The week is starting with two app-related news items—Vanguard's release of an iPhone app for advisors and the news that financial services firms are the enterprises most likely to adopt iPads. We cheer both announcements, as you'll read below in a post that first appeared on the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) Blend site on September 23. The MENG Blend is a blogging initiative featuring bloggers from multiple marketing disciplines and industries. I blog on online marketing and social media.
If we were friends sitting across the table from one another, I’d test your patience by showing you “just one more” application on my iPad.
If we were digital marketing colleagues, we might talk about mobile platforms and analytics.
But recognizing that the readers of the MENG Blend blog are marketing colleagues of digital and non-digital stripes, I’ll keep this post at a higher level. Really, I just want to marvel at the opportunity before us today to associate our companies and brands with mobile products that engender such affection among users.
In these grim economic times, iPads, iPhones, Droids, Nexus Ones, etc. daily bring delight to their owners. A driver picked me up at an airport last week and spent the entire 45-minute drive showing off what he could do on his Droid. He said his phone and its apps have changed his life, and he meant it.
I’m a dispassionate Blackberry user but my iPad? Don’t get me started.
'We're More Than Skin And Bones'
Creativity in iPad applications is driving a renaissance in communicating. Does Brand X have an app, I find myself wondering in the same way I wondered whether Brand X had a Web site in the mid-1990s. Back then, a search for a company site (using Yahoo, of course) might have found the domain and there was some enthusiasm for the new and different information the company was publishing. But the difference between those primitive Web presences and many early-out-of-the-gate brand apps is that apps are visual, interactive and even witty.
To see for yourself, go to www.search.twitter.com and search for the expression “I love this app.” As some who loves lots of apps, I can tell you that many companies are delivering more than aesthetic and functionality. They’re bundling the best of their brand in an app.
Some marketers can’t justify full-scale mobile application development because it’s difficult today to make a case for a financial return on investment. Please don’t let that defer your learning about the capabilities of the iPad and smartphones as well as exploring the bonds that are being developed. (An easy and enjoyable way to peek in on the iPad world is to watch Leo Laporte’s iPad Today podcast, which celebrates the newest and the best in iPad apps.)
“We’re more than skin and bones with credit cards.” That line was written by usability expertKim Krause Berg on an April 24, 2009, Searchengineland post headlined “How Does Your Web Site Make Visitors Feel?” Berg studies the relationship between computers and people. In the post, she described herself as fascinated by Web sites and how and whether decisions made by Web site designers and bloggers, for example, affect us “emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.”
It’s the rare corporate Web site that isn’t today conforming to some standard conventions on the Web—logo on the left, search on the right and so on. Consistency for usability, I get it and I support best practices. But in many cases, standardized design and publishing systems have triumphed over communications inspiration, and the result online is just as much a yawner as the brochures that we’ve evolved away from.
Today’s iPad apps are fresh, original expressions, as you can see in the image of the ABC News globe—spin it to see the news—or in the MSNBC app’s navigation via a 360-degree version of its peacock.
Yes, there’s a learning curve for the user of almost every app. Most apps make the learning worth the user’s while. At the same time, think of insights being gained by the brands.
App producers are producing “energy,” to use a word that Berg has associated with Web sites. In her post last year, she cited the work of Gerzema and Lebar, authors of The Brand Bubble. Gerzema and Lebar perform energy audits as a means of getting to know a new client. They believe that a firm’s brand, organizational, operational and cultural energy can factor into a competitive advantage.
These loveable apps are proving the point on the mobile platform. Is there a marketer alive who doesn’t want to be part of such a high-engagement, positive-energy relationship?