Mobile marketing trends come and go, just like the changing of the seasons and the tides of the sea.

Some stick around and become established marketing channels in their own right, such as SMS or mobile apps, but all too often new mobile technologies burn brightly for a short period before withering and dying.

With this in mind, I’ve rounded up three mobile marketing trends that have so far failed to live up to the hype. I’m not saying they’re dead yet, but they’re on shaky ground.

For a similar grumblings about mobile trends, read my post looking at 12 usability flaws that are spoiling the mobile web.

Or alternatively, expand your knowledge of this topic by downloading the Econsultancy Mobile Marketing and Commerce Report 2013...

QR codes

QR codes have been around for ages but it’s very rare that you find anyone with a decent word to say about them.

Occasionally we come across case studies which show that QR codes can be successful in the right circumstances, with the right CTA, a powerful incentive and when someone forces you to scan one at gunpoint, but in general they haven’t justified the time wasted on them.

I’m not saying that smartphone users will never be persuaded to scan advertising, however it will take something more alluring than a QR code before the technology catches on. 

And if you're still unconvinced that QR codes have failed to live up to the hype, then check out these 10 examples of QR code madness...

Augmented reality

Back in 2010 the MMA predicted that a new wave of products which combined location-based services and augmented reality would "not only fuel adspend but also transactions."

This obviously hasn’t proven to be the case, and I’m yet to see any truly convincing uses of AR for either practical or marketing purposes. But that obviously hasn’t stopped me from fueling the hype by knocking out regular list posts of AR marketing campaigns.

Anecdotally, we receive far fewer press releases about AR marketing campaigns now than we did a few years ago.

Top Gear Magazine's AR trial

This could suggest either that fewer brands are experimenting with AR, or that it has lost its PR value. I think it’s probably the latter as the use of AR is no longer newsworthy in itself. 

Instead people want case studies on successful uses of AR in marketing, which are very difficult to come by.


At Econsultancy we were as guilty as any of over-hyping the potential for NFC to radically alter the way in which consumers make payments and interact with advertising.

It seems like an easy and convenient way for consumers to receive data – they tap their phone, the information is transferred to the device, and they can go on their merry way.

There have even been some high profile trials of the technology involving global brands. For example, Visa used the Olympics to showcase NFC payments around London.

Furthermore there are plenty of NFC-enabled handsets on the market, notably from LG, Nokia, Motorola and Samsung.

However as yet the technology seems to have been kept away from consumers, as if tech companies feel we’re not yet ready to experience it’s awesome power.

The more likely reason of course is that the technology is not yet ready for widespread consumer adoption due to the complexities of setting up a secure eco-system that relies on the cooperation of several different industries (e.g. mobile operators, finance companies, card issuers).

And now that Apple has decided to focus on iBeacons rather than NFC it could be that the latter’s never fulfils its promise.

And to finish...

Here are two trends that I’m glad we’ve hopefully seen the back of forever...

Apps vs. the mobile web

Back in the bad old days people used to genuinely debate whether it was better for companies to go for a mobile app or a mobile website, as if each different business and industry should be bound by the same one-size-fits-all approach.

Thankfully we seem to have moved on from this debate, thanks in no small part to the advent of responsive design and HTML5.

The line between apps and mobile sites is becoming increasingly blurred, and marketers largely accept that decisions on mobile platforms should be driven by business objectives and user needs rather than simply trying to adopt the latest trendy technology.

“There are more mobile phones than toothbrushes in the world”

Not a marketing trend as such, but if you’ve ever been to a conference then there’s a 100% chance you’ve heard someone trot out this utterly unprovable and ultimately pointless catchphrase.

Admittedly this is a rather niche bugbear, but if we work together we can ensure that the trend of using this go-to buzzphrase will also die a death.

David Moth

Published 10 June, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (6)

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Good observations. But I remain convinced that we NEED something like a QR code for getting information to peoples' mobile phones without making them type a URL. Putting a long URL on a sign, or flyer, or whatever, just doesn't work....have you ever tried to type a url into a mobile browser?... especially ones that have tracking data in them!

I'm convinced QR codes would be popular overnight if Apple and the others would build QR readers into the core OS, somehow, so that it is fast and easy to scan the codes. I've probably downloaded a dozen scanners and all of them are "clunky." Scanning something should be as fast and easy as taking a picture.

about 4 years ago



I agree - putting a long URL on a sign or a flyer doesn't work. But you can put something like "Text MYSTORE to 41411" on your sign or flyer and achieve the same thing. Most everyone can send and receive texts.

about 4 years ago


John Attwood

QR codes never took off because they weren't backed by the mobile providers. Too many steps. If mobiles supported QR or other "tap it" links, without use for app downloads and too many clicks/taps, it would be a different story.

about 4 years ago


Craig Sanderson

My views are along the lines of MobileMarketingSuperHero in that none of these systems will gain ubiquity as none have native mobile OS support.

Android and Windows Phone love NFC and everyone has a QR reader app but until the time comes where our mobile devices natively react to one of these inputs they will not gain traction.

The simple fact is that as soon as Apple decides to adopt a standard into the OS the other makers will follow suit.

about 4 years ago


wajid ahmed

QR codes have not disappeared and are still alive. my clients have used qr codes many times - it is an easy way to deliver your product information!

about 4 years ago



I agree with commenters - QR codes would be GREAT if they were integrated into iOS. There is just one too many steps for the average smartphone user.

How QR codes work now:

1. Open app store
2. Type in QR code (old people type this is wrong)
3. Trawl through the 400 different ones, getting confused, pick one (again, if you're old of not tech savvy you can get the wrong one or one with loads of ads or spam)
4. Download it, install it and in some (old people) cases say yes/no to loaction settings, push notifications etc
5. Find the app in amongst the 200 on your phone, wait for it to open. then scan the QR code.

How QR codes should work:

1. Swipe up (like with camera), hold down volume+home button, or some shortcut

about 4 years ago

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