Why it's not enough to just develop an app and stick a brand on it

From consumers to marketing directors, mobile is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment. And it’s not difficult to see why - it’s estimated that by 2014, mobile devices will have overtaken PCs. Mobile devices are not only more portable – they’re more personal and customisable too. Living in people’s pockets, they provide the ultimate communications platform. With mobile comes a wealth of almost limitless opportunity for brands to get straight to the heart of consumers and ultimately increase brand engagement.

But is developing a mobile marketing strategy worth the time, effort and investment for companies? Does mobile live up to the hype? How much impact can a killer app make?The Drum caught up with leading agencies in the world of app development and mobile strategy, posing a series of questions to discover just what it is that’s got people talking, and why developing such a strategy might not be just prudent – but actually essential for the future of your brand.James Clarke, Thin MartianAlthough an excellent UX is essential, for an app to succeed is should be genuinely relevant to the audience. It could be solving a problem, entertaining or somehow enriching the user’s life but unless it has real value it simply won’t get used or recommended. This might sound obvious but it’s vital to ensure that the functionality or information is contextual, timely and relevant for the user and fulfils a need or desire.We’ve designed UX functionality around a number of contextual scenarios. These include providing a one-click access experience to paperless boarding passes at a busy airport for British Airways. For the Guardian newspaper, we created an app delivering curated news showing only the most relevant and timely stories for users to quickly ‘snack’ on while commuting to work or taking a quick break. There are a million different use scenarios for apps but the killers for mobile UX are slow connections through poor wifi or 3G and buggy integration to payment gateways and functional ‘speed bumps’.Simon Jones, Head of Online, IntermarketingNo. Some of the biggest branded apps have excellent UX but fail in the delivery of accurate, useful information that users want to come back to and use again. You’ve only got to read the comments on Apple’s App Store for apps like The Snow Report by The North Face to see how this branded app fails.Howard Simms, Operations Director, ApadmiNo. Having a branded app is only half the story. If the app provides nothing more than brand awareness then it can be lost in the mix. Providing an app that serves a purpose relating to your brand, or delivering content in a unique manner, will help justify its creation. Ryan Hall, Joint Managing Director, Client Services & Experience Design, Nice AgencyA positive user experience is imperative in the execution of a successful application. Without a carefully considered user experience design that provides a consistent brand experience across devices and platforms, there is a risk that the brand does not meet the expectations of the user.If the app is not usable and designed in such a way that considers all target personas, scenarios and is not designed in a way that allows for quick and easy use. Putting their relationship at risk.Gemma Oversby, Head of Business Development, Storm IDNo! Developing an app, sticking a brand on it, hoping people will download and use it and then get to know more about your brand as a result, is a futile approach. Like any marketing campaign you need to design your app around delivering measurable marketing goals. There is no single simple formula for this. Being involved in a strong trend like mobile offers a certain amount of tolerance for small mistakes in delivery but clearly creating a mundane app with a logo on will not succeed just because it is an app.Plus, beware! App stores offer new ways to harm your brand that did not exist before. Some of the very successful techniques for web app development, like: Ship it! and adapt the app based on usage, need to be used with caution when your first user provides a rating for the second user to read – ouch! This doesn’t invalidate early release of software, especially where getting initial traction is core to success, but it does come at a higher price.Where the app is engaging, provides utility to the user, contains suitable viral mechanics and has the brand cleverly woven in you are bound to get great results. This takes us beyond pure UX and challenges us to conceive great products. We all expect apps to be interactive but increasingly they are transactional. Mobile marketing apps can deliver sales as well as increase awareness - that fact should be considered when designing your campaigns.Graeme Hastings, Creative Director, Science Creative LtdThe concept and utility of the app have to be sound, there needs to be a compelling reason for people to download and use the app. An attitude of if you build it they will come can provide disappointing results – there has to be a benefit to the user. This is why we find ourselves building branded games and competitions or surveys based apps that give users obvious and istnat incentives/rewards.A large advertising budget for the app and good social reviews/ratings can clearly help ensure success.

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