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Discover Calm’s Billion Dollar Marketing Strategy

If you’re in the mobile app space you can’t help but hear about Calm’s massive growth and how they became a Unicorn Startup over the past few years.

They’re the #1 Meditation App in the World and yet they have more to offer to their users day by day.

They are a major player in the Mobile App market.

Source: MobileAction

It is my ultimate goal in this article to show you what’s truly working for Mobile Apps by giving you a sneak peek into strategies and tactics used by one of the World’s most profitable Mobile App Company.

These are not made-up theories about how they might have become successful. This article relies on pure data and facts about the strategies they used, and the tactics they implemented.

About Calm

Calm was founded in 2012 by Alex Tew & Michael Acton Smith.

In 7 years, they grew from Startup to a $1 Billion valuation company.

Perhaps best known for becoming the World’s First Mental Health Unicorn. And for their unique approach to marketing which resulted in steady growth.

Michael was in the mobile gaming industry before Calm. He felt the stress of keeping companies afloat and the pressure of being a successful entrepreneur.

Meanwhile, Alex started his journey creating the Million Dollar Homepage. That brought quick success to him — got a glimpse into what an online entrepreneur’s life looks like.

Fast forward, he maintained a true passion for mindfulness and neuroscience, and he taught Michael about meditation.

Eventually, the two teamed up and they created Calm.

Even though Calm started as a meditation app they have grown to something much bigger and seems like they’re planning on to become even much more:

“We started as a meditation app, but have grown far beyond that. Our vision is to build one of the most valuable and meaningful brands of the 21st century. Health and wellness is a $4 trillion industry and we believe there is a big opportunity to build the leading company in this fast growing and important space.” Michael Acton Smith, Co-founder & Co-CEO

Now let’s dive in and see what strategies they use to achieve this next level of success…

Summary of Their Strategy

Paid Advertising is definitely not the only tool in their marketing arsenal, they do a bunch of other things quite alright. But this accounts for a tremendous part in their success.

They know their target market incredibly well — this is why they are able to be specific about every little detail of their communication. You will see more about that when I take a closer look at their ads.

Facebook is the main channel of their user acquisition with more than 300 creatives running. They use message sequencing and fully enhance retargeting.

Which basically means they follow users through their Customer Journey using ads.

As unbelievable as it is, these are the things that differentiate the cream of the crop from average Joes in 2020.

Paid User Acquisition

Source: MobileAction

They’re arguably one of the biggest advertisers in the Mobile App Space right now.

In fact, they’re the number one on iOS in their industry.

This isn’t much of a surprise considering they earned $6M in January 2020 solely from iOS.

But what about Android?

Well, it falls far behind.

It only counts for $1M of their profit (from mobile) which is a fraction of the iOS revenue.

This simply means they figured their conversion rates are much higher on iOS compared to Android.

Their target customers more likely to use iOS devices and they’re more eager to purchase at the end of the day than Android fellas.

Now we know more about who they target, let’s take a look at where they reach their potential target market.

This was their ad spend distribution on iOS in 2019.

Android is pretty similar as well when it comes to the structure.

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll take the example of iOS from now on — considering this platform comes with more robust numbers.

Obviously, Facebook is the biggest player in their paid traffic arsenal. They counted for more than 80% of their ad spend last year. A portion of their budget was split between some of the biggest mobile ad networks.

Some of their most popular ads appeared on TapJoy, like this creative. This is a single image, most probably used for retargeting — reminding you of Calm.

Instagram took less than 1% of their budget which is interesting to see from a brand that relies so heavily on social ads.

I personally saw some of their retargeting campaigns in Instagram Stories — it’s safe to assume they buy more traffic in Stories than they do on the Instagram Feed.

According to MobileAction, they have more than 300 creatives running in the last 30 days.

I saw at least 15 different creative concepts that focus on new user acquisition. Most of their acquisition campaigns promote Sleep Stories and less is focusing on the meditation part.

Some of their videos start from a real-life experience that brings you to the app — I could count at least 5 of them.

Then there are ones that give you a sneak peek into one of their Stories. Like this one here.

Notice how Eva Green’s soothing voice starts by saying “hello” at the beginning.

Imagine seeing this on your feed next to 100s of posts & ads trying to capture your attention with loud & vibrant visuals.

This surely grabs attention — it would grab mine!

They visualize Eva’s voice so you know something worth listening to going on. Plus, the copy increases credibility and makes them look more reliable.

This is a brilliant example of a well-crafted ad. It doesn’t give too much, it gives just enough.

They often partner with influencers like Eva Green. I saw LeBron James, Matthew McConaughey and even Game of Thrones star Jerome Flynn narrating.

I’m sure they strategically pick their influencers keeping in mind who can speak well to their audiences. All these familiar faces give Calm the opportunity to work on new targeting angles among their potential customers. And eventually, get to know them even better.

Welcome Journey

Once you download the app, the very first screen says “take a deep breath” and there’s literally nothing else on the screen.

It is actually the starting screen every time you open the app.

This simple message gives you time to slow down, give yourself a moment and ease into the tranquility the app offers. It feels like a reminder to your mind that it’s me-time, it’s time to let go of everything else.

The background also has this gradient color they always use — it’s part of their logo as well. I noticed a lot of their creatives are purple too or have something purple-ish.

So I looked up what psychology says about this color.

Here’s what I found: it “can have calming effects over the mind and nerves, it can be uplifting and can trigger creativity.” You see, all little things matter, don’t overlook them.

The next screen asks you a simple question about what’s your goal using Calm. It allows them to personalize each and every feed and even if they don’t, you’ll feel more special and valued, simply because they asked.

Plus, they have even clearer results about why anyone chooses their app.

Then there are 3 more screens: one asks you to sign up, a sales screen and a last quick question about which marketing channel brought you to Calm.

There are quite a few screens before you get to use the app but it feels a smooth experience.

You can skip whichever you want and cut to the chase.

The feature that brings big bucks

Sleep Stories are quite big hits of Calm which makes it look more like a lifestyle/mindfulness app rather than a simple meditation tool. These are usually 30-min long stories that are like the “fairytales of adulthood”.

They are always narrated by someone with a super smoothing, calm voice which makes the story and experience even better.

They asked a few stars & influencers to narrate some of their stories.

I like how Matthew McConaughey or LeBron James starts with personal experience and then ease into the story they narrate. It’s potentially a huge market they tapped into by solving a real problem. Surely takes credit for a huge amount of their revenue these days or else they wouldn’t use mostly Sleep Stories to acquire new users.

How they emphasize on virality

We know virality is a huge factor in one app’s success and asking users to share their experience with their friends at the right moment is just as important. And Calm does this just about right.

This screen shows up once you finish your meditation. You clearly feel the value, even got into a better mood as a result of using the app.

So what’s a better time to ask you to share your experience, right?

And they won’t let you share a boring one-liner about how great Calm is.

No, they added a nice quote that is directly connected to the session you just finished.

You truly can share something meaningful with your friends while having a great time using the app.

This is genius timing and very well-crafted.

The habit of Calm

Once you finish a session or two, this screen shows up.

It lets you set a reminder to integrate mindful habits into your life.

And this is actually a reminder to use Calm daily.

Great combo, huh?

I’m sure this tiny tool increases retention rates for them significantly.

Another thing that probably has a great impact on their retention rates is Daily Calm.

They offer a new session daily, created only for that day. As far as I can see, it is available for 7 days only.

By producing new content every day, there’s more reason to come back and listen to brand new sessions daily.

Retargeting & Special Offers

Now that I have downloaded the app and haven’t paid yet, I’m basically at the top of their sales funnel or with other words I’m at the beginning of Calm’s Customer Journey.

Since they don’t have any ads inside the app this also means I haven’t brought in a dime yet for Calm.

We all know, acquiring new users is nice but it doesn’t add a whole lot to revenue unless users become paying customers.

So the question is what Calm does to get your attention once you downloaded the app?

To dig deeper, I took a closer look at their special offers & retargeting efforts.

I found a few re-install campaigns that remind you of Calm without special offers or discounts. They targeted me with one that promotes their Sleep Stories. Then there are ones that offer huge discounts to make users buy.

Now, without further ado here’s what I found:

Once I downloaded the app, I got an immediate 40% OFF.

But the thing is I’ve had the app before and then after a few months break, I reinstalled it.

So I think this is part of a win-back campaign. I don’t think they offer an immediate 40% OFF to all new users, that wouldn’t make much sense.

However, this could be perfect to win back long lost users and convince them to subscribe.

This is one of the ads promoting the 40% off deal.

For obvious reasons, they use a “Subscribe” button instead of “Install Now”.

And then at the beginning, there’s a short part about Sleep Stories. That quick video is my personal favorite.

There are those certain movements and clips that have calming effects on the mind and this is surely one of them. It is simply nice to watch.

After the 5-seconds long calming video 5 testimonials follow.

I saw another version of this video when they skipped the Sleep Stories part, and the video started with testimonials right at the start.

They might test the first few seconds of the creative — which is always a clever thing to do.

Or they might track if you listened to Sleep Stories before.

And based on that, you’ll see ads including Sleep Stories because that might be a trigger for you.

Either way, it’s very well-done.

As for testimonials, there’s a rainy effect in the background. It appears on a lot of videos so I’m sure that is a winner for them. And it’s needless to say, testimonials increase social proof and one will feel more confident about subscribing.

They have a whole bunch of other offers promoting 25% OFF as well. As I can see, they also use message sequencing which means they retarget those who saw a certain amount of a video ad.

Either way, it’s obvious they enhance the capabilities of retargeting. And well, that’s the clever thing to do in 2020.

What the Future Holds

I saved the best for last.

Calm is surely in a rapid growth pace right now but the question is:

What’s their ultimate goal for the future?

Here’s how Smith thinks about the future of Calm:

“We’d love to do Calm hotels,” he said. “Our real ambition is to eventually buy an island and create Calm Island, the world’s most relaxing resort.”

Does it sound quite exciting and inspiring? It does for me. I can’t wait to see what their next move is.


If you are a competitor of Calm, you probably have your marketing strategies in place. However, I hope in this article you might have learned a thing or two about what areas they’re strong and where they might be weak.

If you are in any other market you should be thinking about how to implement these working strategies to YOUR app, in YOUR market.

A lot thinks their app is unique and they need marketing tactics no one used before.

Trust me, after working with the most exciting App Startups in Europe, I can truly say no App is that different. These strategies work in all App markets.

Don’t go after strategies just because gurus say you must use this and this. Take a look at what big dawgs do and think about how you can implement them to your business. If you can tweak them to an even better version, you’ll rock. 💯🔥

What You Should Do Now

If you are serious about taking your app to the next level, you should download our 50 Mobile Traffic Sources spreadsheet — it’s incredibly useful if you want more traffic to your app.

If you’d like our direct help planning and implementing these strategies for your market, then click here 👈💰

Also, if you found the information in this article useful, sharing it or giving us a 👏 below really help us keep producing more content like this. Without the shares, we just couldn’t afford to keep producing free content like this.



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