It was Sunday—game day. Beer and pretzels would soon be placed on the table, and five of us would gather to cheer on our team, scream about bad calls, and trade insults among friends. But in advance of being exposed to the obligatory car commercials that are a part of every game, I pulled out my iPhone and took a 360-degree look at Ford’s new Flex crossover, customized the paint job on a BMW Z4 Roadster, and had some fun with the Audi A4 Driving Challenge. More engaging than any commercial I’ve ever watched.
Jumping on the “iBrandwagon”
The three apps mentioned above are examples of a new marketing trend called “iBranding.” In the past year, the move to extend brand recognition through the use of iPhone/iPod touch apps has been swift and defining. From rock stars to retail marketing, everyone’s jumping on the iBrandwagon.
Why this move to the App Store as a means of brand extension? The numbers speak for themselves. Apple recently announced its best second quarter earnings ever. There are now over 35,000 titles in the App Store, and downloads have surpassed the one billion mark. In addition, iPhone sales are up 123% over last year, and the iPhone is now available in 81 countries. Apple has now sold approximately 21 million iPhones, and the App Store has the potential of reaching 37 million users when you include the iPod touch platform.
Based on those numbers, it makes perfect sense that movie studios, sports franchises, and celebrities are using the iPhone and iPod Touch as part of their branding strategies. In fact, it’s quickly becoming an expected part of any marketing strategy, especially with the generation Y and Z demographic.
“When a friend posted a note on my Facebook page that a new Star Trek movie was coming out, I went right to the App Store,” said Taylor Ferris, a Gen Z’er. “There was a Star Trek comic book app that was as a tie-in to the movie, and I downloaded it and told all my friends. Now they’ve got it, too!”
Interactive is the new proactive
Television commercials, magazine ads, and other forms of traditional branding are static. They highlight the brand and tell you where to click, call, or go to buy it. iBranding lets you do all of these things and more from within the branded application. For example, an iBranded app lets you download a sample, purchase a new song, preview paint options on a car, find the closest store, and more. Here’s a look at just a few ways iPhone/iPod touch apps are being used to extend brand awareness. All but one of these apps are free; all are available now from the iTunes App Store.
PINK: Billboard magazine named Pink’s Funhouse one of the top five Artist Apps in 2009. Pink reaches her fan base through a robust application, where fans can preview songs and music videos, watch interviews, receive news alerts, and stay connected to everything “Pink.”
FORD MOTOR COMPANY: Ford took a unique approach to extending their brand by combining a functional image editing app with information about their Flex crossover vehicle. The app, FLEX Photo Lab, allows users to enhance photos on their iPhones/iPod Touch. They can also learn more about the Flex vehicle, with 360 degree views of the Flex provided, along with a Ford dealer locator.
KRAFT FOODS: Kraft’s iFood Assistant is a cooking app that works in concert with Kraft’s companion Web site to offer recipes, cooking videos, shopping lists, and more. And, as you can guess, Kraft products are included in the ingredient lists provided.
WALT DISNEY WORD: The Walt Disney World Guide has extended their brand by creating an app that incorporates over 200 screens of information on all 118 Walt Disney World attractions. The app includes over 150 photos and in-depth description of locations, rides, ticket prices, and tips for planning a vacation. (This app costs .99 cents.)
SONY PICTURES: Sony Pictures brings their movie brand into the hands of consumers with their self-titled application. Users can view movie previews in HD, get show locations and times, and buy tickets for movies. In addition, they can access previews of Sony games.
STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Stanford University created iStanford to help it succeed in the highly-competitive higher-education market. The app includes the Stanford directory and the ability to search the campus map. You can also find and bookmark courses, and get scores, schedules, and news about all of the university’s varsity teams.
AUDI: Audi extends their brand with two apps: Audi A4 Driving Challenge and Truth in 24. The former is a performance driving game that uses the iPhone/iPod Touch motion-sensing accelerometers to test a user’s skill in a series of driving challenges. The latter was released in combination with a Le Mans documentary. It’s a racing game where users compete against the clock.
Currently, having an iPhone app is a way to differentiate your brand from your competitors, but that may change. For a while now, a company or brand has needed a Web site if it wanted to be taken seriously. If the popularity of the iPhone continues to grow, we may see a day, in the not too distant future, when having an iPhone app as part of a brand strategy will be standard practice. Will that be a good thing?
You bet your app! Traditional media is dead. Long live traditional media!
While many are focusing their branding efforts away from traditional media and towards iPhone/iPod Touch apps, traditional media is being used to drive downloads of those very same apps.
“There are two avenues to awareness,” said Scott Rasmussen, Creative Director of iBrand Central (ibrandcentral.com), a site that specializes in blending traditional media with social media to bring attention to iPhone/iPod Touch applications. “On the one hand, you’ve got the grass-roots, word-of-mouth approach that begins in the halls of Facebook, Twitter, and countless blogs. And on the other, you’ve got traditional media that, if utilized properly, can be very potent.”
To clarify this, Scott mentioned an iPhone medical application that helps consumers decide which action to take based on specific symptoms. “People who download the application may then go to their Facebook page and enter a blurb about it. Their friends will read the blurb and some of them will try the app and mention it on their Facebook pages, and it grows from there. And that creates the bottom-up component.”
Scott continued, “At the same time an ad or a press release appears in a national publication, over a million people learn of the application. Out of those, tens of thousands download the app and blog, Facebook, or Tweet about it. The bottom-up and top-down strategy is a powerful approach.”