Five tips for connecting with a branded app

May 10, 2012

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Richard Swain
Senior Strategist,
based in Landor New York

“The phone is not even just a phone anymore; it is a paradox. On the one hand it is very personal and on the other it is very open and social.”

—Seb Chan, head of digital, social, and emerging technologies at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney


Much research is being published around technology and emotional engagement, specifically with smartphones. For consumers, the smartphone is a ubiquitous companion that provides a gateway to the digital universe. For brands, it’s an opportunity to get closer to those consumers than ever before by way of branded apps. However, the decision to invest in a branded app should not be taken lightly. According to research published by Deloitte in 2011, 80 percent of major consumer and healthcare apps are downloaded fewer than 1,000 times.1

What, then, is the key to ensuring that your branded app is successful? Obviously, it should be personalized and easy to use, as well as work seamlessly across all devices. In addition, here are five basic tips that can help your app not only get downloaded, but be used time and again, building a stronger relationship with your customers.

1. Find the insight

What do you hope to achieve with this app? What is your brand’s overall strategy and how can an app contribute to it?

Say you’re a retailer looking to reposition yourself as providing the most personalized shopper experience. Perhaps you create an app that enables customers to book appointments with your shopping assistants. If you’re a telecommunications brand targeting a male audience, your app might deliver up-to-date sports news while also giving away free tickets to sporting events.

Domino’s Pizza set out in 2009 to provide its customers with the most reliable and efficient delivery service. In November of that year it launched its iPhone app, designed and built in Australia, enabling customers to order pizzas from the palm of their hand. Not only that, but the incorporation of a live pizza tracker would also guide them, step-by-step, through the pizza-making and delivery process.2

The app went on to generate $2 million worth of sales in just 12 weeks and Domino’s posted a 39 percent net profit for the second half of the year.3 To this day, the Domino’s app is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most successful branded apps.

2. Have a purpose

When consumers download a branded app onto their smartphones, they’re inviting that brand into their personal space. Some brands, by their nature, have a better chance of receiving such an invitation. Just as in the physical world, the average consumer is more likely to welcome a beer-branded item into his home than an insurance-branded one. And when you do enter a consumer’s personal space, you’re expected to behave as a guest—which means no overt sales messages.

Bear in mind that using quick response (QR) codes merely to provide information is a shift back to the one-way digital communications of the early millennium and away from today’s two-way digital conversations. But Tesco’s widely commended Homeplus app in South Korea uses QR codes to great effect, creating a virtual grocery store for commuters. With its relevant and differentiated purpose, it helped Tesco’s online sales climb 130 percent within three months.4


Here in Australia, 7News commands a genuine point-of-difference with the incorporation of a live Twitter feed in its app, personalizing each story and bringing context to the reader. Likewise, Foxtel’s unique TV Guide app allows customers to record shows automatically—and it’s downloaded more frequently than any other branded entertainment app in Australia’s App Store.

3. Be believable

According to Nielsen, the top categories of app downloads in the United States in the second quarter of 2011 were games, weather, and social networking.5 It’s not surprising, therefore, that so many brands have gone down these routes. But if you’re considering creating an app in one of these categories, first ask yourself if this is a believable extension of your brand. Hurley provides an excellent surf report app (for the Australian market) that not only has a relevant purpose for its target consumer, but is also appropriate to the brand.

Your app could also be an extension of the brand idea. On the surface, Unilever’s Lynx Stream app looked like an ambitious attempt to wrap social location features, such as sharing photos on a night out, around a deodorant brand. It succeeded because it was based on Lynx’s central brand essence of “the Lynx effect.” Just like Red Bull and “extreme energy,” Nike and “winning,” and Dove and “real beauty,” Lynx’s 25 years of helping guys get ahead in the mating game gave them license to create an app based on going out and socializing.

In Australia, Triple J has gone beyond its traditional radio app by launching Triple J Unearthed, which shares playlists of recommended artists who are not yet signed to a major label. Both apps have five stars in Apple’s App Store because they do what Triple J does best—bring new music to people who want to hear it.

4. Start marketing

A branded app is not just a tool to market a brand; it is itself a product that needs to be marketed, whether through a “free app a day” or more traditional forms of advertising. According to Nielsen, 45 percent of consumers discover branded mobile apps most frequently from third-party websites and ads—be they online, television, radio, or print.6

One proven marketing strategy for branded apps is sponsorship. Citibank is promoting itself and its app through sponsorship of the Good Food Guide (which is also available as an app). Heineken successfully used its sponsorship of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand to advertise an app that lets you play along while watching live games.

Which brings up another key point: Integrating your branded app into other media channels allows for wider relevance as well as seamless communications. Watching television no longer commands the viewer’s undivided attention; a recent Deloitte survey showed that nearly three-quarters of adults and teens are multitasking while watching television. About 42 percent are surfing the web, 26 percent are sending instant or text messages, and another 30 percent are talking on the phone.7

5. Think about the future

The current digital relationship between consumers and brands has few, if any, rules, and both sides are unsure how it will play out in the long run. With the dramatic shift in communications brought about by new technology, business leaders such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sit in a unique position whereby their decisions could have a dramatic effect on determining future behavioral patterns.

With power comes great responsibility. Rich Karlgaard wrote last year in Forbesmagazine that Steve Jobs was the Luke Skywalker of American business, but he could easily have been the Darth Vadar. I think that the majority of people would say that Apple products have enhanced our ability to communicate with each other, but only time will tell which of today’s innovations will have a positive effect on society.

To this point, those who create apps have a responsibility to society in that their creations facilitate certain behaviors or lessons. Sadly, an app that enables a child to skip levels on a game if they buy credit teaches them that cutting corners to get ahead is okay as long as you pay for it. An app that enables someone to pinpoint exactly where someone is in the world at any given time has a significant influence on perceptions of privacy norms.

Consequently, brands today find themselves with an array of new ways to interact with consumers. While there are many opportunities for short-term gratification, brands that consider the future ramifications of their actions will ultimately benefit the most.


1. “Killer apps? Appearance isn’t everything,” Deloitte MCS Limited (2011), (accessed 11 January 2012).

2. “Domino’s Leaps Ahead with Mobile Ordering,” Domino’s Pizza Media Release (3 June 2011), (accessed 11 January 2012).

3. “Has Domino’s Pizza got Australia’s most successful business iPhone app?” (18 February 2010), (accessed 11 January 2012).

4. “Tesco builds virtual shops for Korean commuters,” The Telegraph (27 June 2011), (accessed 11 January 2012).

5. “Play Before Work: Games Most Popular Mobile App Category in U.S.,” The Nielsen Company (6 July 2011), (accessed 11 January 2012).

6. “You Have an App for That… Now What?” The Nielsen Company (22 June 2011), (accessed 11 January 2012).

7. Deloitte’s “State of the Media Democracy” Survey: TV Industry Embraces the Internet and Prospers,” Deloitte Development LLC (1 February 2011), (accessed 11 January 2012).

© 2012 Landor Associates. All rights reserved.

Industries: Technology, Telecommunications & wireless
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