How Fallout Shelter Schooled App Marketers On Native, In-App Experiences


The mobile industry is in a race to develop technologies and techniques that will deliver a new generation of native, in-app experiences, with millennials and Gen Z’ers as prize targets. Using fresh, first-person data from in-app behavioral signals to create experience-enhancing content and calls to action is where the magic will be. I use the phrase ‘will-be’ because app marketers are just beginning to figure this stuff out. So far, no-one has been able to find a formula that consistently delights the user and delivers meaningful ROI.

That is until a console gaming title sprung a crossover app, Fallout Shelter, (image below)on the market and almost immediately went to #1 worldwide — Everybody who makes their living as an app marketer got their ass kicked that week: Game of War lost the battle, Boom Beach went bust, and Candy Crush got crushed.

The console gaming world is a different animal from apps, but by applying elements of gaming-think to the mobile experience, Fearless Media schooled traditional app marketers in what successful in-app native campaigns can look like.

Pick the right partners & moments

Reaching millennials and Gen Z’ers en masse and in the moment means leveraging influencers. Celebrity brands have a massive impact on app download figures. The same is true for well-recognized product and service brands.

Because Conan O’Brien was on-board to support the parent gaming console title, Fallout 4, the mobile app game benefitted. Fallout Shelter also partnered with Tinder to create a UX that played on the Tinder experience by presenting a potential ‘match’ with a character from the game. The user could then ‘swipe-right’ per their normal in-app behavior to view a message, navigate to an app store and download the game.

Presenting the game characters as potential matches was a unique way to engage the user while their attention was focused in-app. The combined effect of leveraging these brands caught the audience in the precise moment they were hands-on and open to a positive experience.


Engage around normal experiences and behaviors

To do in-app well, it’s important not to interrupt the user, or annoy them with content that comes off like the ads that millennials love to block. The goal is to blend-in with the user’s experience rather than manufacturing one and forcing it upon them. This is a critical concept for good native marketing.

The demographics of mobile app gamers and Tinder users, who would be swiping-right anyway, line up pretty well. But we still wanted to make sure that we were engaging each user individually (millennials and Gen Z’ers hate being put in buckets by marketers).
To do this, we employed cutting edge practices for micro-targeting by using fresh, first-party behavioral signals from the user’s mobile device to tell us what they were interested in, when they used their apps and how. So, users weren’t targeted just because they were a millennial. They had also displayed a clear, recent engagement with Tinder or other gaming apps like Fallout Shelter. Such elegant use of data to micro-target users is what all mobile app marketers aim for but few achieve.

Keep it social and coordinated

No matter where the market is, it’s really important to get in front of the right audience with an opportunity to engage. In marketing speak, you want to go omni-channel across media, formats, screens, operating systems, social channels, browsers . . . you name it. In the case of Fallout Shelter, creating that ubiquitous presence went back to the importance of leveraging influencers.

Tinder, by definition an engaging social forum, has about 100 million downloads as of this writing. Fallout Shelter leveraged that reach with a game-themed hashtag – #DateADweller – that was supported with strategic spending across search and social media.

Following this philosophy, our initial launch featured a front-loaded campaign to get maximum early traction, targeted ads for both #DateADweller and the gaming title itself, a handful of creative marketing hacks and extensive PR – earned, contributed and otherwise. Add it all up and we found a way to reach the largest probable audience for Fallout Shelter wherever they were and at an ideal moment.

The outcomes

Statistically speaking, the launch of the Fallout Shelter app broke records. The title quickly rose to the #1 spot on both the Top Free and Top Grossing charts and earned more than $5.1 million in in-app microtransactions its first two weeks on the iOS App Store. It was also nominated for the Best Mobile/Handheld game at the 2015 Game Awards.

The quantitative success and accolades were gratifying. But the lasting memory I have of the experience is that, while traditional apps marketers were still hemming and hawing about what great native and in-app experiences might mean, a mobile game that started out as a promotional vehicle for a console title became a force in its own right. If traditional mobile app marketers haven’t felt the pressure to adapt their own tactics to keep up, now is the time.

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