Drop-Dead Gorgeous: The Art of Branded App Content

MoblogIt is no secret now that digital platforms turn brands into publishers and give them a direct link to consumers that circumvent traditional media. But precious few brands really appreciate the effort it takes to provide and maintain a real branded content publishing program to captivate consumers.

From the time the app stores emerged three years ago, a range of brands tried to publish “magazines” into the smartphone and tablet ecosystems. But most were forgettable one-offs that looked and felt like disposable brochureware. The big mistake was that they weren’t really magazines -- and any user knew it when they experienced from the front page the relentless promotional push.

P&G has been quietly getting it right on the iOS platform for a while now. Last year it issued a My Beauty Advisor Magazine app in the U.S. that actually lived up to the name. The beautifully produced app used a tile interface to envelop the reader in content that is fresh. Almost a year after its release, new issues (well, for April 2012, at least) are downloaded when you open the app.

P&G Productions brings the same serious sensibility to its new UK-based Beauty Advisor. This app is a guide to both beauty content and to London’s specific resources. The app has recruited genuine experts to advise both on tips for make-up and hair and on London itself.

First of all, the design sense here is tremendous. They fill the screen with bright and bold colors and have items float across a richly textured background. But more to the point, they have leveraged the device to good effect. The audio tours of tips and locales are superb and thoroughly involving. Each of the three experts in the app narrates her section.

To be sure, a P&G staffer is here to promote the goods, but the general principle of the app is that an appreciation of beauty itself is ultimately good for the brand. For instance, one expert walks us through portraits in the National Gallery and explains historical notions of skin beauty. Who knew that poisonous nightshade in eye drops was used to brighten eyes in Elizabethan England? Even I was interested.

Whether and how P&G actually gets these apps circulated so they make a mark among targeted iPhone users is another question. But there is no doubt that the company takes seriously what it takes to be a publisher on these platforms: regularity, a real emphasis on editorial depth and value to the user, and exceptional design. The basic rules of branding are not reinvented by app platforms. It is still a matter of aligning a brand with values and identities. The difference in the app world is that brands have the opportunity not just to say, but to do.


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