[Part 3] Push 101: Everything You Need To Know About Content & Copy

By: Kahuna | November 19, 2014 | Campaign Strategy, Push Notifications

Push notifications are the building blocks of any great mobile marketing strategy, but sending the perfect push isn’t as simple as it may seem. If you are a mobile marketer or product manager looking to learn more about using push notifications effectively, you’ve come to the right place. This post is the third in the introductory series Push 101: A Beginner’s Guide To Crafting Great Push Notifications. Follow this series or download the full guide to master the basics and discover what push notifications can do for you.


Let’s start with the basics.


Mobile has proven itself to be both an opportunity and a challenge for many of the same reasons. The ubiquity of mobile phones and tablets allows brands to connect with consumers in a uniquely personal way, but as a result, mobile messages are held to a much higher standard. Not all messages are created equal, and when it comes to push notifications, only the best ones resonate. So how do you craft a winning notification? Content that inspires and delights is a critical component. 

What makes great message content? Why is this important?

Great message content represents valuable information that drives positive user behavior and inspires delight. Push notifications have the ability to catalyze immediate action, but users will only take action if the message itself is both relevant and compelling.

How is great content created?

When it comes to content, every push notification should be optimized in these three ways:

  • What to say (subject matter)
  • How to say it (copy)
  • How to make it stick (personalization)

Figuring out what to say:

 Users have a limited tolerance for receiving push notifications, and mobile apps need to make every message count. Since you can only send a finite number of notifications before users react negatively to over-messaging, the fundamentals of what is being said in each notification is especially important. Not sure what to say?

Use these simple steps to determine what to include in your message.

  1. Set a goal: Push notifications should always be crafted with a specific reason in mind. Ask and answer the question, “What is the end goal of this push notification?” before you begin creating the message. Some example goals would be “inspire purchasing,” “catalyze social sharing,” or “complete key onboarding actions.”
  2. Define the value proposition: Once you know what you want the push notification to accomplish, construct a message that will prompt the user to fulfill the goal. Ask and answer the question, “What would inspire the user to complete this action?” and highlight this value proposition in the message. For example, users might be inspired to make a purchase if they receive a promotion code or learn that a favorite item is back in stock.

Case study:

When it comes to push notifications, Yummly has it down to a science. Yummly is a leading web and mobile recipe service with over 15 million monthly active users.  Yummly works with Kahuna to onboard their mobile users, using push notifications to ensure users take the key onboarding actions that catalyze a sticky product experience and strong future engagement.

Yummly - discover      Yummly App      Yummly App

In order to become a long-term, valuable customer, there are three things that every Yummly user must do once they download the mobile app. These actions are: “Add dietary preferences,” “favorite five recipes,” and “add a recipe to the shopping list”. The Yummly onboarding flow is represented in the images above.

Yummly push notification


Yummly Push Notification


Yummly Push Notification

In the images above, you can see how Yummly focuses the content of their push notifications to inspire these key onboarding actions.

Making it sing:

Great copy is a “must-have” when it comes to push notifications. The mobile experience is inherently intimate, and a push notification will elicit a visceral reaction from the user receiving it. The reaction can be extremely positive or extremely negative, and message copy often pushes the response one way or the other. Let the “4Cs” serve as your compass when writing great copy.

Great copy for push notifications must be:

  • Clear:  There is no room for ambiguity in a message as brief as a push notification. Make sure users understand what is being said, what they are being asked to do, and why they should do it.
  • Compelling:  Mobile enables the user to “act now,” and the message copy should be compelling enough to inspire this mentality in the user receiving the push notification.
  • Concise:  The iOS banner display shows only the first 60 characters, and the Android banner display shows only the first 45 characters, meaning it is important to make every character count. Brief, pithy messages perform much better than drawn out prose.
  • Clever:  It is difficult to overstate the importance of this final aspect, as clever copy is the best way to make your push notifications stand out from the crowd. Win over your audience and preserve your brand voice using creative rhetoric.

Case study:

Ads-free music service 8tracks has made a name for itself by crafting some of the best push notifications in the business.

8tracks push notification


8track push notification

These cleverly written push notifications elicit tremendous user engagement and generate countless organic app downloads as users often share their delight across social media.

Making it stick:

Mobile is personal, and every push notification must be personalized to the user receiving it.

You know things are going well when: A user sees the push notification and thinks, “This message was meant for me.”

Alternatively, disaster strikes when: A user sees the push notification and thinks, “This message was probably sent to 50,000 other people.”

The best way to accomplish message personalization at scale is to include at least one phrase in the message that is custom to the user receiving the notification. For those of you who are familiar with email merge fields or old fashioned mail merges, this is the same concept, only applied to push notifications.


You type: Still looking for a [last category viewed] or a great pair of [last shoe type viewed] in [user shoe size]? New items just in!

User 1 sees: Still looking for a dress or a great pair of heels in size 8? New items just in!

User 2 sees: Still looking for a blouse or a great pair of running shoes in size 7? New items just in!

Case study:

 Netflix does a great job of personalizing their push notifications. Here’s how they do it:

Netflix push notificationNetflix push notification

As you can see, Netflix uses push notifications to let users know when their favorite shows are available. Rather than sending every user a notification every time a new series is released, they only send one notification to each user. Each user receives a perfectly personalized message about the specific series that they have been watching.

Message personalization is critical to generating great content, but it requires that your push notification system understand your users across platforms and devices, and in real time. For more information on using data to personalize your mobile marketing, check out this webinar: “Treating Your Mobile Users Like People: Using Data To Understand Your Always Connected Customers.”

Final note:

How do you make great content even better? Test it out! Now that you know all about crafting a great message, consider taking a more advanced approach using A-to-E message testing. Testing is a critical piece of a sophisticated messaging strategy, as even the slightest variance in word choice can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of a message. And the winning version may surprise you. Later in the series, we’ll show you some real results of A/B tests and which push notifications won out.

Want to know more about push notifications?


Get the full guide to crafting perfect push notifications.