Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: The Application of Sense

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: The Application of Sense

Article excerpt

Advertisers investing in the development of branded apps should not bypass the basics of planning.

When Zachary Taylor, 12th president of the US, was campaigning for election, he established a practice that became so widely adopted among politicians that it became a byword for seeking association with another's success.

His friend, showman and circus impresario Dan Rice, would drum up business by holding street parades, with the band carried on a cart through the cheering crowds. Rice invited Taylor to ride on the band wagon to boost his campaign, and the phrase was coined.

Yet it wasn't until the digital world emerged that bandwagon-jumping became a truly professional sport. Ongoing and rapid change destabilised businesses, undermining traditional models and driving people to ever-more desperate attempts to be part of the next big thing. Nowhere was this more prevalent than in the app world.

Facebook and the iPhone were pioneers, effectively crowdsourcing the intellectual resource that created functionality their competitors' proprietary models simply couldn't match.

A claimed 500,000 apps have been produced for Facebook, and 140,000 for iPhone. Their success created a goldrush for marketers to whom a bandwagon (apps) on top of a bandwagon (social media) proved irresistible.

However, the app market is hypercompetitive and oversupplied; and, like advertising, seems to attract those who prefer to leap straight to the execution, missing out all those tiresome planning steps, like working out who it might be for and what the benefit might be.

Briefs were duly rushed out to enthusiastic production companies, and the consequence is, predictably, an awful lot of crap.

On Facebook, Qantas' My Travel Insiders app lets you pick your friends' brains about destinations; sadly, there are only 73 monthly users worldwide, so your chances of having a friend who also has this app installed are minimal.

Similarly, Hotels.com appears to have an app that lets you find friends near hotels - I say appears, because it was developed by the same person who seems to have created a fake profile for the company. Still, the fake profile is more than twice as popular as the official one, and the app has a grand total of two monthly users.

It's easy to criticise seemingly pointless apps like Carling's iPint and Coke's Cheers (which lets you clink 'glasses' with people); but, ironically, these can make sense. They may not stay on the iPhone for long; the average half-life of an app (the time before half of users stop using it) is nine days, but those that are sufficiently popular can be a cost-effective means of engaging your audience in a brand-consistent way. …

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