The 2014 Push Awards - Best and Worst Push Messages of the Past Year


Roll up the red carpet and put away the cameras. This year’s main mobile event isn’t taking place on the big stage, it’s on the Internet. May we introduce to you, The 2014 Push Awards. In this first annual ceremony, we will be presenting the awards for the best, and the worst, push notifications throughout the past year. We’ll try to stay away from the cheesy, canned jokes, but we can’t guarantee it.

The Story Behind Push Notifications

We’ve got some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the good: Push notifications have become the most effective way for app developers and businesses to re-engage users and move them through various funnels within their apps. And the bad news? Many companies have abused this privilege and inundated their users’ phones with irrelevant, impersonal banter. It’s left some users feeling as though they have no choice but to opt out of them. Despite this, we’ve found that more than half of users still have push messages enabled on their devices. Of those, we see an 88% increase in engagement and nearly 3x higher retention rate compared to those who disable push. This is an opportunity that no app developer or marketer should pass up.

We begin The 2014 Push Awards with the best. And like the Golden Raspberry Awards, we’ll end with those that may need to rethink their push message strategy.

 2014 Push Awards for Best Performances


PLNDR, a self-described “members only boutique,” has made its living off of flash sales. The Karmaloop offshoot has weaved its way onto phones across the US, using well-known pop culture references to form a connection with its user base. In this particular campaign, they’re offering the user 40% off and free shipping using the discount code (after spending $40).


The Reference: “Bout that action” is a phrase coined by the infamous Marshawn Lynch in his pre-Super Bowl interview with Deion Sanders. The soft spoken Seattle Seahawks running back was implying he’s more interested in showing his skills on the field, rather than talking them up off the field.

Why They Won: PLNDR is imploring users to do the same. They don’t want their users to talk about their clothes, they want them to actually take action, and buy them. Rather than just a generic, “40% off when you shop now,” they repurpose this pop reference and build a connection with their target market. 


Travel search engines have revolutionized the way people find and purchase flights and hotels. Because it’s still the airlines’ job to set the prices of tickets, companies like Kayak have to package that information in a way that connects with their users better than their competitors.


Why They Won: By allowing users to set up flight price notifications, Kayak can then send notifications the moment the price drops. It’s genius because it’s essentially a flash sale disguised as breaking news. They understand the value users find in getting the best deals on flights as soon as possible. That’s why they can get away with sending it at 5:55 am. Though many users know they can find the same price elsewhere, Kayak was the app who actually provided them with that info. This gives them the so-called “unfair business advantage.”


There was a day when it seemed Ticketmaster had a monopoly on concert and event tickets. Over the past few years though, smaller, more personalized options like EventBrite and Thrillcall have popped up both on the web and on our mobile devices. In this particular push notification, they’re making a play on the popular music festival, Coachella.


The Reference: Coachella Music Festival draws hundreds of thousands of people each year. Despite this, there are even more people who would have loved to attend, but couldn’t for various reasons. Thrillcall jumped on this opportunity.

Why They Won: First, they reel in the user by making a light pun on the fact that they’re not going to this year’s Coachella (no-chella). Second, they nail down their offer with a second pun, Fauxchella, which any Coachella lover would recognize as a smaller, probably more local alternative to the fest.  

My Package is a shipment tracking app. We get it, it’s not Angry Birds or Instagram. But sometimes the best apps do one thing and do it well. Rather than have the UPS, FedEx, USPS and DHL apps all installed on your device to track packages, My Package consolidates these tracking services into one manageable app.

In this example, we’re not blown away by the copy in the message. But they understand that shipping isn’t the most exciting topic of conversation, so they get to the point. Users want to know when any step in the process has been completed, and that’s when My Package sends the notification.

Why They Won: Typically, on-the-go users would have to keep checking their email or the app regularly to monitor any status changes. My Package brings these updates to the user’s home screen, leaving them confident that they will be notified in real-time. More importantly, the user is likely to open the app to get more detailed information about the shipment. Simple, but effective. 


Earlier this month, Foursquare went under a huge transformation. The function that put them on the map, the check-in, has migrated to a spin-off app, Swarm. Although some of the die-hard fans have had a tough time adjusting, it seems most of the market has welcomed Foursquare’s latest update. Though this push message is from the old version, it’s still less than a year old. We hope that they keep a similar strategy with both of their apps in the future.


Why They Won: Yelp has revolutionized the online review process. But no matter how long we spend researching restaurants or stores, it can be hard to sift through the reviews and decide which are overreactions and which are accurate representations of the business. It’s safe to say that we trust the opinions of our friends more than anonymous people on the web. Foursquare took advantage of this trust by notifying the app user when they were near a business that a friend has been to and/or reviewed. 

If you’ve ever worked a trade show, you know that it’s a marketing campaign in itself just to get guests to stop by your booth. You can spot the experienced show-goers by the way they meander by, suspiciously eyeing your free giveaways, nonchalantly walking by and grabbing it while simultaneously avoiding all eye contact with you. It truly is an acquired skill. But what’s an even better skill is creating an environment where people want to stop by and stay a while, and not just leave when they’ve received their free gift. St. Louis Wedding show hit the nail on the head with this one.


Why They Won: First, they provided attendees with a reason to download their app: an easy way to stay informed and up-to-date on different booths and events throughout the trade show. Second, they incentivized guests to stop by particular booths with push notifications like this. Anyone who stops by Salvatore Cincotta’s booth receives a 10% discount if they book a wedding that day. More importantly, it bridges the gap between the digital and real world. By utilizing an in-app function, they’re incentivizing people to take action outside of the app, where it really matters for a show like this.

OK, so I’m not actually having a baby, but I’ve heard so much about this app that I had to download it and played pretend for a few weeks. I’ve actually learned a lot about gestation and sizes of babies before they’re born (I better have a good idea since I’m now “19 weeks in”). What I love about The Bump is their content. Not just on their website, but their email campaigns and push notifications.
Over the course of the pregnancy, The Bump sends weekly notification updates about the size of the baby (typically in fruit terms) and any other relevant information about what to expect in the upcoming weeks.


Why They Won: The Bump proves that you don’t have to be utilitarian to provide value to your users. They’re just an expert in pregnancy, and want you to be too so that you’re fully prepared throughout the entire process. 

2014 Push Awards for Worst Performances

Now it’s time to get to those push notifications that didn’t make it past their “pilot episode,” so to speak. They give people a reason to opt out of push notifications. Some are more obvious than others. We decided to stay away from campaigns that have been “hacked,” as it’s not a direct result of the company’s app marketing strategy.

Gilt has made a name for themselves by providing designer labels at lower prices to a niche market. They’ve done an excellent job finding the right messaging and products that resonate best with their customers. For this particular campaign, it seems they became a bit lazy.

The Problem: First, simply stating the fact that there’s a sale isn’t revolutionary. Gilt’s entire business model revolves around running sales. Second, users can purchase thousands of products through their app. Seeing as their sales change every 24 hours, the user is left to constantly discover the sale items through the app. This gives them little incentive to actually open the app and browse through the different sales to find the ones that matter to them.

What They Could’ve Done: To improve this push message, Gilt could start by segmenting their users by category of interest. People who routinely browse the shoe category would get sales for shoes. People who browse the home decor category would get sales for home decor. 
Second, add some pizzazz! What makes this sale so special? It’s right around the time of Independence Day, a little tidbit about the red, white and blue would’ve gone a long way here.


Siri may not be perfect, but iPhone users across the globe have used her artificial intelligence to set reminders, send emails and tell them quirky jokes since 2011. It never really crossed most users’ minds that there was actually a real human behind that voice until on one brisk October morning, while the government shutdown was underway, CNN sent a notification to all its users: “Breaking News: Atlanta woman reveals she is the voice of Siri.” Though we couldn’t find a copy of the original notification, we’ve compiled a group of Tweets that are less than pleased about it.

Why It Didn’t Work: CNN spent months researching this story in plans of releasing it on Siri’s birthday. But the government had just shut down three days prior. They lost a lot of credibility by considering this breaking news in the midst of something far more serious. Nevermind the fact that it was sent at 6 am.

What They Could’ve Done: Unless it’s absolutely can’t-live-without breaking news, save it for a more convenient time of day. But really, they would’ve been better off staying away from the push notification on this one. There’s a time and a place for this kind of news. A few plugs on social media would’ve served the purpose without enraging people at six in the morning. 

Today, LinkedIn has over 300 million users. Their presence in the app world has been questionable at times, including a couple failed products, and inducing rage in some iPad users by retiring an early version of their app. Also, most can agree that the user experience on the app doesn’t compare to that of the desktop.


The Problem: In this push campaign, they’re imploring their users to check out what happened over the past week in their network. Push notifications should add value and provide the user with a reason to click on it. All LinkedIn is doing with this message is defining what their company does. The whole point of LinkedIn is to connect with your professional network and stay updated. It would be like BBC messaging its users with, “Check out what happened in the news this week.”

What They Could’ve Done: First, just because they’re a professional network doesn’t mean they have to come off stiff. You can add some flair without sounding unprofessional. Second, they could follow in the footsteps of their email updates, notifying their users when someone in their network has a new job or posted an article. A third option would be to provide a call-to-action like “John Jacobs has endorsed you for App Marketing, tell him ‘thanks’ by endorsing him back!”

We sang Fooducate’s praises in a recent blog about push campaigns for health and fitness apps. Through their scientific food grader and educational content, they’ve developed one of the best health apps on the market. But even the best stumble sometimes. After receiving a few notifications like this one, I had to opt out for Fooducate.


The Problem: The word “please” is a no-no in push etiquette. Like asking for an up-vote on Reddit, it’s a clear violation of digital law and comes off as desperate. The emoji is a valiant attempt to connect with the mobile community, but in the context of a very uninspired message, that banana is a fraud.

What They Could’ve Done: Make the act of adding lunch to your journal seem like less of a chore. Give it some character. I could envision a push message like “Peel, banana, peel peel banana (then write about it in your food journal).”

Best Buy has made an admirable foray into the app world. They’ve offered weekly and daily mobile-exclusive deals, as well as added functions such as the ability to check gift card balances and find in-store product info by scanning it with the app. While they’ve managed to appify their in-store experience, they fell short in this notification.


The Problem: All they’re really saying is that today’s deal of the day, which you expect to be occur daily, is occurring. Plus the phrase “Quantities are limited” comes off as a 90’s informercial. It’s like saying “no obligation.”

What They Could’ve Done: Taken a page from the Amazon book (the notification right above it). We can’t be sure if they segmented users based on behavioral or profile data, but they at least gave the details about the daily deal. 

The goal of No One Dies, a mildly addicting gaming app, is to flick two stick figures so they jump over all the obstacles in place. Simple. After about five games it can get a bit repetitive, not really something you can play for hours. I got a bit bored and left the app. Within a few minutes I received a notification claiming I had been beaten, and what I think was an attempt to lure me back in.


The Problem: Plain and simple, the message copy doesn't make much sense. First, the game was designed so that the user can’t beat it (think of Tetris, eventually you always lose). Stating the fact that you’re beaten is stating the obvious. Second, “coming back here!” isn’t grammatically correct in this context.

What They Could’ve Done: After struggling to find a solution to their problem, we discovered a trophy section in the app. For example, if you run for 360 seconds without dying, then you receive the “Famous Trinidad” trophy. Rather than focusing their message on being beaten, they could’ve reminded the user how close they were to the next trophy. This gives the user a reason to want to come back. 

Tamagotchi literally means “egg watch” in Japanese. Back in the mid-to-late 90’s, these pocket pets took elementary and middle schools by storm. 


The Problem: Tamagotchi is applying 20-year-old lessons to the smartphones of today. When people purchased one back in the day, they were fully committed to the non-stop care for their pets. Now that they’ve manifested themselves on smartphones, they’re not the only game in town. 

What They Could’ve Done: On average, there were only three minutes between these six notifications. Users who have jobs or classes don’t have the time to keep checking on their digital pet every minute. Tamagotchi should turn down the frequency dial on these. And when they do send them, they should personalize it to the pets’ specific needs. What does it need? Food? Water? A walk? A dog that needs to eat is less time-sensitive than a dog that needs to poo!

Awards Recap

We know you may be a little starstruck with some of the big-name brands in this year’s ceremony. But that soon fades when you realize “well-known” doesn’t always translate to “well-executed” (Best Buy). On the flip side, St. Louis Wedding Show proved to us that you don’t have to be a national brand to get noticed by a lot of people. 

So whether you’re an A-list company or a start-up making your way onto the scene, push notifications are an excellent chance to connect with your users. We’d love to see some new faces in next year’s awards ceremony. If you take home the lessons from these examples, you could be on the path to your first Push Award. So here’s to another year of the cleverest quips, the wittiest words and the most memorable messages. Push on!

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