Even though smartphones and tablets are no news to the world, digital transformation is still a buzzword and mostly one of the biggest challenges for companies. While most companies continually relaunch their websites a few times, they do not take up the challenge to use apps as a new marketing channel.
As a marketing manager who works for an IT service provider, I encounter hundreds of app ideas on a daily basis. But when I look at Apple App Store or Google Play to check out how companies use apps to promote their brands and products, I am astounded by how few apps are available and that just a handful of brands manage to create a great user experience.
The key ingredients for a great marketing app
The basics alone could fill an entire book. I’m sure you also hear about it every other day. So you know that you need SMART goals for your marketing campaign, as well as a target group and a content plan. All the basic marketing concepts apply to mobile apps used as a marketing channel.
1. Originality and Authenticity
Okay, you got me, this belongs to the basics as well, but because it is so crucial, I have to include them in the list. Originality is hard to maintain but it is important to stand out to trigger virality. And that is the key if you want your app to be discovered and shared. One example is the app “Auto Uhr” (Volkswagen). Tiny cars are driving around in wild maneuvers to form the current time, date or weather. You can tap on the different VW models to learn more about them. In addition to that, you can use the app to set alarms. It’s simple but efficient, and the user is confronted with the brand daily.
Authenticity is important to form a link between the app and the brand. It’s the same as with TV or radio ads. If your content is not authentic enough, users are more likely to forget about the brand or the company even though they remember the content itself.
But don’t get me wrong, your marketing app should not look like a football stadium, where every little item is branded.
“Stop vomiting product features”, as Mark Roberge states in his book “The Sales Acceleration Formula” is, in my opinion, the most important message for marketers these days. Companies have to stop putting their product features in their marketing messages and start creating a world around the brand, services and products.
Especially when you sell products in a highly competitive market. Digital storytelling is a buzzword that appears everywhere, and it seems that no one is getting tired of it. For me, digital storytelling is nothing more than content marketing, with the addition that you put your customer into center of your stories as the hero. The brand becomes your customer’s mentor.
A colleague and I recently held a webinar about “Gamification within company apps” that outlined how effective gamification is and which goals you can achieve with it. Gamification is truly the holy grail of mobile apps.
In general there is just one main goal you can reach with gamification and that is to trigger interaction. Interaction creates emotions, and emotions are activating our brain in a way that we will more likely remember the action and the story better. In addition, gamification is simply used to create a fun factor. And remember, it doesn’t have to be expensive or complex to utilize gamification in order to promote products and increase your brand awareness
Promote your products with mobile games
One way to use gamification is to simply create a game. The most important tip I have for you is: always keep your target group in mind. I know it sounds bland, but I mean it, really. Let me tell you a little anecdote to make my point. In preparation for a new blog focusing on app games by brands, I asked our “Generation Z” intern (14 years old) to review a couple of apps. While I was really into the “PlayStation AllStars Island” app mini games (a collaboration of AllStars and Coca Cola Zero) and thought that this will be the app he will like the most, he, on the other hand, totally ripped it apart.
He declared that the mini games were just really poor copies of famous PlayStation games that are loaded with annoying Coca Cola Zero branding. He couldn’t see why anyone would like to buy Coca Cola Zero or play the mini games. So a game itself is not yet the key to a successful mobile game. But what is? To stick with our intern – the game apps he liked the most were simple but original like the “Babies” (Evian) and “Quartett“ (Kinder & Porsche).
Include gamification elements to turn up the fun factor and to challenge your user
In my opinion, it is much easier and more compelling to create a marketing app that includes mini games and gamification elements instead of creating a standalone mobile game. These can be quizzes, mini games, challenges, location based services and basically any form of triggered interaction.
Great examples for the use of gamification are the IKEA App, Mission Tomorrow (dm), Keyboard (M&M’s) and Magic Timer (Disney and Oral B).
Have you had the chance to check out the mobile 2016 IKEA catalogue jet? You definitely should! The catalogue is a firework of great storytelling and with a touch of compelling gamification features. Compelling! A catalogue for affordable furniture! People easily relate to IKEA’s stories that celebrate the beauty of the everyday life. It also sets the mood for the gamification elements. With the integration of 360° photos and the opportunity to “beam” the featured furniture in your room with the use of Augmented Reality, the products come to life. Having the small stories in mind, I don’t only see a foreign room furnished by experts, no, I can see myself living the stories in the new IKEA kitchen or bedroom that could be mine.
Keyboard by M&M’s
It is as simple as it sounds. You install the app and your boring device keyboard changes into colorful M&M’s. But that’s not all. With every character you tap one of the two M&M’s testimonials will give you a quick high five or other gestures. Writing a long text has never been so much fun.
Magic Timer by Disney and OralB
In my opinion, Magic Timer is a true marketing masterpiece. It is the most successful marketing app I know. It’s the #1 downloaded iPhone free app in the US and 40 other countries for children aged six to eight. The app starts with a simple timer. With every second a blurry layer is brushed away to reveal a virtual sticker with famous Disney, Marvel or Star Wars characters by a digital toothbrush. When kids stick to the timer they can collect the sticker in their virtual sticker collection. To unlock all sticker packs you have to scan an OralB or a Star Wars product. While kids interact with the app, they also get familiar with the brand in a fun and playful way.
Mission Morgen (Mission Tomorrow) by dm
For those who don’t live in one of the German speaking countries (or around it), “dm” is the biggest drugstore chain in Germany. DM’s motto translated into English is “Here I am a person, that’s why I shop here”. Although the app is only available in German, I have to present it to you. One would think that a drugstore app will be all about the newest beauty products and superfoods, but DM’s app focuses on saving the environment. DM’s message is clear: “dm cares about you that’s why we care about the environment you live in”. The app contains different challenges such as “Recycle all of your trash correctly for the next three days”. You can also solve quizzes. As a reward for every challenge and correctly answered quiz a new plant or item is placed in your digital garden and you unlock a new level in the mini game – a candy crush copycat with healthy herbs instead of candy. What I like most about the app are the design and all the little details. You can see that the company put a lot of effort and love into it. Because of the challenges that go on for days, the user is motivated to use the app regularly.
Added services in your marketing app are crucial not only for the advertising, but also for generating revenue. That’s how you convert. Storytelling and gamification set the ground for your further services.
The best example on the market is the Starbucks app, which makes paying easy. Just walk in, pay with your app, and walk out. Another nice example is the app “RS Official” by The Rolling Stones. Not only can you listen and buy the music of your favorite band, you can also indulge in photo galleries and videos, or find a concert near you.
Do you have comments or any additional marketing app examples in mind? Share it with us!