The 5 Pillars of Branded Mobile App Development

The debate about HTML5 vs applications is lingering on – but smart marketers need not wait around for the ultimate verdict on where the future is headed. HTML5 has yet to be perfected as a cross-platform technology according to W3C’s latest announcement, while applications are currently the most secure forms of engagement available on mobile devices and leverage the full native capability of the mobile device. For now we know that mobile apps and HTML5 can coexist peacefully and marketers with more engaging content should look to applications to deliver exclusive branded experiences.

A study published earlier this year by Chetan Sharma and GetJar indicated that mobile app downloads will soar to 50 billion by 2010, up from 7 billion in 2009. As smartphone penetration in the US, Europe and emerging markets increases, marketers are (and if aren’t, then should be) looking to make mobile marketing and advertising a part of their marketing mix. In this post we examine the 5 pillars of branded mobile application development – things to keep in mind that are critical for success on mobile platforms – derived from existing best practices found in past and current case studies of branded mobile apps. There are generally three categories when it comes to branded mobile apps:

  • Functional Apps
  • Entertaining Apps
  • Brand/Product enhancing Apps

When working with either of the types, there are 5 pillars to keep in mind:

1. Knowledge about your audience, their technographics and their needs

Depending on the platform and functions you choose, your application can be customized to your specific needs. According to research by CBS, 38 percent of American households have DVR’s. DirecTV took advantage of this statistic by creating a branded application that allows users to program their DVRs through their mobile phones. This is a good example of understanding customer behaviors and knowing that those who can program DVRs can most likely also set them up through their mobile phones.

2. Determine goals and define metrics for success

MLB.com (Major League Baseball) created an iPhone app called At Bat and priced it at $14.99. They understood that the app is valuable enough for baseball fans as it includes audio streaming, seeing 1 live game video streamed per day and more. An iPad app was also available that offers hi-def video playback. The award winning app offers tons of features from calendars to interactive rosters and by knowing the full value that was delivered, MLB was able to price the app at a hefty price of $14.99 while attaining the number 8 spot on iTunes’ popular paid apps back in March.

3. Create consistent consumer experience across all channels

It’s important to create unique experiences while staying true to a brand’s identity and promise. Any interactions users have on one platform should be in sync with other interactions, thus preventing any confusions that could arise from inconsistent brand messaging. In the Karate Kid App, players can play five mini games that focus on various virtues of Kung Fu: patience, courage, endurance, perseverance and will. This is consistent with the messaging of the movie and helps rekindle similar feelings inside of Karate Kid fans.

4. Prepare to offer multichannel marketing support

Application store catalogs are coming heavy with apps and discovery is becoming more complex for all participants. Launching the app with integrated marketing support is crucial as apps should be seen as products and marketed accordingly. A good example is the Karate Kid app for the iOS platform. They submitted the apps to appreview sites and deployed videos on YouTube. Marketing your app to your existing user base is an easy way to pick up an audience and may be direly important in getting your the jump start it needs before word of mouth can take over.

5. Understand that this is long term investment in brand extension

Avoid the quick, fast-fading hit in favor of creating value and encourage repeat usage.
A great example is Kraft’s iFood Assistant app that launched in 2008 and has been a top 100 paid apps. The app offers tons of recipes that are organized by category and allows users to even add in their own favorite recipes. According to mashable, over 60 percent of people who downloaded the app are still interacting with it today. This strong engagement is a result of adding new content and recipes over time – something Kraft is well aware of.

Creating smart solutions is in all of our powers and by taking time to understand our users and crafting an effective strategy we can see success. It’s very important to not worry about time to market because a sloppy app can be detrimental to the brand’s efforts. Happy branding!

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