Brands looking to break into the mobile-application arena will be successful if they think of apps as products, panelists said a “Branding in the Apposphere” session at the Mobile Marketing Association SM2 conference in New York City.

Sean Galligan, vice president of sales and business development at Flurry, said the top companies are creating apps that both provide utility to the user and reinforce the user’s relationship with a brand. Galligan was joined on the panel by Applico Chief Marketing Officer Louis Simeonidis and Philippe Browning, vice president of advertising and operations at CBS Interactive.

When prompted by moderator Jake Ward of the Application Developers Alliance, Simeonidis singled out Nike for its stellar work in the app space. Nike has been at the forefront of thinking of apps as a product, Simeonidis said, and the apparel brand has been particularly successful at integrating its apps into consumers’ lives.

Simeonidis said brands have two main considerations when it comes to mobile apps: First, identify an objective for the app; second, come up with an audience you’d like to target.

The latter part, said Galligan, is where Flurry Analytics comes in. Almost 90% of iOS devices have a Flurry-enabled app, and the data collected is allowing companies to understand exactly what the app audience looks like, he said. “We provide transparency in the market,” he added.

Browning said that CBS has had several breakout hits among its suite of apps, with the programs that provide a clear value to users performing best in terms of revenue generation. But, like with any new technology, there have been failures. “That’s what keeps it lively and interesting from the production standpoint,” Browning said.

Apps will only increase in importance as more of the physical world connects to devices, Simeonidis said. It’s a prospect that’s particularly exciting for the health care industry, as everything from ventilators to wheel chairs could be enhanced with device connectivity.

With the minimal barrier to entry, and the potential scale involved, there is no reason why companies shouldn’t be devoting resources to apps, said Browning, comparing the industry’s momentum to a “tidal wave.”

“If you … watch it happen, and then try to get there, you’ll miss it.”

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