Mobile Focus: Tie-Dye to the Core

Lessons from Steve Jobs and Jerry Garcia on marketing mobile apps


Let's face it. Marketing mobile apps can be a lot like a gunfight at the O.K. Corral. If you are thinking of developing a mobile application, preparing your marketing before the release can mean the difference between success and failure. Just as in Robert Fulgham's famous book Everything I Need To Know I learned In Kindergarten, everything you need to know about marketing iPhone Apps (and other mobile apps) you can learn from Apple and the Grateful Dead.

So what about marketing your app can you learn from Steve Jobs and Jerry Garcia?

First, an obvious one: If at all possible, your mobile app must be insanely great. This is the first "Law of Steve." Steve Jobs built a following for the Apple brand by putting out products that are just that ... insanely great. Take iBird, an app that turns an iPhone into an audio-video portable bird-watching guide. It's a must for any "birder" (many of whom would describe it as insanely great).

Another lesson from Jobs is to be early to market. Not necessarily first, but early. Being first to market with an app in your category is a crucial advantage. iBird, which was first to market in its category, is also an example of an app that follows the Jobsian "law."

Like Jobs, build a "pre-buzz." The press and consumers covet Apple products even before release. Building a pre-buzz with a press release, blogs and social media will result in having customers who are ready to buy at the time of release.

Steve Jobs never forgets to advertise: Apple typically advertises new products heavily. Apple doesn't talk about megahertz and memory. Apple makes the viewer envision the experience rather than the product. You should, too.

From the Grateful Dead we can learn the importance of building a community: The Grateful Dead had a massive following of "Deadheads" who often attended multiple concerts. You can call it an early social media network. Your app should build that community, too. Getting users to talk about your app within the app and online will leverage and expand the buzz.

Give away free stuff: The Grateful Dead also helped build their strong following by letting people tape their shows and share the experience. What can you give away? Our app client Riff held a contest and gave away a guitar signed by a rock star. Or give away an entry level of your app that will entice users to upgrade to the paid version. Never underestimate the power of free. The Dead never did.

Always provide more than expected. The Grateful Dead gave concertgoers more than their money's worth, playing long shows that went on for hours. Likewise, provide users with more than their money's worth. Give plenty of "bang for the buck" in your app so users have a high degree of perceived value.

In an insightful recent article, The Economist pointed out the similarities between apps and songs. They noted that it cost about the same amount to record a song and to code an app, and that both forms of media sold (on average) for the same amount, about a dollar.

They further noted that the "shelf-life" for both media were relatively short and that increasingly both were serving as free "loss leaders" either to get people to come to live music concerts (songs) or to support brands or premium services (apps).

As marketing apps becomes similar to marketing music, is it any surprise that there is much to learn from a rock band? And it's never a surprise that tech marketers have much to learn from the amazing Steve Jobs.

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