Book Summary Tap: Unlocking the Mobile Economy

“Americans prefer chewy cookies while Europeans prefer crunchy.” How do we know this? Data.

Over winter break I had the pleasure of reading Anindya Ghose’s Tap: Unlocking the Mobile Economya fantastic book detailing his years of insight, experience and knowledge of data driven marketing on the mobile platform. Here is my summary and review.


In his discussion of mobile marketing, Ghose asserts that the right advertisement, to the right consumer, at the right time, in the right place, on the right platform, can transform the smartphone into a personal concierge. Though skeptics raise the concern of tracking as a privacy violation, Ghose prefers the vision that a personalized and well crafted ad campaign will allow the smartphone to act as a butler, not a stalker. Or, in other words, a convenience rather than an intrusion. Just think of Amazon’s recommended purchases section. This is a direct product of extensive data collection and tracking, yet, this feature is readily welcomed by users as a helpful tool. But how does a firm create such a campaign you ask? Well, the first step in answering this question involves understanding human behavior– specifically contradictions. According to Ghose, the four basic contradictions of human behavior are the following:

  1. People seek spontaneity, but they are predictable and they value certainty.
  2. People find advertising annoying, but they fear missing out.
  3. People want choice and freedom, but they easily get overwhelmed.
  4. People protect their privacy, but they increasingly use their personal data as currency.

These are very powerful concepts to understand, and firms must find a balance within these contradictions by leveraging consumer control against the service of providing information needed for decision making. In a positive relationship between firm and consumer, there is a feeling of intimacy and connection that ultimately benefits both parties.

Mobile phones have fundamentally altered consumer behavior as users are spending less time on traditional channels and more on their phones. On average, US consumers spend 10% of their time everyday looking at their phones. This alone is a massive marketing opportunity for firms, and the smart firms will capitalize on this. Consumers share a desire for relevant messages. Unsolicited advertising is unwanted and assumes people are incapable of making decisions on their own. Good advertising, on the other hand, can save time and energy in making decisions and provide benefits like saving money. 

This brings me to the second half of how a firm can deploy effective and welcomed marketing: understanding the nine forces that drive purchasing decisions. The forces shaping the mobile economy are as follows: context, location, time, saliencey, crowdedness, trajectory (historical shopping patterns), social dynamics, weather, and tech mix. Furthermore, the mobile platform is best suited to capitalize on all 9 forces. Context is defined as the sum of all factors, circumstances, and associated behaviors that guide decision making. Context answers three questions. Why is the customer there? What does the customer want now? How is the customer feeling now? The remainder of the nine forces are derived from how we answer these three basic contextual questions. 

A Deeper Look at The Nine forces

Out of the nine forces, I found location and trajectory to be most interesting and relevant to our Spring trip. The reason for this is many firms leverage the services of other companies, like startups, to help attack these two forces. In other cases, it is capitalizing on one of these two forces that have made a certain company, like Uber, very successful. Location can be described as landmarks, time, distance, direction, and motivation. Strategies that leverage location are geo-targeting, geo-fencing, and geo-conquesting. For example, at airports, Uber and Lyft have practiced geo-fencing by confining pick up locations to a specified lot. This tactic has made these drive share services very accessible for people at airports and has helped Uber and Lyft to out-compete traditional taxis. The force of trajectory involves finding patterns within historical data in order to predict the future path of a consumer. The startup Amobee has been helping firms understand their data and make appropriate marketing decisions since 2005.

Though not related to our trip, I also found the force of crowdedness to be very interesting. It turns out that as people stand elbow to elbow, a mobile ad is considered to be a welcomed diversion from social awkwardness. As a result, redemption rates in crowded settings can be twice as high as those in non-crowded settings. I found this very relatable because when I take the subway, I do find my self picking up my phone and browsing intensively and following ads and promoted posts just to occupy myself and avoid awkward eye contact with other passengers. This said, there is a threshold in which an over-crowded area can prevent consumers from taking out and using their phones.


Overall Assessment- Would I Recommend?

Yes, this book has won my approval! I found the material to be relevant and interesting, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I think it’s important from a consumers perspective understand the marketing strategies that are thrown at us every day in order better navigate our smartphones and make educated purchasing decisions. Personally, I think Ghose over glorifies the phenomena of mobile marketing as an entirely beneficial thing, so it’s important to read this book with a little doubt and eagerness to question. After all, firms are trying to make the most money possible. Ghose is clearly excited about the future and does a good job coaxing the reader into also holding his same view. Nonetheless, this book holds valuable information about consumer behavior and marketing forces, and I would recommend it to a classmate.

4 thoughts on “Book Summary Tap: Unlocking the Mobile Economy

  1. Nice post. I’m glad you enjoyed the book. This is one that I have not read, but I do know the author, so I’m glad you enjoyed the read. He is the real deal and a very smart guy! Looking forward to having you on the trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The four contradictions of human nature are such cool concepts that people, myself included, probably wouldn’t think about. Yet they’re fundamental to companies as it makes their job to market and sell products that much harder. Great job, and this sounds like a book I’d like to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Lizzy! I love how you narrowed down the forces that drive purchasing decisions into some that are more relevant for our class. I also find it very intriguing that crowdedness plays a factor into the success of mobile ads, I had never thought about it but I definitely am more likely to follow a promoted post on my phone if I am avoiding awkward social situations. I can see how he may over glorify mobile campaigns, it is still crucial to recognize the value of other platforms used by perhaps a different variety of demographics. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Lizzy! Fantastic summary. I love learning about human behavior and how the mind works, and this book seems to have a strong behavioral study aspect to it. Fittingly, I suppose, since marketing is so closely related with understanding human behavior. The point you mentioned about “context”––constantly considering the customer’s purpose, desire, and emotional state––reminds me of some of the things I learned in a UX design course I took over the summer. Super interesting!


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