Why Every Single Brand Needs An App

Well, hello, brand marketers out there. It’s time to shut the door in the face of the Grinch who stole your media budget. It’s time to celebrate that you made it to the end of the year (albeit with a few bumps and bruises). Be thankful you survived the umpteenth reorg and restructuring, budget cut, CMO and/or agency firing/hiring.

It’s time to focus those unused dollars (there always are) on all the fringe stuff you cut earlier in the year. You know: the “nice to have” gimmicks like retention, loyalty, utility, mobile -- and innovation in general.

So here’s a novel idea: Why not invest in a branded app? Yes, a branded app. Please get off the floor.  I apologize for not warning you in advance so you could brace yourselves for the shock and horror that would force you to fall off your chair.

I was reading a very succinct (and almost too simple) article in Tech Cocktail titled, “Why You Should Make An App For Your Brand.” Said article cited three key points: rise of mobile (consumer adoption), user loyalty and the importance of continual improvement and iteration (“don’t stop at the first version.”).



This got me thinking about all the people in the industry (yes, I’m talking to you agency stewards and brand guardians) who poo-poo the mission critical investment of a branded app with overused exaggerations, clichés and throw away 140-character tweets like, “how many apps do you have on your phone that you’ve never used?” These crowd pleasing quotes are tantamount to the malarkey you hear (or heard) about Twitter like, “I don’t care if you had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch,” which are a clear tell that you have never used Twitter before and/or you’re a moron.

Can you imagine if Starbucks didn’t have an App? Or Bank of America, or Starwood? “But we’re not Starbucks,” you protest, perhaps adding, “No one can pay for our toilet paper or razor blades by shaking their phones.” Who on earth thought that this would even have been possible in version 1.0 of the app (see the earlier point about continual improvement)? Commerce is a red herring in that it is ubiquitous for all brands. As long as a brand has a price for its products, it is fair game in the app world. Purchasing a product directly from the app is just a proxy.

What about managing an account balance? Being part of an Ambassador type program or loyalty in general? Are these endemic to banks, airlines and/or hotels? Of course not! And as in the Starbucks example, we’ve seen innovations like depositing checks via your camera phone or opening up your hotel door with your mobile phone coming out of this exploratory journey.

What is the equivalent for YOUR industry?

If someone doesn’t download your app  -- or they do, but don’t use it regularly enough -- it’s your fault for not giving them a compelling reason to do so. I don’t use my Starwood app every day or every week, but I do use it every time I travel and stay at a Starwood resort. The same with American Airlines. As long as you have customers, you have an opportunity to engage them through the power of a “direct to customer” asset (the O of owned assets in Z.E.R.O.) that is wholly owned, uniquely branded and always on (also known as a branded app).

Perhaps the excuse of no one wanting to download or use your branded app would have worked five years ago, but now it is the kind of statement that should deservedly get you fired. If your agency is spouting this kind of drivel, challenge them to find a use case or solution that refutes this notion. Worse still, if the seven-figure proposal in front of you does not give your customers a compelling reason to engage, then send it back to the proposal drawing board.

If however, the pushback is coming from you or your boss, then perhaps you should start updating your LinkedIn profile or resume ahead of the new year. Maybe you need a fresh start. And if you do, please do not put “mobile expertise” on your list of skills or accomplishments.

That would just be sad.
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