Reddit has not quite been as friendly to direct response.

They're like, “Give us your dollars, see what results you get. We don't care what happens in between.” So, it's interesting to look at how both these platforms have approached direct response. I'm not claiming direct response is the only game in town, it's not.

John Koetsier: Ooh, love that insight. I really love that insight. And that rings really true. I mean, where does TikTok come from? It's doing it from China. What happens in China? Influencers selling online, live streaming retail, right? Well, guess what? That's coming to TikTok, that's in Amazon, Amazon Live has that right now, that's going to be big in the States, I think, as well, to some extent.

But Reddit is, famously, kind of old school internet, right? Don't market to me, don't grab my data, and much less friendly to that. So, that rings true. Very interesting.

Well, maybe what we should do is turn our attention to 2022. It's just around the corner. We're recording this on December 17th. We're all planning and prepping for a little bit of break. Hopefully, everybody's going to get a little bit of a break at the end of the year. What do we think is going to be big in 2022, Shamanth?

Shamanth Rao: Well, definitely, you know, iOS 15 exceeds increasing adoption, I would say. So, definitely, things will settle around all the new features around iOS 15. So, I think, definitely, custom product pages, product page optimization. My first look at both of these, I haven't been super impressed. But I think we will see more ad networks figuring out how to work with these, how to play with these. So I think that's definitely going to be a big one, right?

What's also true is, I think, John, you briefly alluded to this, which is probabilistic fingerprinting, call it what you will, continues in 2022. As of today, it's still around and available. I'd be very curious and interested to see what happens with that in 2022. I do think we and Apple, I think, they will just get a lot more clarity around SKaN, just because I think the privacy thresholds have been a mess.

I think we talked about how the theory of SKaN is not quite, to say this, the actuality of it, which has been one of the most frustrating things about it. So, I think, really, at the very least, I expect we'll all understand what the hell the rules of the game are.

John Koetsier: Yes. We'll know more, we’ll be smarter. Hopefully things will be clearer. Hopefully Apple will iterate on SKadNetwork, and there'll be a few more bits and pieces in there that marketers want. And I think what you're also referring to is ATT, right? I mean, if somebody says no on ATT, it doesn't mean they're not tracked anymore, really, because of fingerprinting, essentially.

And so, my personal thinking is that Apple has realized that FIAT is not going to work there, and they're just going to have a technological solution around what you were talking about, iOS 15 Private Relay for people who are paid iCloud members. So we'll see how that goes.

Peggy, this has been quite amazing and quite interesting. And it almost didn't happen. This has been an odyssey to get you [inaudible 00:20:21] it is our third try. And I think now we’ve actually nailed it.

Shamanth Rao: Yeah.

Peggy Anne Salz: True. He's there, we brought him on the show.

Shamanth Rao: Yeah. We made it happen.

Peggy Anne Salz: I was thinking, my prediction for you, Shamanth, actually. I was thinking that, speaking, again, I went to a conference, I went to two conferences this year, and I was going to go to a third, but it's been moved out to February, out to March.

John Koetsier: Super spreader Peggy.

Peggy Anne Salz: No, that’s me, that’s me. I was checked before, after, during. I was never so healthy in my life as I was during this period of time. But all the marketers are like, “Hey, you know what, we can do more marketing of our app. We have pages, we have presentations, we have, you know, we have ways of reaching the customer differently.” So, I imagine, you're going to be overloaded with work, Shamanth.

Shamanth Rao: Kind of good problems to have back there for now. I think, yeah. Good problems to have. I'm not complaining.

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah. Also changes the balance a bit out there. We'll be talking about some interesting topics next year around what do you do when you can actually be responsible for your advertising and for your sort of your, you know, beyond ASO. So, anyway, we'll see him again, John. He won't be that busy, we’ll find time.

John Koetsier: We’ll find him time, absolutely. But this has been amazing. Well, we can't let you leave, because we have to ask every single person. It’s a rule, it's law. And it's literally written in the statute codes of something. Top three tips for mobile marketers in ’22 from Shamanth Rao.

Shamanth Rao: Yeah. Number one is, focus on incremental impact. That could be blended numbers, that could be just spreadsheet-based incrementality models. Or if you have fancy data science-based models, use that. But focus on incremental impact, number one.

Number two, focus on retention and lifecycle marketing. You guys just a retention podcast. So, yeah, I'm preaching to the choir here. But for everybody else, I think acquisition has just been so top-of-mind for everybody. Really, I think, figuring out email experience, really optimizing them, getting all the juice out of that, I think is going to be critical.

Number three, web-based flows. I think I've very briefly touched on that. But really, everybody we've worked with that has grown month-on-month post-ATT has leaned on web-based flows. Not going to say that works for everybody, not going to say it works for every vertical. But I absolutely recommend everybody, at the very least, test it.

Peggy Anne Salz: Interesting.

John Koetsier: That is interesting. That's another [crosstalk 00:22:54] dropped on the floor right there, right at the very end that everybody who's seen growth through an ATT has utilized web-based flows. Wow.

Peggy Anne Salz: That's huge. That’s huge, actually. That's the highlight. Do we have him back just to talk about web-based flows?

John Koetsier: We're going to have him back now.

Peggy Anne Salz: We have to. We’re going to have you back. You won’t have much [crosstalk 00:23:14] We’ll have a little break, we'll let you go. But no, we have to go into that. Because we do, surprise, surprise, sneak peek, we do have incrementality nailed on this show. We will be dedicating one show just to that.

John Koetsier: Yes, we are. Well, you know, we really have to dedicate more than one to really nail it. But I'm super pumped to get to that one. I mean, we just had a masterclass right here in how to get invited back to the podcast by Shamanth Rao. I mean, like drop a bomb that last second.

Peggy Anne Salz: At the last minute, literally right before the end. “Oh, and by the way,” and then that’s it, yes. We have your knowledge bomb. We are going to be back.

Shamanth Rao: Wonderful.

John Koetsier: Shamanth, thank you so much for this time. This is literally, as we've said, our third try. And I was late to this, and you hung around, so, thank you for that. It's been such a pleasure. You do amazing work for the industry. And thank you for your time.

Shamanth Rao: Thank you. Thank you for having me. Thank you for your patience, and the hardware recommendations, and all the good stuff.

John Koetsier: Excellent.

Peggy Anne Salz: Excellent show. Great insights. And yeah, you're coming back, so I won't say goodbye. Until then.

Shamanth Rao: Yeah. I will see you guys around.

John Koetsier: Awesome. I will say one more thing. Hey, Peggy and I love shining lights on people who are doing amazing things, probably very much like you, you know, and I'm talking to everybody who is listening or watching right now. If you are doing something cool in user acquisition, in mobile marketing, in other areas like that, we wanna talk to you.

Hey, reach out. Peggy's around, she's available. I'm around, I'm available. You may have sent five LinkedIn DMs, you know, because we don't check them every single day. But we wanna hear from you and we wanna have you.

Have a great day, everybody. Have a wonderful break. I hope you can get a break, and also a wonderful 2022.

Peggy Anne Salz: Absolutely. See you on the other side. Have a great break. And see you in 2022.

Shamanth Rao: Enjoy, everyone.

Dec 8, 2021

Episode #26: Mobile Gaming Trends for 2022

How do you win in the most competitive space ever: mobile gaming? Well, you track 250 different features and components of games and see which ones tend to influence success.

In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored, Peggy Anne Salz & John chat with GameRefinery’s Head of Analytics Joel Julkunen. He’s not just a gearhead: he’s the former archery champ of the Finnish Air Force.

More importantly, he’s constantly tracking all the variables that go into mobile gaming success. And, of course, sharing that with us in MHU. We chat NFTs (hate ‘em? love ‘em?), we chat genre mashups and casual/mid-core crossovers, we chat social features, and of course we chat battle passes.

30 min
Joel Julkunen: You must find your own unique angle. It doesn't mean do something that nobody has done before, but do something that the data tells you that would be a good bet, and then give it your own unique twist, I would say. And that's the hardest one, I would say. That's the hardest one, but that's important, okay? Of course.

John Koetsier: How can you win in mobile gaming in 2022? Games are, of course, super interesting. They're kind of the canary in the coal mine. Change in innovation in mobile seems to happen fastest there. We're seeing mashups, we're seeing NFTs, we're seeing crossover tactics to and from casual and strategy games and other genres. We're seeing all kinds of innovation in measurement and monetization to enable growth in the era of App Tracking Transparency. We're going to dive into all of that with an expert today. Peggy, who's our expert?

Peggy Anne Salz: We're chatting today, John, with Joel Julkunen. He is the head of analytics at GameRefinery, so the data guy there. And GameRefinery, of course, provides feature-level analytics, market insights, benchmarks for the mobile gaming industry. As I said, he leads the analytics department there, so he's deep down in the data. But he's not just deep down in the data, John, because he's deep into gaming. Because what they do over there is they play and analyze games to figure out the features that are the winning features. He's done, of course, over 500 mobile games, played and analyzed them, but he's also, interestingly enough, the former archery champion of the Finnish Air Force, so he should hit the mark. Welcome, Joel. Great to have you.

Joel Julkunen: Thanks. Thanks, Peggy and John, and thanks for the introduction. That was great details there.

John Koetsier: Welcome. I mean, sheesh, wow, I guess you play games for a living. It's got to be easier than the Finnish Air Force. But there's probably some work in there as well, all of this analysis. Joel, let's start at the super high level. What's changing in games this year and into 2022? We're seeing these mashups, we're seeing collectibles, NFTs, ATT. What are the big changes coming?

Joel Julkunen: Yeah, there's, like you said, a lot of changes in 2021, and I would say on a high level, the biggest ones would be the rise of the live-ups, in general, then the kind of mashups of casual and mid-core genres becoming closer to each other in the spectrum of simple games and complex games. And then, of course, I would say, like, a bigger ever-emerging trend of social features taking place across all the genres in a more complex manner than before.

Peggy Anne Salz: So, you talked about some of the drivers. You know, it's just these mashups, these mix-ups. Things are changing, but what do you mean, first of all, by mashups? Let's try and unpack that.

Joel Julkunen: Yeah, yeah. Mobile games are special in that sense that we are seeing a lot of genre mashups, meaning that let's say we have a match-three game which is mashed up with RPG so we've got a puzzle RPG, or we have a driving game that has RPG elements. So, game developers are all the time coming up with different mixes of genres. And it is actually interesting in a sense that in mobile game world, the same features and game mechanics can be found in mid-core games, hardcore games, and casual games. And by kind of mixing and matching the best-proven mechanics and feature combinations, developers are able to find totally a new feel to their games. Kind of mixing up proven concepts of all that the players love and coming up with something new with them as a kind of result of these mashups.

John Koetsier: Peggy, it's like our just previous interview with SocialPoint. We were inventing games on that podcast, actually. We were mashing them up live, and we didn't even know it was a thing.

Peggy Anne Salz: We probably started a trend, actually.

John Koetsier: Don’t know about that.

Peggy Anne Salz: But it's really interesting if you think about it, John. This is a way of widening the net and sort of powering a different type of UA, and we'll get to why because one reason's, of course, tracking transparency. But, in a way, it powers a different UA. It attracts a different audience, and it creates, I would imagine, some other benefits. I mean, Joel, in your words, what would you say are the other benefits beyond just maybe some interesting gameplay and some cool titles that we're going to maybe think up here?

Joel Julkunen: Yeah, yeah. There are, of course, benefits. One big one would be if we look at player, kind of, motivations and why players play different games, their traditional view has been that if you have, let's say, a casual match-three game, you have a certain demographic that this game appeals to. And thinking about motivations, it's thinking, and solving, and kind of escaping the stressful world for a couple of seconds. Whereas if you take, like, a shooter game, the reason why people come to a shooter game might be very different.

When you have these mashups, like let's take an example Project Makeover, which was one of the best performing games in 2021, and this likely seems to be continuing. What they did, they mixed fashion games or fashion and decoration theme with the traditional swiping match-three game. What they were able to achieve by doing that was they were able to reach a broader audience, not only people who liked playing kind of match puzzle pieces and do that but also people who kind of like to be immersed to the game, like to express themselves to customizing their avatar, love fashion, love decoration, love collecting stuff. And that, we call it kind of metalayer, the fashion metalayer didn't have to break the match-three experience but it was kind of an addition to that. And by doing that, Project Makeover was not only able to reach to a new audience base based on that new motivation but also their players are already playing that game. They had the same, like, kind of motivation preferences, so there was an overlap. They did the research so that, “Hey, the players who play our game are also interested about this and this kind of collectibles and fashion.” And that also kind of increased the engagement of the players that they already had, so there's that aspect as well. So, from the motivation point of view, you are able to win in that sense.

John Koetsier: I love that. I really like that. Because there are so many games out there, you need to invent new niches, right? You need to invent a space where your game can fit. But also, guess what, sometimes, I do want that game that takes me out of the world for five minutes of fun, right? But, sometimes, I have more time and I can get more engaged, so then I can have both in the same game. It's genius.

Peggy Anne Salz: We were also discussing this offline, John, that was also interesting. An aspect of this, strategy games can be hard, right? And so you remove the anxiety by sort of giving someone a bit of a snippet that's more like a casual. It's almost a clickbait, you know? You start in a casual game, and then, whoa, you're off into strategy where it's a thinking kind of project, you know? But you pull people in, and it's kind of clever. It's really kind of clever. And I'm sure we'll be seeing more about that because there's another driver there, you know? You mentioned it yourself, and we talked about it just briefly, you know, responses to ATT, thinking of new ways to get people to do things very quickly. Because, of course, you have to measure it really fast. That window is very small. Tell me what's happening there and how marketers are approaching it, studios as well designing them, of course.

Joel Julkunen: Yeah. I mean, like you mentioned, in these mid-core games, what we have seen, they have started to implement kind of more casual features to their games. And like you pointed out, one of the key reasons probably is that since this changes in post iOS 14, it's much more difficult nowadays to find those, we call them, like, whale players. Like, the genre for strategy games like the hardcore ones, they make most of their money out of a small amount of players who spend a lot to the game. And nowadays, it's harder to kind of pinpoint those, and find those, and acquire those players.

So, one thing that games like State of Survival or Lords Mobile I think is the best example, what they have done is they have started to implement, like, more casual mechanics. Like you said, it's easier to get into the game of a hardcore, really complex strategy game, when you first are introduced to, well, simpler mechanics that kind of grab your attention. You get to know the game little by little, and then you kind of go down to the rabbit hole and see more.

Like in Lords Mobile, I think it’s actually nowadays called Lords Mobile: Tower Defense. It's already seven years old game, really, really successful for a strategy game. And now if you install the game and play it for the first time, it doesn't actually start from the strategy game core gameplay. It starts from a really casual kind of tower defense. That gameplay doesn't have anything to do with the actual Lords Mobile or the traditional Lords Mobile experience, the one where you are joining large alliances, and fighting other people around the globe in kind of huge maps, and train armies, and spend a lot of time kind of strategizing with your teammates. How it starts now is that, hey, you just put these troops into this field and it's almost autoplay, and it's really easy to get into, and then, little by little, you kind of get to be introduced to the real Lords Mobile. So, yeah, that's definitely a trend nowadays.

John Koetsier: It's kind of genius. Maybe you can have kind of the UA cost of a casual game, hypercasual game even. Get people in, get a broad array of people in, and you could still find in that mass those whales who will be incredible for you. You can't pinpoint them anymore. You can't really pinpoint them in the UA process as you could in the past. You've got to draw a wider net. Makes a ton of sense.

Peggy Anne Salz: And...

John Koetsier: Let's... Go ahead, Peggy.

Peggy Anne Salz: I was going to say and you have to be fast about it because it's that 24-hour postback. So, you need to be driving more activity in a shorter period of time. It's brilliant.

John Koetsier: Yup. You can stretch that postback period to seven days, but, I mean, that's really tough to optimize on, right? It's really challenging to optimize on. So, let's talk about NFTs. Obviously, they've exploded on the world in a lot of different ways and have caused, well, let's say differing opinions in a lot of ways as well. But there's a lot of innovation there. Dapper Labs is doing something super interesting with the NBA Top Shots, right? UFC, they've got some amazing brands there. What's happening with NFTs in the whole area of collectibles?

Joel Julkunen: Yeah. The NFTs, they are the hot topic at the moment. Like, everybody's talking about it. There's a huge amount of buzz going on. There's your skeptics saying that it’s [inaudible 00:11:55] It's not about the game, it's about making kind of quick bucks. And then there's, of course, people who see the potential and see that there is kind of a... If everything goes the way these people predict and see the world, there is the potential that it will change how players experience gaming and why they play completely. Of course, Axie Infinity, Highrise, the couple of titles now popping up, and all the big companies, Zyngas and EAs, are announcing that they are going to that area as well.

Of course, we have seen these buzzes before, like, when AR was big or when virtual reality came to the market for the second or third time. So, it's really hard to say what happens with NFTs because, of course, like you pointed out, there's still kind of, I would say, a label attached to them that it's just kind of a Ponzi scheme or people are just there to make money, trying to get those collectibles and sell it for a higher price, and none of those games are kind of showing any true innovation in terms of gameplay. Well, my view on that is that collectibles in mobile games are trending really heavily, and now I'm talking outside NFTs, like, the collectible mechanics themselves. 2021 has been a year where almost...well, most of the top casual games of different genres, social casino, board games, dice games have implemented collectible metalayers and collectible mechanics. And big ones as well like there's collectible events going on that you kind of really engage with that collectible album aspect of the game, so there's that. And people like Pokémon, people like to collect stuff.

So, it remains to be seen...I always say that if there's a game or a game company who can actually create a gaming experience and then tie the NFT aspects to that, I think that's the winning formula. Are we going to see it in 2022? Nobody knows. But at least talking purely from the collectible standpoint, the trends in the mobile game market are really heavily pointing to the direction that collectibles are the thing that people like, and they are one element that brings session-to-session progression, meaningful content for the gamers themselves, meaningful way to differentiate themselves in social aspects of any game. So, yeah, that's interesting. On GameRefinery, we'll be focusing and following that space, for sure.

John Koetsier: I sense a little bit of skepticism there but also a lot of interest, and that makes a ton of sense, right? I mean, trends are trends, fads are fads. NFTs are super hot, and also many people are dissing them. I mean, I've kind of wondered, Peggy, about making NFTs of each episode, right? Minting an NFT right here, you know? This picture, look at that smile on Joel. I mean, it's amazing. You know, NFT, boom, that's at least 10 Ether, right, Ethereum, I mean.

Joel Julkunen: [inaudible 00:15:18]

John Koetsier: So, I don't know about that, but we'll continue keeping an eye on that because, you're right, some people do like to collect stuff, and, digitally, one way of doing that is NFTs. There are multiple other ways as well, but, obviously, NFTs is a very interesting twist on collection and monetization, and we've seen Dapper Labs do that really, really well. I want to talk about social as well. Social's been around for forever, but it, like everything else intact, and especially mobile continues to evolve, you're seeing some innovation in social in gaming. What have you seen?

Joel Julkunen: Especially in casual space, 2021 has seen a rise in the amount of games adapting more...we call them, like, more complex social mechanics. And by more complex, I mean that although Candy Crush has always had, like, sending lives to your fellow players or something like that, but now what we're seeing is massive infusion of duel mechanics like teams or alliances. So, meaning, like, communities would play and players can join and then kind of have deeper engagement with similar-minded or players with similar playing styles. So, we saw that casual genres like social casino, match-three, board games, duel or team mechanics have been the biggest one.

And then it's usually also that once you implement those duel mechanics, it acts as a kind of cornerstone or foundation for other social elements like coop playing, coop competition, coop events, communal development efforts, so anything that kind of enhances the sense of community even further. So, that's what has been a big trend in 2021, and we see it continuing as we go to 2022. And also mentioning, like, hangout areas where you can just kind of not play the actual game, just meet people with your avatar and chat with them. That's something that actually haven't been yet as big phenomena in the West as it has been in the East, especially in China.

John Koetsier: I think we're hearing a mini Joel in the background talking about social.

Joel Julkunen: Yeah. Probably my daughter.

John Koetsier: That's wonderful.

Peggy Anne Salz: I was also going to say, I mean, one of the drivers, obviously, has to be the pandemic. But now that we have these elements of social, you know, you sort of wonder. Because that's what you do at GameRefinery. You look at the features, but then you think about, “Okay, what are these mix-ups, these mashups going to look like? What are companies going to do to stand out when everybody's doing this?” I mean, these are super popular features. Everyone has social. People are thinking about collectibles. And you see these mashups specifically in strategy and in social. And I just want to dive a little deeper into that for some examples of what they are, what's driving them, and, more importantly, I'd love to hear about how you're going to stand out in 2022 when everyone's riding that wave.

Joel Julkunen: Yeah. It tends to be, especially in mobile game, that when a big trend picks up, everybody's kind of hopping on the bandwagon, so how do you stand out from the crowd? That's a good question. I always say that when we talk about features on a kind of generic level, they’re not just features. They have blueprints or frameworks for some concept that you have. But your imagination is the limit that how do you then implement it? So, how do you balance, let's say, battle pass systems, or what kind of guild mechanics do you bring into your alliances, or how do you do it? Or with the mashups, you can do...a similar kind of mashup that everybody is doing, like, I don't know, mix a construction metalayer event in a social casino game. But, basically, it comes down to the implementation and innovation in that area.

So, following trends is really important and understanding the key feature is important because those are proven mechanics that players love and proven mechanics that work in your game. That doesn't mean that you have to do and balance them the same way that everybody is doing. So, I would say there is your kind of sweet spot that you listen to the market and look at the trends and what works in the market, and especially in your genre. And then you start to, you know, “Okay, how do I make this fit my game?” How do I make this, let's say, mashup metalayer to my game without alienating my current gamer base, without breaking the game so… So, there's [inaudible 00:20:14] the key to that.

And, of course, I have so many discussions with developers who asked me, “Hey, how can I differentiate in this space?” I always say that mobile games are perfect in a sense that you don't have to stick to your own genre. When you are looking at your competitive field and what your competitors are doing, don't only look at your own subgenre. Like, if you do a match-three game, don't only study match-three. Study the outer spheres as well. So, if you're doing a match-three game, study other casual games, what they are doing. Is there something that I can bring to my game? Or even go to the mid-core games like many of the casual game developers have done. Look at the other mechanics that engage certain types of players which are the motivations, and then look at your own game and look at how can I make it work here. Even better, look at the Chinese market and Japanese market. Bring features from there to West that people here don't know, for instance. That's what Fortnite kind of did when they introduced battle pass. That's actually just a variation of a couple of older Chinese monetization mechanics.

John Koetsier: Smart. Smart. So, I've heard that you track over 250 different types of features or components of games to see what leads to success. Can you give us a glimpse behind that curtain? What are some of those that you track?

Joel Julkunen: Yeah. Sure. Yeah, there’s a lot of features, like you said, 250 or so. We track almost anything ranging from, like, the really core mechanics of the game like how to play, do you play with one hand, two hand? How is the screen orientation, horizontal or portrait? All the way to social features like competitive PvPs, communal aspects true to acquirement mechanics like daily gifts, and login reward systems, and, of course, events, and everything, right? So, a lot of features. And as the system is dynamic or our taxonomy is dynamic, when we follow the market, when we find something new and exciting that we don't yet cover with our system, we then can add it to the taxonomy. Just to give you an example, I actually mentioned Fortnite. When battle pass became the hot topic or talk of the town, we were very quick to start, like, kind of following that feature, and after a month or two, all of our users got to see interesting data and insights about that feature, implementation, strengths, who is using it in China or Japan, and stuff like that. So, yeah.

John Koetsier: Nice.

Peggy Anne Salz: So, we talked about collectibles, talked about social, 250 features. You just don't even try to think that through, John, you know?

John Koetsier: It's too many.

Peggy Anne Salz: It's like that's one hell of a taxonomy. I'm just trying to imagine what it all is. But we want to talk about the future, so I want to get a better understanding of the features that are really, really interesting now, growing fast, going to be the ones that define 2022.

Joel Julkunen: Well, if I had to pick just one based on how hot it has been in 2021, I would say the battle pass system or season pass system, depending on who you ask, but mechanically it's the same. So, essentially, the one made famous by Fortnite in the West. So, basically, you have a season that lasts, like, one month. Through the season, you have tasks or objectives to do, and then you win rewards in your reward path. And then, of course, the gist of it is that if you want to get the premium rewards, usually including exclusive decorative items, or characters, or whatever, you have to purchase the battle pass with, of course, anything between $1 to $20, depending on the game. And then, of course, for that season, then you can... And you have to play then to get those rewards. And when the season ends, then a new season starts usually with the new content, with the new exclusive stuff, and you want to purchase again. So, that's the number one, and it has made its way from the mid-core or shooting games and now to all games. So, you can pick up a casual idle game and see it there. You can pick social casino games and see it there. You can pick match-three and see it there as well. So, that would be if I had to pick just one.

John Koetsier: That's a great insight. To be honest, that's one of the areas where I see stuff coming from the strategy or the mid-core level coming down to casual, maybe even hypercasual, not sure about that. And I'm like, “Hey, I hate that. I love this game. I spend two minutes on it five times a day. And, you know what, I'm just coming here for a hit of endorphins and a little break from what I'm doing, and now I have to think about it. I have to make decisions about a purchase. I have to…” you know? Maybe if I buy in, then I'm in the battle pass. I mean, it's this month or this week, and now I have to, like, you know, level up, and work hard, and, you know, earn, make it worthwhile. So, yeah, we'll see how that works. I'm sure it's doing great in terms of monetization, and I'm sure that's a great thing for some games. Others, I'm not so sold on.

However, we do have to bring this to a close. It has been amazing, by the way. It has been super insightful, really love having you. We ask every guest what are your top three tips, and I think what we're going to ask you specifically is what are your top three tips for mobile gaming marketers heading into 2022?

Joel Julkunen: Yeah. I would say, as I always say, fortunately, nowadays, everybody in the industry is following data. I would say that data is not only going to be your friend in 2022 but it's going to be essential that you follow the market. You have all the data available. Because everybody else, it's not anymore the same market that it was, let's say, eight years ago, seven years ago when I started kind of with GameRefinery. So now, that would be the number one. So, use all the data at your disposal, and, of course, use it wisely. That's one.

Then, for the marketers, if we're talking about, like, actual, like, marketing and UA function in a games company, I would say that working together with the game team, the developers, the cooperation between developers and the marketing and UA team is really important. And that's because, as we've seen, that you have to have seamless integration of those two teams so they'll both understand what they are doing. As LiveOps is really, really big at the moment, spitting out content, having these events, and then using those in a seamless way with the marketing team and with the UA campaigns, that's really important as well.

And third, I would say that even when you are following data and kind of looking at what the top games or top marketers are doing, try to find and you must find your own unique angle. It doesn't mean do something that nobody has done before, but do something that the data tells you that would be a good bet, and then give it your own unique twist, I would say. And that's the hardest one, I would say. That's the hardest one, but that's important, okay? Of course.

John Koetsier: Well, this has been amazing. This has been incredible. Really do appreciate your time. I have to ask one question. I mean, like, we said off the top, Peggy said off the top that you were the archery champion of the Finnish Air Force. What did you do in the Air Force?

Joel Julkunen: Well, in Finland, all males have to or are constricted in a way, so we have the compulsory military service that you have to…

John Koetsier: So sexist. So sexist.

Joel Julkunen: Well, there's debate on that as well, but, yeah, still, we are one of the few countries in Europe that still has that. And then you can serve in Navy, or Air Force, or the Army, and I chose Air Force. And I had some background in archery, and we had this...it was kind of a playful competition. There's no, like, official archery championships of the Air Force, but, yeah, there was this competition I just happened to...with my superiors, and that was a great day for us. We were so green. It was, like, my third week in the Army, but it was great.

John Koetsier: Nice. Well, Peggy, you fly airplanes, and all of a sudden, you start flying games, I guess, or playing them.

Peggy Anne Salz: Absolutely. It's our top gun here with our top tips, John. I had to do it.

John Koetsier: Nice. Nice. Awesome.

Peggy Anne Salz: Absolutely.

John Koetsier: Face mash coming up, by the way, on this. Tom Cruise face mash.

Peggy Anne Salz: Beware. It's coming. He means it. He means it. It's been great having you, Joel, and, you know, really telling us a bit more, shining a light on some of these mashups. They're exciting. I'd like to, you know, just imagine, John, what some of them could be. It's like that show we had where we were mashing them up in our mind and now we're being encouraged to do it even more so. I guess everything's open in 2022.

John Koetsier: Of course.

Peggy Anne Salz: Strategy comes to casual. We'll see maybe hardcore go to hypercasual. Who knows? It's all open. It's exciting.

John Koetsier: Maybe. Maybe.

Joel Julkunen: And thank you guys for having me. It was really a pleasure to be here.

John Koetsier: Wonderful. Wonderful. And next time, we have to see mini Joel, or Joelette, or whatever your daughter's name is as well. We got to see that. But I guess we'll also say is that if you are out there and you are a Mobile Hero, you know, and you should be the one we're talking to because you are amazing, and incredible, and well-spoken, and have great insights, and all that stuff, reach out to Peggy, reach out to me, and we'd love to chat with you as well. Until then, stay tuned on the audio podcast, on YouTube, and everywhere else, and thank you so much.

Dec 1, 2021

Episode #25: Learning From the “Performance Artists” of Mobile Growth

You know about growth marketers. You know about mobile advertising. But have you heard about “performance artists?” (And no, we’re not talking about weird things in off-Broadway plays or pop-up art displays.) Performance artists, Lidia says, transform KPIs into winners.


In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored, Socialpoint’s UA Lead Lidia Perez leads us through creating winning creative. Which, as you know, can make a horrible app temporarily successful, a so-so app quite successful, and a truly good app (like yours!) a massive take-no-prisoners winner.

What we chat about:
– Finding winners
– Finding losers (almost as important!)
– The right metrics to watch (top and bottom-funnel)
– And building a systematic process for designing and testing winning creative

27 mins
John Koetsier: It's almost impossible to overestimate how important creative can be to mobile advertising. In fact, any kind of advertising. Creative can make a horrible app even temporarily successful, it can make a so-so app do very well, and it can elevate an actually good app to the very top of the download charts. Welcome to “Mobile Heroes Origin Stories,” where we go in-depth, one-on-one, with mobile marketing experts. Last time, we talked about escaping creative ruts. Today, we're going to dive into creative metrics. Peggy, who are we chatting with today?

Peggy Anne Salz: Well, we have another creative expert, John. So it's worth being here for the show. We have Lidia Perez, user acquisitions specialist at Social Point. Lidia began her career in UA at From the Bench, a gaming startup. Along the way, evolved into ad monetization and into UA strategy, and she joined the Word Games team at Social Point where she drives growth for Word Life, one of their very popular games, and oversees Social Point's creative testing framework and growth strategies. So she is the woman to ask about creative.

Lidia Perez: Hello.

Peggy Anne Salz: And I'm not over-selling you, Lidia. Welcome.

Lidia Perez: Super nice to meet you. I have watched a lot of your podcasts. So yeah, it's super nice to be here. So thank you so much for having me.

John Koetsier: Hey, it's our pleasure and it's our honor. Let's start here. How do you know when you've found a winner, when some creative is just absolutely perfect?

Lidia Perez: Absolutely perfect, yeah. Okay. So here, we can say that we have a winner mostly when it beats our control KPIs. That's a good sign. But it's not enough beating the control. I mean, we have to massively surpass the KPIs. Like around 10%, 20% or better KPIs. And apart from that, of course, we need to…this creative should be able to pick up spend in the live environment profitably. So that would be a great winner. But I can tell you that sometimes we have had as well little winners. That means that sometimes it happens that we have creatives that have passed all the tests that we have in place, but suddenly when we put them into the live environment, it picks up some budget, but not enough to beat the control in this live environment. That's good. Of course, not as good as could be a winner, but could be a temporary fix for ad fatigue.

John Koetsier: Is it sometimes tough because you may have some creative that knocks it out of the park for CTR but, for whatever reason, the ROAs or ROI isn't there?

Lidia Perez: Yeah. I mean, sometimes it happens that we have found an amazing creative in terms of, as you said, CTR with amazing CPI. But when we put it in the live environment, maybe even when it can pick up spend because of this amazing CPI or CTR or install rate, suddenly we see that our retention and our ROI start to drop a lot. So this is not a winner in the end because we need to address a good balance between CPI and between retention as well. In that case, we will be speaking about a loser. But when this happens, we have room to learn from it and try to improve the KPI that is failing. In this particular case that we are talking about, the KPI that we need to fix would be retention. But at least we have a base to start working with.

John Koetsier: Makes sense.

Peggy Anne Salz: Makes sense. I also like very much that you think about the retention while you're thinking early in the funnel as well. You know, a lot of companies, they think more about the monetization and not so much about the retention. Now you have a bit of a balance there, which is really interesting. But you still have to look at the metrics. So you know, CTR, very top of funnel. CPI we discussed, important. ROAS, critical. Retention, also one on the list. So which ones matter most? You can have multiple choice if you wish.

Lidia Perez: Yeah, I would love to have amazing numbers for all of them, of course.

John Koetsier: Yeah.

Lidia Perez: So yeah. Well, let's talk about the casual game with a hybrid business model. That's the case for Word Life. I would say that CPA could be a really good indication, a good proxy, as a first indicator of success in the earliest stage of the testing process. But this is not all, as I told before. So we need an extra quality assurance, and that involves looking at retention rate. In our case, retention rate on day one, because when we have both KPIs, this will allow us to get a sustainable growth in the end. So, from my point of view, and in our experience, CPI and retention are the main ones. And, as an extra, the third one that I would like to mention as well is the spend, the spend speed, because this is critical for some partners. Sometimes, the algorithm doesn't like this creative, although it has good CPIs or retention, but the algorithm doesn't allocate the spend there or a system is low. So this speed is something to take into account as well. So those three. I think I would say those three.

Peggy Anne Salz: Okay. Limit yourself to three. Is Facebook a different case? I mean, does it require a bit more of a custom approach?

Lidia Perez: As a general rule, I would say that it depends more on the business model of the game instead of the partner where you are testing, because it could change a little bit. If, for example, we are working with a hardcore game where in-app purchases are extremely important and, for example, they don't have ad revenue. Or if we talk about the game, as Word Life, for example, that is more ad revenue driven. So it could vary depending on that, but I would say that at the earlier stage of the creative testing, when you are taking CPIs like the first feelings, the first numbers, it shouldn't vary too much. Even between different business models. But yeah, as I said, it doesn't depend that much in terms of partners.

Peggy Anne Salz: Okay. So very much on the objectives, types of game, mechanics.

Lidia Perez: Exactly. Exactly, Peggy. Yeah. That's the point.

John Koetsier: So last episode we actually chatted with your colleague, Danika, and she talked about systematizing serendipity.

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah.

John Koetsier: What's your creative testing framework?

Lidia Perez: Yeah. Well, we have worked so much on that. It's pretty extensive, but I will try to explain to you briefly. Let's see if I actually do it. Well, I will say that our creative testing framework is mainly a data-driven system, and numbers are the core of the strategy, and everybody is aware of that. Because it's not marketing only, the people involved. We have art department, we have product, and, of course, marketing. Another key point here is that we have well-defined processes such as, I think Danika mentioned last time our weekly meetings with strict agendas. We have delivery schedules that we have to meet, and we have learning tracking tools because we manage a huge amount of information, and if we don't track it, it's extremely difficult to move forward and to learn from our mistakes or successes. We have customized and automatic reporting, as well, as a supporting tool, readable for non-analyst and analyst people.

We have visual clues, a lot of stuff here in our creative framework, and I would say that the main advantage of having such a structured machine, let's say that, is that it's easier to carry out a retrospective basically and identify the weak and the strong areas. But still, creativity is key in our process as well, but what changed is the way that we apply this creativity. Performance artists need to use creativity to transform KPIs into creative winners.

John Koetsier: Peggy, that's the first time I've heard, in this context, performance artists.

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah, I like that.

John Koetsier: That's pretty interesting, actually.

Peggy Anne Salz: That is very cool.

John Koetsier: I mean, we've seen performative art in the art world, but performance artists in the marketing world, in the mobile world, that's kind of cool.

Peggy Anne Salz: I really like that because it elevates, if you think about it, John. Everything's down to the creative, it's down to the levers you can push and pull, and this tells you really that it elevates the importance of the creative. And we now know that it's about performance. It's not just the creative. It really sort of seals that, and that's a lesson in itself.

Lidia Perez: Totally. Totally. Yeah. I like to call it performance artist because, in the end, you have to get used to numbers as well to produce the work. But yeah, they need creativity as well to interpret those numbers, and I think that this is a new role that is arising recently. And this is great in this industry because we have new profiles very often, and this is amazing. Sometimes it can be a little bit overwhelming, but it's amazing.

John Koetsier: Cool.

Lidia Perez: At the same time.

Peggy Anne Salz: I think you could probably also sell that framework to someone because you've now taken it into all these different steps. These are the KPIs at this step, this is the creative process deconstructed. I'd like to ask you, though, about the one question that you probably can't put in a chart, although John knows I'm a chart lover. Ideation. There's a little bit of your inspiration. There's the serendipity from Danika from our last show. I mean, how do you approach that?

Lidia Perez: Yeah, of course. We have kind of guidelines for the creative ideation. I would say that the key of the ideation process is the fact that we have prioritized the sources of this ideation. Let's say that. So, for sure, our KPIs are the key basically. And KPIs are based on the live environment. These learnings have the highest priority for us and for our team to start producing new creatives. But of course, there are more sources of ideation. For example, competitor trends, and even information that we get directly from our partners' accounts managers, because every partner has nuances regarding the creatives that work better with them. So to have a great relationship with them and to talk about creatives, it's super important.

Having said that, I'm passing now to detail the process. We have weekly meetings with our performance artists and there we talk about the live results. Let's say which are the creatives that are impacting very possibly in our live campaigns. And then, once we have those learnings, we put them in our tracking log. And then we move to the latest test results and what we have learned from the latest test results. Once we have this combo, our creative team has a separate meeting with the brainstorming sessions to transform those learnings into creative, into potential winners if everything goes well. So this would be a good summary. But yeah, I think it's extremely important and I couldn't highlight it more to structure and to prioritize your sources of ideation, because otherwise, we fall in this thing of “I think that this is going to work because I like it a lot, because I love these kind of schemes” or whatever. This is very subjective, and we need facts because otherwise we will be really lost. That's why.

John Koetsier: I love it, I love it. Very structured. Still creative. I wonder if you ever have an artist that says, "This is a fact. I'm an artist and I know what's good and I'm going to do it." But maybe not. You do have, however, different budget levels for different types of things that you put together. You have some things that you allow a total out-of-the-box idea. You know, whatever we can dream up, throw it out there and see what happens. You also have another stream so to speak of data-driven creative production. But you have different budget levels that you’ve assigned to those things. What are those levels and why do you have the difference?

Lidia Perez: Well, I think that this is super important, to be efficient with our budget. In our particular case, John, I would say that the split would be between 80/20. Of course, 80 is for our smart ideation and 20 for the wild cards, out-of-the-box creatives. I would say that. But this is not written in stone. Let's say that. Of course, it's obvious that it's extremely difficult to find creative winners now. I mean, it's such a competitive market. So we need to produce a lot of creatives in order to increase the chances to find winners. So if we add the random component here to the equation, we would be reducing our success rate a lot. Apart from that, the cost would be extremely expensive.

My recommendation comes now. If you have the resources, you have a lot of money, and your performance is extremely good at that point, you have this room to experiment more, and you don't have ad fatigue status, okay, you can increase your wild card budget. But even if you have the resources and you can spend a lot of money because you have it, for the sake of efficiency I recommend, if you are suffering from performance and you are not meeting the targets at that time, or you see that you are suffering from ad fatigue and soon you could be not reaching your ROI targets… So you have the money, okay, but it's not your moment. It's not the right moment. Not a good timing. Don't do it. But if you don’t have the resources, I would say, okay, forget about wild card creatives and be smart and be practical.

John Koetsier: It sounds like you need to achieve a certain level of success, Peggy, before you can go out of the box.

Peggy Anne Salz: Yes.

Lidia Perez: Exactly. Yeah. You nailed it. Exactly.

Peggy Anne Salz: That's very interesting though because, having that wild card, that then becomes the way sometimes that you can make something very successful when you're not looking at your competitors, you know. It's interesting because it seems to say that, if you're not successful already, you won't be able to necessarily invest in the wild card that would make you successful if you're not, John. So a little bit of a trap.

John Koetsier: Yeah, it's six of one and half a dozen of another, right?

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah.

John Koetsier: Because I can see the point. Hey, follow the path, follow the KPIs. Do the math and create new stuff and achieve a certain level and do the wild card stuff and pull the joker out of the deck maybe if you have the budget and the time to be able to do that. And I suspect for different organizations they might not have the 80/20 that Socialpoint has. Maybe they're at 95/5. Maybe they're at 50/50. It depends on different organizations and their level of comfort with risk, I'm assuming.

Lidia Perez: Totally. Totally. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I totally agree with that. Finally, you know your budget constrictions and you know the risk that you can assume. So it's just about that.

Peggy Anne Salz: So this is all laid out in your blog post over on your Mobile Heroes page, and in that, you also lay out how you track investment at all levels of the creative process. So you're always checking back with your KPIs, but you're also checking with your budget. That's really interesting. Why are you doing that?

Lidia Perez: Because we have benchmarks that we have defined for every part of the test. So we have different phases in the tests, and we have KPIs to measure. So if we don't track investment, we cannot calculate the math. We cannot have the KPIs. So having a strong business intelligence behind and having a strong analytics team here is extremely important. It's a great backup because otherwise, it's extremely difficult to succeed, I would say. For example, I come from a small company. The resources that you have, for example, here at Socialpoint are amazing. And this is why we can do these kinds of things, these kinds of frameworks, to be able to measure everything, because when you measure everything, and this is the magic of performance marketing, you identify what's wrong, where I'm failing. And then to attack directly to that. In the end, this saves a lot of money. A lot of money. We are super focused on our daily routine, on our daily basis, and we forget to step back and to see the big picture, and to identify the needs that we have. And this is important to growth because otherwise, you end up in chaos.

Peggy Anne Salz: Yeah, yeah. I totally get it.

John Koetsier: Lidia, that makes a lot of sense, and it reminds me of someone that Peggy and I interviewed. I think it was a couple of months ago, and I think it was Kieran O'Leary from Rovio.

Lidia Perez: Okay.

Peggy Anne Salz: I remember.

John Koetsier: And he said sometimes you got to step back and take a look at the journey that you've walked, the path that you've walked. And you know, sometimes you're stuck in…whether it's your process or your day-to-day grind or whatever it is, and you don't realize how far you've come. How amazing the job is that you've done. And that's another reason to look back. You know, I'm sure, Peggy, you'd love to live in that scenario. You have data, you have defined processes, you've got guidelines, you know what to do. It's all pre-programmed.

Lidia Perez: Granted. I feel you, Peggy. I mean, I'm a lot like this. I have a very analytic mindset. And it’s good. John, I would say the good is the balance. Adjust the balance, of course. So, yeah.

Peggy Anne Salz: What I love about your framework is, it's about framework for creativity. So that in itself is quite an accomplishment, to try and make that more systematic. And we talked about how you're also addressing that and saying, okay, this KPI, this investment. I'm going to unpack that a little bit, John, because I think that's a helpful blueprint for a number of marketers who are going to be trying to grapple with this. So can you maybe just divide that down briefly into the stages that matter? I mean, you can't say check everything, test everything, because you'll never get your work done. But there must be a specific number of stages where it's like, that's where you need the reality check. That's where it needs to fit.

Lidia Perez: First of all, we need to check if it is CPI viable, the creative that we are testing, and we need to assess the quality for sure. Have very clear the sources of ideation, don’t get lost, don’t get distracted by your personal preferences. Track everything. Track all your learnings. It could be as easy as creating an Excel and putting in everything that you are learning and then prioritizing those learnings to start producing creatives. And measure. Keep iterating and iterating and iterating. Because, for example, we see our creatives as a block set. Let's say that, a block set. Our goal is to link those blocks, for example, intro, outro, mechanic. Link those blocks to particular KPIs. For example, CTR, install rate, retention. And then the end goal is to build the perfect combination that is going to lead us to create a winner.

John Koetsier: Wonderful. Building blocks to success. Absolutely love it. Cool. Lidia, it has been such a pleasure chatting with you and learning a little bit more about your creative process, what works, and, of course, performance artists. Thank you so much for your time.

Lidia Perez: Thank you. It's been a total pleasure. Thank you for making everything so easy.

Peggy Anne Salz: Absolutely, Lidia. Also, I want to thank you for making it understandable. You know, taking something that's very sort of vague, the creative process, trying to put it into a system, giving us a framework, giving it some organization. A great help. Thank you.

Lidia Perez: Great. Thank you. Have a good rest of the day.

John Koetsier: Absolutely. And for everybody else, thank you for being with us. Check out the podcast on the Mobile Heroes website, or on YouTube, or on your favorite audio podcast player. If you're a Mobile Hero, hey, connect with us. Peggy's around, I'm around. We're in the metaverse. I mean, aren't you? If you're a Mobile Hero, we want to hear from you. Thanks and have a great day.

Nov 24, 2021

Episode #24: How To Win in Casual Games in 2022

CPIs are up almost 50%. ROAS, of course, is down. Competition is now global, and almost everything anyone could ever think of has been turned into a casual game?

So what do you do?

Well, maybe NFTs.

And, perhaps, acquisition for cross-promotion.

In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored, hosts John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz chat with Miniclip Director of Performance Marketing Jonathan Winters and Funorama Head of Business Development David Pich. We chat chess (yep!), maximizing player value, engagement, retention, NFTs, cross-promotion, and even a little iOS vs. Android.

Plus, we end with each expert’s top 3 tips for mobile marketers in casual games heading into 2022.

41 min

Nov 17, 2021

Episode #23: How SocialPoint Escaped A Creative Rut

How do you beat the best ad you’ve ever done? Last year SocialPoint lucked into their best ad ever and simply could not beat it. All they could create were variations on a theme, but with increasing creative fatigue, ads increasingly brought diminishing returns.

So Mobile Hero Danika Wilkinson built a process to systematize serendipity and become more creative on purpose. It worked, and as a result of that creative diversity, ROI increased 30% in just three months, and the team was able to increase retention by a further 25%.

In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored, hosts John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz go behind the curtain with SocialPoint’s product marketing manager and learn what makes this former Australian rugby journalist tick … and how she’s transformed marketing and creative production at SocialPoint.

24 min

Nov 15, 2021

Episode #22: How Frustrating Ads Helped This Game Hit Top-20 Most-downloaded in the USA

Should you have beautiful ads? Oddball ads? Funny ads? In-your-face ads? How about frustrating, impossible, annoying ads with puzzles that actually have no solution at all … and even feature a narrator making fun of your inability to solve them?

That path less traveled led to a top-download 20 placement for brain game app Impulse, built by a small team in Ukraine.

In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored, hosts Peggy Anne Salz and John Koetsier chat with Impulse Chief Marketing Officer Dariia Opanasiuk to learn more about her strategy, and more about her story. Dariia is an accidental marketer with two master’s degrees, neither of which are in business or marketing, and a super-successful app in one of the most competitive categories on the planet.

15 min

Nov 10, 2021

Episode #21: Holiday Marketing Wins and Fails

Cats make cameos and guests bring the jokes as we hit holiday marketing hard. Unfortunately it’s not Club Med kind of holidays, but end of year, new year’s, Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah, and those kinds of holidays.

What works? What fails? And how do you cut through the noise of so much advertising competition?

In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored, we get serious. We get deep, and we chat with 3 experts:

Not only do we dive into pitfalls and opportunities, we quantify the holiday marketing opportunity, talk about timing, the impact of the global supply crunch, and segmentation by audience and geo.

  1. We also ask each guest 4 critical questions, just for fun:
  2. Biggest marketing nightmare
  3. Most annoying industry pet peeve
  4. Most unexpected success
  5. Person you respect most in the industry

40 min

Oct 27, 2021

Episode #20: IDFA, Last-click & AB Testing

Maybe last-click attribution does suck and doesn’t represent reality. But just maybe it’s “good enough” to optimize on. We chat attribution, insights, AB testing, and more with Lenette Yap, Senior UA Manager at Inkitt.

Then we get into the really interesting stuff: naming conventions.

(Sound dull, I know, but we make it fun. And they are actually unbelievably important to get right.)

Along the way, we meet Dogtor Dre (you read that right) … the poodle with his own Instagram account, discuss why AB testing is awful and horrible and necessary, and chat about how and when marketers need to follow their guts.

36 min

Oct 20, 2021

Episode #19: Becoming the Boss in Mobile Marketing

You’re smart, you’re capable, and you’re ambitious. But how do you level up and grow your game and add some rocket boost to your career?

Start by checking out this podcast.

We ask two top women in tech how they did it: where they started, how they climbed the career ladder, what strategies and tactics they used, and how they enlisted support from their managers and mentors. Chatting with co-hosts Peggy Anne Salz and John Koetsier are:

Jade Worobec, Head of Performance Marketing at the Meet Group
Katie Gill, Head of Marketing at DREST

We chat about travel, mobile consolidation, and tell a few jokes.

55 min

Oct 6, 2021

Episode #18: Road Trip to Eastern Europe with Nakusi Games & Joom

What’s better than a road trip? And in COVID times, we’re still doing them virtually, visiting Eastern Europe to chat gaming with Nakusi Games and retail with Joom, a marketplace you may never have heard of that has over 350 million customers in 100+ countries.

In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored we chat with:
Vladimir Ilchenko, UA Lead at Nakusi Games
Sergei Pustovetov, Traffic Manager at Joom

Our topics, acquisition, attribution, and localization. We also play Ad Win of the Week, give Peggy’s invisible bitcoin right back to her, chat about incrementality and media mix modeling, and discuss the biggest challenges in marketing mobile apps in Eastern Europe.

Plus, we have Mobile Heroes in the News, featuring:
Aurelie Genet @ Flo
Björn Videkull @ Bjorn Videkull Performance Marketing
Thomas Hopkins @ Superpeer
Jayne Peressini @ Dapper Labs

60 min

Oct 4, 2021

Episode #17: Alexander Ruban at Product Madness

How do you know when influencer marketing is working? How do you use influencer marketing to drive mobile user acquisition at scale?

In this Mobile Heroes Uncensored: Origin Story we dive deep with Alexander Ruban, UA Lead at Product Madness on influencer marketing, gaming, and attribution. We learn where he got his start, how he approaches influencer marketing, what works best, and how he measures effectiveness.

As always, Mobile Heroes Uncensored is hosted by John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz.

22 mins

Sep 21, 2021

Episode #16: Maximizing Subscription Revenue

The godfather of growth and two super women in growth from Stash (finance!) and Gymondo (fitness!) join co-hosts John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz for a seriously fun episode on maximizing subscription revenue.

(OK, the “godfather of growth” is the guy who invented the Mobile Growth Stack. But he’s still pretty awesome.)

Our guests:
– Mobile Hero Kate Palmer, Director of Growth at Stash
Jenny Schmidt, Team Lead Social & Influencer Marketing at Gymondo
Andy Carvell, Partner & Co-Founder at Phiture

We chat about getting money back from Apple, acronyms no-one knows, winning invisible Bitcoins, stuff we should know but somehow just don’t, and most importantly, of course, subscription revenue. Top tips for subscriptions. Finding good users for subscription apps. Stopping churn for subscriptions. Pricing for subscriptions. Subscribing to subscriptions (ok, I’m lying now).

Plus, there’s no less than 3 amazing jokes in this episode. The guy who made them promises that this is true. (Of course, he’s also the guy who keeps promising guests free Bitcoin.)

48 min

Sep 13, 2021

Episode #15: Alexey Gusev at Goodgame Studios

Welcome to Mobile Heroes Uncensored, Origin Stories. In this premiere episode, we dive into the deep, dark, and twisted crevices of Alexey Gusev’s mind. He leads growth at Goodgame Studios, and has a very interesting way of boosting conversions to paying users by as much as 30% … just by selecting the right creative. He also tells a joke (!!) plays the guitar (!!) and earns an Invisible Bitcoin by being far, far, far too nice.

27 min

Sep 8, 2021

Episode #14: Roadtrip Germany: Delivery Hero, Flixbus, Soundcloud, & Yazio

Mercedes, Oktoberfest, and mobile apps are what Germany is known for, right? Well, sort of.

In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored we chat with the top growth marketers at major German mobile first or mobile centric companies: Yazio, Soundcloud, Flixbus, and Delivery Hero. Our goal: drive great cars, drink great beer, and learn what makes apps successful in Germany. And, of course, what German mobile developers make better than anyone else. (We succeed in one of those ambitions.)

Co-hosts John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz chat with:
– Vincenzo Serricchio, Global Head of Mobile Marketing at food ordering app Delivery Hero
– Sergio Palau, Online Marketing Manager at mobility & travel app FlixBus
– Dora Trostanetsky, Director of Growth Marketing at music & audio company SoundCloud
– Carolin Rohte, Head of Performance Marketing at nutrition & health app YAZIO

We chat about marketing superpowers, marketing kryptonite, we get their true confessions about ultimate fails, and we learn about mobile marketing in Germany: what works, what fails, and what outsiders don’t know.


Aug 25, 2021

Episode #13: Sam's Club, Walmart, retail apps, fail whales and the world's best BBQ sauce

Retail isn’t easy but mobile retail has grown enormously over the past 18 months. We chat with the head of product and growth marketing at Sam’s Club, part of one of the world’s largest retailers (yep, Walmart) and a former colleague, now retail app builder. We chat BBQ, augmented reality, growth post-COVID, and the vampires of the mobile world: QR codes.

– Drew Frost: Head of Product and Growth Marketing at Sam’s Club at Walmart
– Matt Hudson: founder of BILDIT, a mobile app e-commerce platform

As always, co-hosts John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz get their best tips about growth, retention, and mobile marketing strategy. We also discuss the role of mobile apps for bricks-and-mortar retailers, the most important parts of a retail app to highlight in advertising and marketing campaigns, and what is changing in mobile growth in 2021.

Lucky episode #13 … here we go.


Aug 11, 2021

Episode #12: Bumble user acquisition execs on growth, data, iOS 14.5, and the crazy, insane 2020s

My growth isn’t tanking … I’m doing an incrementality test!

If you’re one of the largest dating platforms on the planet, you probably know something about growth. So Peggy and John were super-happy to chat with Bumble director of growth marketing Morry Mitrani and senior growth marketing manager Solange Baki, along with Liftoff’s director of creative, Thomas Zukowski.

We chat about the ongoing changes/challenges/impacts of COVID, the marketing data apocalypse in iOS 14.5, how Bumble uses creative for targeting and conversions, and the challenges of modern attribution and marketing measurement.

We also chat about privacy, cross-platform, and how Bumble is expanding beyond dating to friends and work colleagues … and how Bumble has pioneered the ability to delete part of an app off your phone, instead of the entire and complete app.

In addition:

Mobile news:
Facebook AMM and a lawsuit that says Google and Facebook worked together, possibly illegally.

And… mobile heroes in the news, with funding, SPACs, explosive growth, promotions, and much, much more…
Etienne de Guébriant, Gazeus Games
Kartick Narayan, founder and CEO, Kilo
Melissa Lertsmitivanta, Marketing Director at realtor.com
Kelvin Saputra, Performance Marketing Manager, Kredivo
Iain Russell, Head of Performance Marketing, Moneyhub

Our horrible, no-good, awfully bad, somewhat wonderful joke of the week!


Jul 27, 2021

Episode #11: Netflix. Gaming. Grindr. Aftermath of the IDFA. And SO. MUCH. MORE

The IDFA gave. Now it’s taking away. And what are we left with? Honestly, some degree of chaos in the mobile advertising market, with budgets fleeing iOS and stampeding Android.

But our panelists from Singular, AdColony, Liftoff, and Fyber highlight that in every apocalypse, there is a silver lining. Because smart marketers are now using contracyclical strategies to get cheap installs, steal a march, and beat the competition. And, yes, we also talk some privacy, some gaming competition for Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass.

One thing we absolutely do not do ever under any circumstances even just once is have any fun, tell any jokes, or embarrass any executives. Fingers crossed.

Our guests for this show:
– So-Eun Park, VP business operations, Fyber
– Avi Das, sales lead Americas, Liftoff
– Ron Koenigsberg, chief growth officer, Singular
– Alasdair Pressney, director of product, AdColony


Jul 15, 2021

Episode #10: The Future of Marketing Measurement with Babbel & Flexion Mobile

We have far too much fun with excellent guests talking about garbage metrics in this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored. Peggy Anne Salz and John chat with:

Sylvain Gauchet, who heads up Growth and Marketing at Babbel
Lior Barak, data strategist at Tale About Data
– Mobile Hero Bjòrn Videkull, Head of Performance Marketing at Flexion Mobile

Along the way one of your hosts starts dancing (the one who definitely shouldn’t), another one of the hosts tells jokes (OK, both of them do), and we chat about the hottest new area in dating apps, which isn’t dating at all, and how one gaming company is becoming a music label. We also dive into the future of marketing measurement, the most key metrics for mobile growth, and whether GAID/AAID will go the way of the IDFA.

And yes, due to popular demand … we have added outtakes.

1 hr 5min

Jul 2, 2021

Episode #9: Creativity, Winning, and Secrets of Game Marketing with Top Journalists

In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored we get the top secrets of game marketing from Ludia Games’ Rose Agozzino, BoomHits CEO Jon Hook, and top games journalists: Dean Takahashi of GamesBeat and Dave Bradley of PocketGamer.

Along the way we find out what fictional games characters they would date.

And we invent a new game from scratch in real-time.

Also: tips for getting games journalists’ attention, when NOT to send press releases, and what you should do when top reporters are reviewing your games. We also chat some AR, marketing vs product in-game success, the most creative way to market a game, where the games industry is going, and where there are underserved markets in gaming.

1hr 6min

Jun 15, 2021

Episode #8: Segmentation & Engagement with CleverTap, Tier Mobility, and Delivery Hero

Experts from CleverTap, Tier Mobility, and Delivery Hero share insight on segmentation and engagement while hosts Peggy Anne Salz and John Koetsier dish on mobile news, mobile heroes, and … some very critical back-to-office protocol to utterly ignore as some companies start re-opening.
Who’s in episode 8 of Mobile Heroes Uncensored?

– Timothy Lange, head of CRM at Tier Mobility
– Marco Esposito, former Liftoff Mobile Hero and just out of Delivery Hero
– Dave Dabbah, chief marketing officer at CleverTap
– Simone Wong, CRM manager at Tier Mobility

They dish on engagement strategies and their top tips for user segmentation while also answering what they would do as the Queen of All Mobile or the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of iOS and … you get the point.

1hr 14min

Jun 2, 2021

Episode #7: Agencies & Mobile Advertising

In this episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored we learn what happened to the 3-martini lunch, why the Madmen aren’t in jail, and how to get your way in client meetings by being a powerlifter.

Peggy Anne Salz & John chat with Nadine Santana, Account Manager at Camelot, Bridget Hall, Director of Planning at M&C Saatchi Performance, and Liz Emery, Senior Director, Mobile + Ad Tech Solutions, Tinuiti. This all-female power panel shares the role agencies can play in mobile growth … and how agencies are adapting to stay relevant in the 2020s.

55 min

May 18, 2021

Episode #6: Playable Ads and Insider Tips on Getting Free Ad Campaigns

In this episode, Yoda tells us why playable ads are driving innovation and growth. Or it might be one of our freakishly awesome guests who are competing for some of Peggy’s Bitcoin. We chat with Akseli Virtanen of Traplight Games, Lomit Patel from IMVU, Tyler Black from Hyper Hippo, and Alexandra Vornle von Haagenfels, who has the longest name in recorded history and is the International Creative Manager at Liftoff.

Our focus: playable ads. What makes them work, what makes them fail, and where you should use them. Check it out!


May 4, 2021

Episode #5: Marketing Fitness Apps with TRIQ, 7Mind, and Admiral Media

Once again we gather 3 amazing mobile marketers and promise them free bitcoin for acting silly and spilling all their best tips. Of course, we never pay up. But we do get crazy-good insights into marketing fitness apps … and dirt on their biggest mistakes, including one that locked a client out of Facebook and got someone fired.

In this episode John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz chat with: Boris Manhart (CEO of TRIQ), Marta Vogel (7Mind), and Andre Kempe (Admiral Media).

We discuss fitness (or lack thereof), ATT in iOS 14.5 (everyone needs to show it, apparently), Dogecoin and Elon Musk, and we play a few games, including Ad Win of the Week and Marketing Mogul. Check it out, join the fun, and subscribe. Also, if you want to be on the show, reach out to Peggy and John on Twitter.


Apr 20, 2021

Episode #4: Ad Creatives with Gamesture, Lovoo, Gazeus Games & Liftoff

Video ads are the fastest-growing (we’ve got the numbers) and the most lucrative (just guessing on this one) sector of mobile advertising, and we dive into color theory and usage and pricing and how to build them and about 3.72% of everything else you need to know about mobile video advertising. Plus, of course, we play evil games and reveal all our guests’ deepest and darkest secrets, insecurities, and deep-seated vulnerabilities in a barely-functional we say “panel,” they say “group therapy session.”

Our guests, who outshine our soon-to-be-jobless hosts in every way imaginable except sheer animal sex appeal, include:Lukasz Kwiecien, Head of Marketing @ Gamesture, Pierre Strubelt, Senior Affiliate Marketing Manager @ Lovoo, Etienne de Guébrian, Head of UA @ Gazeus Games, and Deanna Ulrich, Manager, Ad Creative @ Liftoff.

1hr 2min

Apr 6, 2021

Episode #3: Post-COVID Strategies with Thimble, Pawp, Moneyhub and Acorns

2020 was a horrible year for the world, but as we got more virtual, many app verticals had a breakout year. How is that transitioning into 2021 in a confusing post-pandemic, still-pandemic, third-wave, partially-vaccinated reality? In addition to yanking their chains a little, we coax some amazing insight from Annica Lin, Director of Performance Marketing and CRM at Thimble, Roberto Salem, Head of Growth at Pawp, Iain Russell, Head of Performance Marketing at Moneyhub, and Kyle Sausser, Growth and Partnerships Manager at Acorns.


Mar 22, 2021

Episode #2: Creative Testing with Wooga, Product Madness and Playstudios

Here’s our second episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored, with John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz. As usual, we totally screw it up only to be saved by our horribly great guests: Jason Conger, Head of UA, Wooga; Claire Rozain, UA manager, Product Madness; Melanie Zimmermann, Head of Marketing, Wooga; Assaf Shalev, Head of Creative Marketing, Playstudios.

What we talk about, besides free Lambos and astrology? IDFA (yep, still on that meal ticket), creative (apparently it matters), craft beer (sounds better than it tastes), mobile news (really), Mobile Heroes in the news, dating, and yes, a whole lot of insight around how to win when you don’t have IDFA or granular device-level data anymore


Mar 3, 2021

Episode #1: IDFA with Fyber, Singular and InMobi

This very first episode of Mobile Heroes Uncensored is currently the best. And the worst. And it’s definitely the funniest, with the most awfully good guests too.

In this inaugural episode John Koetsier and Peggy Anne Salz chat to leaders from InMobi, Liftoff, Vungle, Singular, and Fyber and force them to reveal their deepest, darkest secrets, their ultimate fears and most private fantasies (ALL ABOUT THE INDUSTRY. WOW.) And yeah, we also talk IDFA and iOS 14 and why the best marketers won’t suffer.


Jan 1, 1970

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