Apps Become Mainstream In Brand Building

After a rocky start when costly and pointless “branded apps” seemed to be the rule in the early days of the iOS App Store, many leading brands have settled into a routine of leveraging mobile applications as a part of their overall promotional strategy. According to the latest report from app metrics company Distimo, the share of top 100 brands represented in at least one mobile app store has grown from about 50% in March 2010 to 91% in September 2011.

The company notes an explosion of growth in this area just over the last six months. In March of this year, Distimo counted 1,631 apps available across app markets from the top 100 brands, but in September that count had leaped to 2,343 apps. 

Disney and its many licensed properties across movie promotions and games leads the list by a wide margin with 636 apps, followed by Sony with 285. Much of Sony’s presence includes movie tie-ins and promos. Also prominent in space are BMW with 63 apps, MTV with 62 and Cisco with 61. 

Distimo says that the most successful and popular brands in the app stores are publishing across platforms, notably iOS and Android. Apple remains the place to be seen, however, with 86% of top brands represented in the iPhone store and 66% in the iPad store. Google’s Android Marketplace attracts 59% of the big names, and Blackberry App World trails with 26%. Android, iPhone and iPad all experienced significant growth in their brand apps from September 2010 through March 2011. Since then iPad and Android have continued their sharp growth curve, with iPhone leveling off at its already well-saturated levels.

The app-iverse is about to be shaken up a bit in coming weeks as Amazon’s Kindle Fire comes online and Barnes & Noble is rumored to be preparing a follow-up to the Nook Color. Both of these devices have carefully managed and limited stores of Android apps they let in, but they are not to be discounted. The existing Amazon App Store for Android apps is visible already in the Distimo counts with about 14 apps from major brands. I am not sure why Nook Color isn’t in this mix, since it actually has over 600 apps available to users.

As the e-reader devices and quasi tablets gain processing power, I expect they will become more viable places for certain brands. In the Nook Color app store, for instance, magazine facsimiles already often sell at a rate that rivals or exceeds their counterparts in the Apple App Store, some publishers report. These smaller e-Readers have a portability advantage over full size tablets that could prove especially useful for some consumer brands. Shopping apps, recipe apps, consumer buying guides, and anything that might prove of value in-store could find these not-quite-iPads promising, uncluttered territory.      


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