Developing Winning iPhone Apps, Part 1 – Brands

Oct 19, 2009

By Al McClain

While it may not yet be critical for retailers
and brands to have iPhone apps, it’s clear the trend is in that direction.
After all, there are over 85,000 available iPhone apps, over 2 billion apps
have been downloaded from Apple’s store, and there are 125,000+ developers
in the iPhone Developer program.

With that as background, RetailWire conducted
a panel discussion analyzing 22 brand, retail and third-party apps at last
week’s IIR Fusion conference. Participating in the panel were BrainTrust members
Phil Rubin (rDialogue) and Joel Warady (Joel Warady Group), plus Alex Muller
of GPShopper, who has developed mobile solutions for Best Buy and introduced
a mobile shopping solution called Slifter. Much of the discussion was based
on analysis done by Rick Moss of RetailWire – the slides can be downloaded
here: iPhone

first part of the discussion focused on these brand app reviews:

Crock-Pot – Slow
Cooker Recipe Finder
: This app features hundreds of Crock-Pot recipes,
focusing on easy, slow cook meals. The app is smartly organized
with simple, appealing recipes but lacks depth in choices and it’s
not clear if it appeals to Crock-Pot first-timers. Rating – 13 out
of possible 20

Crocker Mobile Cookbook:
This is essentially a mobile version
of the Betty Crocker cookbook with over 4000 recipes. There are good
preparation instructions, nutritional information and the search
approach is well thought out. But, the home screen is unappealing
and there is no shopping list. Rating – 12

A highly
styled information app with still shots and video runway views. It’s
impressive for its use of multimedia and for the insights from
and about DK herself, but runs slow and has limited content. Rating
– 13

on the Grill:
This is a fully realized app with 250
recipes plus grilling instructions, and 40 recipes for rubs, marinades,
and sauces. We found it appealing and fun, especially the instructional
videos, grill guide and in-app cooking timer. However, it costs $4.99
(many apps are free) – could lessen the marketing value. Rating – 16

Assistant by Kraft:
A full
function recipe assistant featuring Kraft products. There are bright,
tempting layouts and easy-to-prepare recipes. The app has a broad array
of cooking demos, as well. On the downside, the app (mysteriously)
costs 99 cents and the “foodier” type of consumers may find the recipes
a tad pedestrian. Rating – 14

GaGa – Walmart Soundcheck Concert:
This is a co-marketing
experience shared between Walmart, Lady Gaga and AXE Hair. It’s apparently
one in a series of similar artist apps presented by Walmart. What you’ll
see is a “sexy” presentation with a nice selection of videos. There
are also some good branding opportunities for AXE. But, the value to
Walmart is unclear and there is no click-thru option to buy music,
which seems odd. Rating – 11

Color Capture:
Moore has devised a clever app that provides color capture using the
iPhone camera to match over 3300 paint hues. It’s a very cool idea
and easy to use. We can see its usefulness for browsing through colors
to make a decision, but we wonder whether it can accurately
match existing paint using the in-phone camera. Rating – 16

Of the highest rated apps, Weber appealed to
all of us because of the instructional videos, the practical in-app timer,
and perhaps because this was a “man” panel. Benjamin Moore was top rated because
of its innovative capability. The poorest rated app, “Lady Gaga” would perhaps
have rated higher if considered as part of an overall campaign, which was pointed
out by Alex Muller.

Joel Warady said brands need to better understand
how consumers shop and live, and build apps accordingly. For example, recipe
apps should have a social media component because consumers really like to
share their favorite recipes. Phil Rubin pointed out that technology is only
the means to an end, so brands need to talk with and survey customers to find
out what they want in apps. He also felt that it was OK for Weber to charge
$4.99 for their app because they are a higher-end brand.

Alex Muller noted that some applications are long-term engagements while some are temporary campaigns. He believes that of the 85,000 apps available, only about 2,000 are searchable in the App Store by category. The vast majority of apps are part of limited duration campaigns and users must know their names to find them. And, Muller noted, consumers are more willing to pay for apps on
mobile phones than they would be something on the internet.

Joel Warady was
comfortable with Kraft charging for its app but felt that they may have gotten
more value out of asking for e-mail addresses, possibly in return for providing
coupons. Muller, however, felt it was probably a mistake
to charge anything since the app focused so much on their brands.

Questions: How important is it for major consumer brands to have an
app(s) as soon as possible? What do you think brand apps should focus
on most: marketing, image branding or product sales?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

7 Comments on "Developing Winning iPhone Apps, Part 1 – Brands"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Max Goldberg
12 years 7 months ago
Major consumer brands should have an app if they have something important to add to the dialogue with consumers or to make consumers’ lives easier. If the app does not contain something helpful, it must be humorous to the point where consumers will want to share it. Many consumer brands still don’t “get” social media and apps. Too often brands think of them as traditional means to “push” information about the brands to consumers, rather than to engage consumers and better their lives. As to charging for an app, I think they should be free. I don’t care if Weber has a timer. The charge may be blocking consumers from interacting with their brand. The same is true for Kraft. Both should stop being cheap. Finally, what should a company do with its app? They need to tell the public where to find it. With 85,000 apps out there, it’s easy to get lost. Used well, apps are a great way to engage consumers, create a dialogue and drive sales.
Roger Saunders
12 years 7 months ago

As I watch friends and family snap their iPhones (I’m a voyeur and later adapter, as I’m still working off my Blackberry and separate cell phone), it strikes me that it is part “Messaging”, and part “Gaming”. That places the App into an Image arena.

The Image space has a lot of “slow to the party” players building up courage to take on another new tool. And, the Image play serves to entice us to come around. In the process, the early adapters are having a blast with their latest gadgets.

Phil Rubin
Phil Rubin
12 years 7 months ago
Part of establishing value for an app is defining the goals, objectives, and strategy for the business or brand. Where there is tangible value that an app delivers, there are times when charging for that app could be appropriate. Also, depending on how these apps were brought to market, there might not be a choice but to fund it. For example, let’s say a developer brings an app to a brand and the brand likes it but can’t fund it. It might be prudent to put it out in the marketplace as a test where there is shared risk (for the brand for branding the app and for the developer for building it on spec and then trying to bring it to market). More than anything, it’s clear that we are at the infancy of mobile apps and these companies deserve credit for putting something out there. Like so many other initiatives, especially those in marketing, we see tactics looking for strategy. That, however, is what makes this fun and a great opportunity for those… Read more »
Jonathan Marek
12 years 7 months ago

Some of these apps (most notably Weber’s) serve a purpose and support the brand. In that case, great. But:
1. Don’t overestimate the effect of this type of communication;
2. I worry that by chasing iPhone apps (and Twitter and Facebook and…) as the next new thing, companies run the risk of making some bad moves. Look at Pepsi last week….

David Dorf
12 years 7 months ago

As long as the apps are useful, unique, or funny, they will garner attention, but I fear the proliferation of apps could get out of hand, in which case consumers will be overwhelmed. Starbucks recently released two apps that seem very useful, and RedLaser is the first barcode scanner that has worked for me. If the retailer can find the right niche application, then it’s a great way to touch customers. Otherwise, retailers should avoid the iPhone and move on to another innovation.

Jeff Hall
12 years 7 months ago

The Benjamin Moore iPhone App has garnered nearly 70% of the vote for reader favorite. Here’s why:

1. It is FREE.
As a consumer, if I’m going to choose to interact with a brand via my iPhone, I will not pay to do so.

This App deftly interacts with the phone’s camera, allowing the user to snap a picture of virtually anything indoors or out and instantly see the corresponding color palette and paint names.

The App’s ease of use encourages anyone to give it a try. I’ve seen firsthand what fun it can be to snap a picture of something in nature, or a piece of fabric and instantly see the matching paint color.

4. It ENHANCES my perception of Benjamin Moore.
When it comes time to pick a color for my next painting project, I’ll automatically think to use this App, and will find myself purchasing Benjamin Moore paints.

Rick Moss
12 years 7 months ago

I agree with Jeff’s points. The Benjamin Moore app shines as an example of how to exploit the iPhone technology to enhance your brand.

To get a peak at how the app works, see this Ad Age video demo…


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