Best and worst practices for building branded apps

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Apps are not ads

One of the most common mistakes brands make in the digital space is the "me too" syndrome. A certain platform performs well for other companies, gets a lot of media attention, and suddenly it's, "We need one of those too."

Attention is paid to the "what" and the "how" of obtaining the bright shiny object, but never to the "why." Why do we want one? Why would someone want the one we're building? Why are we spending so much money on something that we're not likely to see much return from?

It happened with microsites. And for the past year or two, it's been happening with apps.

Mobile apps. Web-based apps. Everyone wants one. There are many success stories around apps and countless articles on how apps are going to replace the web. So it's the rare brand manager or ad agency type who won't suggest an app as part of the newest marketing campaign.

But apps are different than ads.

Ads are, by their very definition, created to promote a brand. Apps are not. If apps were like ads, then television would be chock full of fun 30-second films created solely to entertain us. A good ad would need to be as clever as those unbranded short films. And if you've spent any time in front of a television, you know that's highly unlikely.

With that in mind, let's take a look at reasons why some branded apps flourish while others flop.



Liz Zedo
Liz Zedo September 22, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Definitely apps are not ads...but what about ads in apps? TechCrunch recently reported that apps have been downloaded over 4 billion times and there are ways to monetize off of this phenomena. iPhone ad tags for example, which runs ads before or after the app is used.

I will be posting a blog about this on Monday 9/27 at Make sure to check it out!

Marketing Manager

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb September 22, 2010 at 10:44 AM

This is an awesome article Alan. Great insight and I am going to save it for when I tell a client truthfully what they want to do in the App world and what they should do are two different things. Tell IMedia you single handedly were responsible for me registering. Mobile is near and dear to me. I just ended phone shame and have had a Droid2 for less than a month. I also like Big Picture view points. I will give you three.

1] Agencies/Developers that create Apps are incentivized to picth them to Brands as a way of increasing billings even if they are wasting the Brands money.

2] I have now confirmed after downloading a bunch of apps that many sit unused and probably will be uninstalled at some point.

3] The Android Marketplace has 70,000 apps. That is 65,000 too many. 99% I will never know exist (you mentioned this that you need to tell people the app exists, technically using advertising/promotion outside the App store, ie print, email, social etc). If Android has 65,000 too many doesn't Apple have 145000 too many?

This morning I decided to add a Flashlight App and did a search. Android has 12 of them.

Jeff Cannon
Jeff Cannon September 22, 2010 at 10:01 AM

Great writeup. It does go back to the basics, even when in branding of the who, what, where, when, why and how of the brand, the product, and the business.

Another call to think before running forward.

Think Cannon