Branding Mobile

When the Internet first started generating public interest, businesses looked for ways to extend their sales and marketing to the web by building online storefronts and plastering affiliate sites with banner advertisements. Currently, companies employ many of the same tactics in the emerging mobile channel without fully realizing the capabilities—and restrictions—of today’s devices. The question is: what can an organization do to better position their brand in the mobile space?

Advertising has evolved with the introduction of each new medium, and in each iteration, the rules change. The first retail websites were no more than digitized versions of catalog pages and print materials, but as innovators discovered ways (think search, the shopping cart, 3D product views) to better engage users, eCommerce blossomed into a multi-billion industry. Businesses must apply these lessons to their mobile campaigns and get the creative juices flowing!

Consider what the consumer expects a mobile app to be:

Personal: Cell phones, unlike landlines, TV’s, or computers, become an extension of the individual that carries it. Users will spend hours customizing ringtones, news feeds, and weather to make a device their own. Apps can create this sense of ownership by linking to existing online accounts and including configurable preferences. However, companies also need to be cautious when attempting to send messages or display advertising through a phone since users are more sensitive to invasions of privacy

Instant: No cellular connection or smart phone is as quick as what consumers are accustomed to at their computer desk, but for a population always on-the-go, apps need to perform even faster! Smart mobile designers know this and minimize the time it takes to actually have information at your fingertips. Setup times are short (sometimes only requiring a single sign-on), shallow menus speed navigational tasks, and downloads consist of mainly text transactions.

Fun: Traditional software can get away with a less-than-pretty interface if it functions well, but an ugly app doesn’t stand a chance against its sexy competitors on the iPhone (or Android or Blackberry). Beyond aesthetics, this means making an app with a personality that a person can enjoy using (and wants to show off). Nobody brags about an app that shows rental rates for a Zipcar, but when you can locate one nearby and unlock (a rented) one with a virtual key fob, friends will want to try it themselves.

These expectations can be translated into three proven success strategies of mobile applications—usefulness, entertainment capability, and product enhancement—as explained by Sarah Kessler of Mashable in her article, “13 Branded Apps That Got it Right.” Give the user an app they already know how to use (as Apple would say) and more importantly, an app that means something.

For instance, Kraft’s popular iFood Assistant brings electronic recipes to the kitchen while unobtrusively suggesting ingredients from their brand (useful), DirecTV customers can set their DVR using an official scheduler (useful, product enhancing), and Zippo’s trademark lighter app creates a concert atmosphere in any dark place (entertaining). Each follows at least one of the previously mentioned strategies while keeping the user’s expectations in focus.

As device adoption rates grow (analysts project web-enabled phones to outnumber computers as soon as 2013), effective mobile strategy becomes crucial to reaching consumers. Companies should approach mobile branding by assessing their customer base and finding appropriate methods to reach out, be it through mobile site optimization or the introduction of a new app. By recognizing what makes smart phones unique, businesses can build a better experience for users and gain traction for their brand in the rapidly expanding mobile market.

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