Friday, March 29, 2013

Do You Need an App?

The last blog post discussed apps as branded experiences, featuring Nike Training Club and Go Pro Workouts as apps that bring professional athletes into users' training routines. The takeaway was that apps can be a valuable addition to a firm's product portfolio. Apps can engage people with your brand, build loyalty through repeat interactions with an app, and even create revenue. The benefits of apps make them an intriguing possibility to incorporate into product strategy. But, before visualizing your slick new app on a smartphone or tablet, ask the all-important question "do we need an app?"

The issue of whether app development would be beneficial to a brand has less to do with deciding if an app is needed and more to do with whether customers value an app associated with your brand. Apps are not novelties; they are products... even when you give an app away. A product delivers benefits valued by customers. If benefits of app usage is perceived to justify the "cost" (time or money) to acquire and use the app, then developing an app would be an appropriate marketing decision. On the other hand, app development driven primarily by IT groups with little regard for what users would want or value from an app are futile efforts.

The question of the usefulness of an app inspired this post, but the source of inspiration was not directly from sports. A feature at about an app that empowers users to track what makes them happy in their daily lives offers a lesson to sports marketers. The idea behind the Track Your Happiness app is for users to be able to capture the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in their daily activities that contribute to their happiness. Although skeptics wonder how an app could possibly figure out what makes us happy, the point is that the Track Your Happiness app responds to a need that so many people crave- the quest to be happy.

Sports marketers responsible for developing digital marketing strategy can learn from the concept behind Track Your Happiness. Deliver value by giving people what is important to them. For users of Track Your Happiness, it is happiness. For Yahoo! Sportacular, it is about having access to a virtual buffet of scores and news from a wide range of sports. Convenience, inside access, or in-depth information are other examples of benefits that users might seek from digital interaction with a sports brand via an app. The 5Ps of sports marketing presented in Sports Marketing begins with Positioning, which focuses on understanding customers and their needs. Platform is how we respond to those needs, including development of apps as branded digital experiences. It is no coincidence that Positioning is the catalyst of sports marketing; without a keen understanding of customers it is unrealistic to expect that effective marketing decisions can be made.