Going Vertical: New Rule of Thumb


Since we use our smartphones for so much more than just talking, we tend to keep them within arm’s reach. The need for a digital solution is perpetually only seconds away. The question, “Where are you?” has become a necessity, as our phones are no longer tethered to a wall by a cord, limiting our scope of travel like a dog on a leash tied to a parking meter. Wherever we are, we’re interacting with each other and the world through our mobile phones. That means the best bet at reaching your audience isn’t a 50-inch TV or a 25-inch desktop monitor.

What is thumb-stopping content?

Just because the screen people use to view media is shrinking, doesn’t mean your marketing strategies should too. For businesses to see brand awareness and engagement increase, they must create thumb-stopping content. By, quite literally, stopping thumbs as they scroll through the overabundance of online media.

Why is it important?

Consumers crave immediate satisfaction hundreds of times throughout the day. That is what the little computers in our pockets provide. When a brand is present in that micro-moment of desire and intent, they have the ability to shape a consumer’s decision. “Of online consumers, 69% agree that the quality, timing, or relevance of a company’s message influences their perception of a brand,” states Google.

While it’s easy to convey a message on social media, it requires strategy to be successful. New apps, services and products constantly flood newsfeeds, and with only three seconds to capture a person’s attention, how do you cut through the noise? As digital marketers, we need to take a step back and stop fueling the chaos. Instead, we should start creating content that speaks to the audience’s needs, interests, and most importantly, their behaviors. It’s about quality, not quantity.

How do I create it?

Hook them early

Smart brands unlock new engagement opportunities by understanding the cognitive psychology behind how people interact with content. UX designers have been studying user behavior for years and we can apply some of their principles to social media content.

  • The Zeigarnik Effect: Using copy or design that …. both teases and makes the audience feel like it’s going to lead to a big payoff if they complete whatever task you’re asking of them. (Like following an incomplete phrase with an ellipsis)

  • The Amygdala: Hit ‘em hard with emotion. An emotional response is five times faster than a conscious thought. Use content that provokes excitement or urgency.

  • Von Restorff Effect: Don’t be afraid to get a little weird. People lock in on images that stand out like a sore thumb. It’s not every day you see a dog wearing rain boots.


Don’t waste your money and users’ time with a design that’s hard to navigate. Mobile design has plenty of intuitive options ranging from responsive design, adaptive design, to building an app.

  • Responsive Design: Automatically responds to the user’s viewing method. For example, if a user is viewing your site on a desktop and then reduces the size of their browser window on their monitor or switches over to a mobile device, the site will adjust accordingly. The components of your website will populate the available space, regardless of the dimensions of that available real estate.

  • Adaptive Design: Involves a collection of individual website layouts created in various measurements. After determining the size of the user’s browser window, the appropriate site is selected and displayed. A phone, tablet, and desktop computer would all have different builds.

  • Apps: Great for users to browse products and make purchases without visiting a mobile or desktop site. Plus, with 90 percent of time spent on mobile spent in apps, investing in one could be beneficial for your brand.

Embrace an on-the-go mentality

Design simple triggers, starting with simple navigation. Logging into Google is a perfect example. Instead of having multiple fields display simultaneously that all require input, break it into individual bits. The user knows exactly what you want them to do at each step so it triggers a specific behavior without confusion. Be mindful that you’re dealing with limited vertical space.

Not only does content need to be made vertical, it must be made for the right channel. Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel claims users are nine times more likely to watch an entire ad because they don’t have to rotate their phone. You can’t get away with using a single piece of content across all platforms. Utilize new features like interactive PDFs or Facebook Canvas Ads to do more creatively for your brand.

Communicate quickly

Mobile content should be concise and clear. No matter how a consumer views your site, it’s crucial a majority of your desktop content is just as accessible via mobile, and in a relevant format – especially your logo, themes, and colors.

If the goal is to have a customer go to the website, sign up for the newsletter, or share for a chance to win, let them know. “People have 5,000 ads coming at them every day,” said P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard. Think outside of the TV ad mindset.

With the least amount of words possible, copy must acknowledge the need of a consumer and show that you are the solution. On average, Google found that in one day 40% of people search only on a smartphone as they look to meet immediate needs. When you type a question into a search bar and thousands of links pop up, how do you decide which one to click on? The subtext. If that doesn’t immediately answer the question, it’s on to the next link.


Target your audience

To make a first impression last, a brand’s story must be conveyed to the right audience. Take advantage of geotargeting and demographics. Showcase values with fun and confidence, people can tell when you’re trying a little too hard.

In a nutshell

The modern day consumer is in a passionate relationship with their smartphone. As the love people have for mobile grows, the opportunities marketers have to connect via content are endless. To create thumb-stopping content, a company’s creative work needs to dive deeper into a consumer’s psyche and be intuitive to their wants and needs. It boils down a battle against limited real estate and the whittled down attention span of the modern mobile user, which now closely resembles that of a small bird. Make no mistake, the mobile phone is your canvas. Don’t blow your three-second audition.