SXSW: Extending your brand, there’s an app for that

Extending your Brand, there’s an App for that.
For many, brand extension into the digital realm means a Web site, a banner add, a viral campaign. But applications can extend conversations and perceptions of a brand, as well as add to discussions and ideas in compelling new ways. How can applications help your brand and idea be more authentic,…
Rob Girling, Adrian Ho, Shiv Singh, Brian Morrissey

SS: Social Media lead at Razorfish, we currently have reduction in form size, but no reduction in functionality, we are developing mobile solutions for almost all the clients. we are not the 3rd gen of mobiles design, where the core interface is buttons, and streaming and a pulse interface.
RG: Co-Founder of artefact. being working on apps for the last 20 years. come at this from the tech and UI perspective. thinking about how to make a grate app is what we do, which is diff to how marketing has developed things from the past. One thing recently is Seesmic Look, Twitter for neophytes. It’s a branded channel, so brands can build content on top of their tags that are happening. It’s not about building an app, it could be about reaching through an app to get to your audience.
AH: 3 yo company, founders were all ad people, we are reformed. It is around the idea you can take the same money that you spent on commas and spend it on doing things for people and have the same success. My background is strategy. We try and solve business problems by doing things, so for Nordstrom, teen girls, when they want to spend lots of money, they would take pictures and send pictures to their parents – OR would dress up and take photos for touchscreens. So we created something that could take photos, edit them and let them be sent out.

BM: we are going to be talking about the future. what do you see going on right now?
AH: the biggest change, it’s about the information, about how people use the products. Less of the brand perception is not about the imagery and commas but about what they do.
SS; I would extend that further, the biggest change in last 3 years, is trust in big brands has dropped dramatically, thanks to financial crisis and consumer empowerment. Brands are not defined by what they do (marketing, PR, launches) and more by how consumers talk and relate to them. A lot of questions about fundamentals of marketing, advertising etc

BM; so where do apps fit in there?
RG: the days of brands trying to get your attention and hold it with traditional methods are gone. if you are not trying to actively engage your customers, provide utility, you are not going to have a lasting relationship. you have to understand them, their pain, look for opps to delight the. It’s not another channel to push out the message, you have to provide them.
SS: Only partially agree. I like toothpaste, I use it everyday, but I don’t want to have a 2 way conversation with colgate. I care about that I have a memory point when I next buy it. It is important to see the type of brand and if it is high or low consideration.

BM: what can brands learn from popular apps, that are not brand apps.
AH: the lessons that brands can learn from 4sq is not the one they think they are learning. SO people want to connect with friends and they should not get away form that. there are times you can help..but they should not go through you. Typically brands would say this is fantastic it is another place we can connect but it is not a great place for brands to be playing.
SS: so how many of you consider yourself experts in social media (a quarter). (More in mobile). You can’t be into social media if you are not into mobile as well.
RG: I want to add a diff point, what we should be learning is about incentivised behaviour and social status. there is a lot of buzz about reward systems for behaviour. they get something back for checking in, for changing behaviour. that is the beginning of a massive trend, that will snowball in the next few years.

BM: so I want to go into your favourites. A lot of apps are serving the same place as microsites, they are disposable, So what is the role for the campaign like, ephemeral apps.
SS: if you have an app that is a microsiste, it is a total failure, an app coming from a brand has to be entertainment driver – without eh brand as a sponsor or it has to be utilitarian, like the food ordering apps. For it to play role of microsite is a waste of time and money
BM: Adrian are you seeing this> It was the facebook app, now the iphone app.
AH: I would agree on microsite thing, also, I think the entertainment model of using apps is flawed for brands, it does not do the behaviour change, A lot of advertising is about trickery, about changing behaviour. Apps in general, they reward change, that may be useful for brand. A utility based app is much more direct, allows you to behave in a new way. an entertainment app is different, it is about you making you feel different about eh brand, so not a great use for apps,

AudQ: is the brand manager of the future technologist or marketer?
RG: if what I said about apps is true, the technology component cannot be ignored. it’s maintenance and shipping cycle and complexity that the marketing industry is not used to yet. I still think the brand expertise to have the insights and empathy with customer will still rule the day however.
SS: Knowing customers is getting harder by the day and that is of paramount importance. With mobile apps it should get a lot quicker and easier to build and the tech should be commoditised.
AH: the debate about who controls is interesting. from tech, an app is designed to allow you to do things so there is research about making that possible, Marketers come at it about telling you things about the brand that is good to know. they often collide. It is in the middle it will come together, if you allow technologist to do anything, you get usable apps that are not differentiated, so you need the marketing that flavours it with the brand.

BM: so apps you like?
SS: Bundle helps you understand how people spend money. you can info about how other people just like you spend money, the app does not translate the website. The app is Vice Tracker is about changing the spend behaviour. allowing people to be more mindful of how they are spending, against their friends. I can track behaviour, see friends, comment on their behaviour, gives a leadership ranking, on who has the most vices. the idea is that apps can serve a strong educational purpose, in this case managing our vices in a fun game like fashion, it has a social piece, a game like interface, game mechanics, that is what makes it powerful. There are incentives, tied into cause marketing as well.
BM: are the points are what are driving people on 4sq? is it changing behaviour.
SS: there are more to life than incentives and points. it is a shortcut….it is not just about incentives, they do help, there are successful that are pure entertainment or utility, it does depend.

BM: so now into the sucky part.
SS: New York Times. I’m a big fan of the NYT. I feel the app misses things. the content is amazing and great to have it on the phone. I wish they would ask me for money for it. It has no location aware functionality, can’t understand why it doesn’t, so news has a local component. It does not have social features, cannot comment, share, cannot see top rated articles, can’t mash them up, it is a glorified news reader, take tout he content and it is nothing. It does not let me filter by my social graph. it could be better.

RG: . the zippo lighter is about what I don’t like about apps, but I’m using it as a good example. It’s very cheap/simple, and has 3m downloads. Not doing very much, but understanding the platform, early and quickly to get something there. My real good example is Shop Savvy. It is a barcode scanner. you can go into a store, and you can find the cheapest price in the web to get it, also if there is a shop nearby where you can buy it cheaper. `so incentive to get it. save money. they understood the customer, they are wanting to purchase it something, we know where they are, then sell that info to advertisers, so they can discount or offer something.
SS: you talk about shop savvy being a platform for brands? is this an pop for target etc to build their own. So AUDQ about if brands should build or sponsor?
RG: I tend to believe that the loyal Best Buy shopper, is not really a real scenario (i.e. once a month or more for this) is not real. Being part of the ecosystem is better than owning every part of it.
SS: the criteria I use, is it a passionate brand, there is a lot of passion around it. does it have great content or a lot of utilitarian use, does it change on a frequent basis. if it meets these 3, then it is a good reason to build one.
RG: the Merc AMG is an example of what I don’t like. The luxury brands are putting out the microsites as apps. They are links…a video, sound effects and some photos and that is all. There are a tonne of these, brands that have spent years building classy momentum around brand and then they offer you this. It’s is nothing. You may use this once. It is less rich than the site. it is lame. There is nothing to it.
BM: what could they do to make it useful?
RG: this is a passion brand, where the lust is high, but what I don’t see anything about social integration , no community of users, no attempt to connect them, no attempt to say Merc is listening or cares. If I was going to buy one, I may want to talk to other owners, look at second hand market, understand the brand.
AH: Apps like this are advertising – potential owners. With apps you can actually target owners as well. the biggest sales go to existing owners, so an app that makes driving Mercs even better would be good, tap into data etc. this is what happens when advertising people take on app design.

BM: Your example is different?
AH: they don’t run advertising, they created an app that allows you to take pictures when hopping, save it to your cart to get later. it’s a direct relation to sales, we know business impact. My bad app is the GTI driving game. as a tool for branding, it goes against an impressions based model. Of those who downloaded, the idea is that some portion will remember and then take some action and eventually test drive. It is a waste as most who use it will never do anything with it related to the brand, except maybe a good feeling.

BM: so the biggest challenge is campaign vs software development? The budgets may not change soon?

SS: it will change when it proven to have value. A single brand app gets little traction, the ROI is questionable. it is easy to slam marketers for not doing this, but it comes down to metrics, there is not enough education or decision but there are not enough metrics either.
RG: the metrics today are a lot more like PR metrics than traditional marketing etc, I do think that new metrics will be required. e.g. engagement with app in a month. and the tracking of that. When they do use it, you have an engaged user. those metrics don’t properly show up with this yet, and they need to do this.
SS: the biggest metric is not CPMS, CPC, but Cost per BUZZ, and that is not enough.
BM: is that what success looks like (refers to a flurry graph)
AH: we are measuring a lot with advertising metrics, we expect apps to delver scale that advertising does. they will not do this. the reach is limited. we need to figure out new ways to measure ha they are delivering, then you will start to see things do look better. Apps are designed to look good but offer no value, a lot of stuff on that, so if you offer something that allows someone to do business with you easier, then it has a longer lifestyle.

BM: we are talking a lot about iphone as a platform, a few years ago, it would have been facebook.
SS: it is mobility does not mean a sacrifice in functionality. the facebook app is one of the most popular on the iphone. the apps are being downplayed by facebook as well, so not getting as much traction.
RG: a lot of the apps have screwed the privacy issues, with a rogue app stealing info, left me not happy in the platform. Not the best for developers, a lot of things difficult about the facebook universe. the mobile apps universe is more mature and the idea of it being with you all the time is the most compelling thing, it’s powerful;. facebook is still one foot int he desktop experience and not with me all the time.

AUDQ: how will the iPad impact it?
SS: there will be an impact, a lot to do with your posture. you will have more space, different posture and gestures. Not used to it yet.
RG: just the larger canvas, is something.

AUDQ: What steps to increase stickiness of apps?
RG: there’s no lipstick answer, there is no small thing. you have to do your homework. What is the opportunity. It’s the user-centric design, try and figure out a way to make some utility. Charmin did one…an app to find toilets and to review them. for moms with kids, a good app. it is relevant.
SS: don’t frontload all the advertising PR push etc, that is when you see a reverse hockey stick. think different marketing and PR levers.

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