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Guest Article: Why do brands need mobile apps

16-September-2011
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Guest Article: Why do brands need mobile apps

When brands started getting Internet aware, they discovered a new elixir – of a medium that provided a double whammy of interactivity and accountability. Naturally, expectations ballooned and interactivity became clutter and accountability became risk distribution. On the mobile however, things were different. Where people were used to the concept of free on the internet, on the mobile, people were made to pay for premium content. This sensitised people to the value of content, whether perceived or real.

Over time, the mobile has gotten the keen capability of being a personal device that delivers relevant and premium material to its user, while keeping them connected and conversant. Mobile phones also got smarter, faster and more capable. Today, smartphones can stand neck to neck with PCs for content consumption and basic content creation. Which is making the digital world about being mobile instead of being plugged in. This opens up a huge opportunity for brands, as the relentless march of mobiles over take PC and broadband users the world over.

We’re now in an era where it’s a given that phones connect brands to their consumers. The imperative question is of how they connect them and how that connect is maximised in its yield for the brand. Above all, mobile phones by design, captivate the audience for a longer duration both in length of experience and quality of attention than any other medium available today.

Up until now, brands have been able to talk to their mobile consumers through SMS, voice and mobile internet. SMS as a medium is short, attention grabbing and precise, but has the reputation of being invasive + intrusive to the user and expensive + inadequate for the brand. SMS has refined its utility to being a notification mechanism for brands. Voice works well in providing support and information services, in addition to content that is narrative in nature, but again is expensive to the consumer and brand and limiting in its interactivity capabilities. Mobile Internet held great promise, but device compatibility, slow connectivity speeds (3G hasn’t gotten the penetration it needs) and a small screen coupled with big expectations is holding it back from being more than a content consumption method. Brands use mobile internet to deliver bite-sized messages, unfortunately not all brand messages can be condensed.

With hundreds of stronger, smarter phones entering the markets every day, a brand today has a new method of engaging with their customer. And by engaging, what brands are doing is increasing their capability to deliver value to their consumers on their mobile phones. So, there are 4 objectives with which brands build apps:

1. Reach: To be able to extend a campaign, concept, ideology or service to a larger audience
2. Experience: To provide a rich and immersive method of user engagement
3. Sales: To fulfill a part of their consumer’s purchase decision making process
4. Delivery: To provide a part of all of its brand message or service to a consumer’s mobile phone

Taking the business case of Axe as a brand and Axe Googly, their mobile app, Axe married the two most viral mindshare elements on the mobile today. Axe’s brand mascots, the Axe Angels and the nation’s favorite sport, Cricket. At the core, Axe Googly is a mobile cricket game and score keeping app, but it provides repeat usage in the form of match schedules and reminders (delivered by an Axe Angel playing assistant to a consumer’s cricketing need) and kept interest high with new wallpapers and videos. What Axe and TechShastra got right was that the brand was about empowering men with the Axe essence while keeping them entertained with elements that were highest on their mindshare – women and cricket. As a result, on Mobango alone, Axe Googly got nearly 100K users, while globally it topped a user count of nearly a million active users. Did this help selling deodorants? Maybe not. Did it make sure that Axe was most visible on a shelf? For sure.

Merely creating an app for presence or show won’t help brands beyond what gimmickry would help. Brands must also understand in what cases a mobile app would NOT make sense for their brand’s objectives. Audiences have millions of apps and content pieces to consume on their mobile phones. They will only be constant users of an app if a brand provides consistent benefits in using their app. The right channel for distribution and the right strategy for mobile engagement is what will make a brand app a true success.

(Alap Ghosh is Head of Sales at Mobango.)
 

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