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Somo: 2009 was ‘ridiculously early’ to launch a mobile marketing agency

Tim Green

UK firm says most marketers still don't get digital. But those that do have made Somo a transatlantic success story.

In 2009, Carl Uminski and Nick Hynes thought it was the right time to launch a mobile marketing agency, Somo.

Smartphones were becoming ubiquitous and mobile was ready to change digital habits that were well over a decade old.

They were convinced marketers were set to embrace the small screen.

They were so wrong.

Today, six years on, most brand custodians are still stuck in the old offline mindset.

Uminski, COO of Somo, talked about this in an exclusive video interview with Hot Topics. He says: “I see brands today who are mapping out marketing campaigns, and 70 to 80 per cent of the spend is above the line. Mobile marketing is just a box check.

“It’s crazy because I also know brands whose online sales were 70 per cent mobile over the holiday season. That’s a game changer.

“If you don’t have a mobile strategy today, you may not have a tomorrow…I can’t believe I’m still saying that but it is. I thought 2009 was the right time to launch, but looking back it was ridiculously early.”

Uminski may lament the attitude of the slowcoaches, but there are enough progressive marketers out there to have made Somo a big success.

The company now has offices in London, New York and San Francisco. It’s worked with over 200 brands and retains around 50 regular clients.

Over its lifetime, Somo has evolved from being a business that builds mobile marketing campaigns to one that licences technology so that clients can build and measure their own.

And not just on mobile, but on all digital media.

Some tech includes products like Lithient, which measures the lifetime value of a customer. It comprises an app SDK that tracks user activity and conversion data and builds a picture of what the customer journey looks like.

Uminski says: “We set about solving problems, and the first was media and advertising. But we saw very clearly there was a technology challenge.

“Nick still has the bit of paper that said we’d start with digital and mobile marketing because we get the insight then move to build, CRM, loyalty and more. Largely we’ve executed against that plan.”

In moving away from an agency model, Somo has begun to compete with Accenture, Cap Gemini and Sapient Nitro. In 2014, it raised $5.5m to build more technology to stay competitive with these huge systems integrators.

Uminski is certain Somo can continue to prosper.

“I think it’s hard to come in to market now,” he says. “After six years, we know what’s right, how to build technology and how much things cost. We have that history now.