Could an app save your marketing - or your customer's life?

If you read the marketing press, apps are the new wave of content marketing for businesses. This is in part driven by the current app 'gold rush' with the belief that "there's money in them thar hills" -  but with an estimated 400,000 zombie apps clearly there is more to building brand loyalty than getting a customer to download an app and owning a single square centimetre piece of real estate on their phone.

Instead by exploring technology combined with the right content, brands are successfully creating the mechanism to allow customers to activity engage with them in ways that help or enhance their lives. 


Or perhaps even save them?

Hutchwilco is New Zealand oldest lifejacket manufacturer. They know that a lifejacket - while important - stands little chance of saving your life if the rescuers have no idea where to start looking for you.

Recognising that a fisherman is prepared to risk their life to protect their secret fishing spot, Hutchwilco have developed a Secret Fishing Spots app, where the user can log their favourite spots. In the event of an emergency the coordinates can be accessed and provided to rescue services to help locate them quickly.

The other thing they did right was not to rely simply on App Store presence to generate awareness. Promoted by video, press, eDM and a bumpersticker to place onto boat trailers ( a great little extra spot perfect for creating awareness) this app is performing well on iTunes and is beautifully aligned to Hutchwilco's brand promise - bringing Kiwi fisherman back home safely.

hutchwilco press
hutchwilco bumpersticker


Apps are helping to redefine loyalty. Instead of brands using advertising to create demand and desire, the right combination of app, data and customer insight can allow brands to meet their customers needs - through curated content, location based services or purchase preferences.

For instance, sports brands like Nike and Merrell are using branded apps to encourage sports participation, offering route tracking, ambassador coaching and more. Merrell even has an app designed to teach you how to run 'barefoot' using their new low profile shoes. Fast food giants Starbucks and Dominos offer apps that remember previous orders, track loyalty points and allow mobile payment; clearly effective with 14% of Starbuck's instore purchases now made via a mobile.


But can an app help connect with new customers?

Combined with interesting and creative offline content, an app can help you cut through clutter and ensure your message is really heard.

Forget that this is a record label wanting to promote an album - it's dealing with an issue that many B2B businesses face; getting your target to pay attention to what's basically a cold call. Replace the single with a video, a recorded message or a slideshow and it's still intriguing, entertaining and a great proof of concept.


So is an app the right marketing solution for you?

Be prepared to invest and support: The cost of app development can be relatively low, but to avoid your app going into the App Store graveyard you need to be prepared to support it through advertising and promotion - make sure it's mentioned on your website, customer communications and advertising.

Think of your users: Hutchwilco based their app on a familiar insight into their fisherman customers; Charmin toilet paper's charmingly titled SitorSquat app directs users to their nearest clean public toilet; a clear benefit to its mainly female customer base. Is there an unmet need in their life that your brand can answer using app technology?

Ensure it benefits your brand: While there may be the temptation to try to develop entertaining and viral apps, the investment needs to be made with an eye to enhancing your brand. If you can't really see the connection between the app and your business, it's unlikely your customers will be able to either.

Keep it mobile: Don't just replicate content that could easily be provided via your website. Ensure your app makes use of functionality like GPS, scanning, Bluetooth or WIFI to ensure it feels relevant and useful.


Image via Flickr/Remon Rijper