Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Apps as Branded Experiences

How did we ever get along without apps? I'm kidding, of course, but the emergence of apps as part of the experience of using a smartphone or tablet has changed how marketers and consumers interact with the Web. Recent statistics estimate more than 800,000 apps are available for Apple devices and more than 670,000 apps developed for the Android platform. Apps play a part in extending our sports consumption beyond the TV or computer. They let us watch March Madness games, get scores and news in real-time, and make adjustments to fantasy team rosters. Apps are more than a communication channel; they are a digital experience that can be used to strengthen existing brands or build new ones.

An example of how apps can go beyond being a website shortcut and be a highly interactive experience is development of fitness apps that feature professional athletes as virtual personal trainers. One such app is Nike Training Club, a free app available for iOS and Android platforms, that includes 15-minute workout videos led by professional athletes. Tennis star Serena Williams is the most notable celebrity trainer in Nike Training Club. Another app, Go Pro Workouts, is an element of a digital fitness program format that sells for $49.99 and counts NFL players Von Miller and Jamaal Charles among its virtual trainers. Using well-known athletes brings awareness and instant credibility to these digital fitness products.

Apps are products, but resist the temptation to think about them as only products. The power of apps is their ability to engage people with a brand repeatedly and extensively. If you are an app user, particularly for sports, are there certain apps you go to over and over? For many people, perhaps it is ESPN ScoreCenter. For others, it might be MLB At Bat. (ESPN ScoreCenter and MLB At Bat are among top 10 downloaded apps from iTunes App Store). These apps are extensions of high equity brands. But, an app need not be linked to an established brand to be valuable.

Technology makes app development relatively easy, but beware that a lousy user experience can cause an app to deliver an unintended negative blow to a brand. Too often, I hear marketers wondering out loud "maybe we need an app" without really having a clear strategy or tapping the potential for apps to create unique experiences for users. Nike Training Club and Go Pro Workouts get it; the perceived value in an app is influenced by the benefits derived from the user experience.

NBCSports.com - "In New Apps, Professional Athletes become Personal Trainers"

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