How can mobile apps evolve to remain an effective tool for brand building?

As all of our lives have become increasingly mobile, it's more important than ever for a company to have a strong mobile strategy.

Jason Mandell, cofounder, Launchsquad,
As all of our lives have become increasingly mobile, it's more important than ever for a company to have a strong mobile strategy.

When mobile devices - and then apps - first started to reach the masses, the mere entrance into the mobile market was a major event in a company's history. But today, having a mobile presence is simply table stakes and is no longer all that interesting.

For the most part, all companies are now expected to offer an app as part of their product or service portfolio. The value of extending into mobile doesn't carry the same impact as it used to, and can very easily be met with a collective yawn. Think of it like the rise of the Web itself, when companies would announce they were relaunching their website.

For PR pros, this means we have to be more strategic and thoughtful about how we announce and position mobile offerings. It's not enough to create a campaign around "company X coming to mobile." The organization has to be doing something truly noteworthy with its mobile offering to generate excitement and positive engagement.

When planning a mobile campaign, PR pros need to think bigger than before. Is there an interesting angle behind the launch beyond the news itself? Can we create an entertaining or inspiring video or generate content to accompany the launch? Is there an intriguing story we can tell about why the company is expanding its mobile strategy? The tone has to change from "there's an app for that" to "here's a company making an app that will change your life."

Basically, mobile isn't a story unto itself anymore. Those days are gone forever.

Caroline Shaw, EVP and chief marcomms officer, Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates,
With the rise of iOS and Android, apps are becoming a brand staple. Consumers spend more and more time on mobile devices - to shop, share information, communicate with family and friends, log their life with photos and social media, and much more.

Apps reflect this reality as brands create mobile experiences that are relevant, useful, and give reasons to come back for more. In the wine business, for example, recommendations from friends are as valued by consumers as wine recommendations from experts and critics, while wine and food pairing and access to recipes are tried-and-true elements of wine education that are a natural fit for a winery app.

There are also new technologies - from gamification that takes advantage of people's natural competitive spirit, to more experimental things such as augmented reality. Brands can take advantage of these and many more developments in the app space to excite, surprise, and delight consumers, and we have tried to do just that with K-J Recommends, our wine pairing, education, and community mobile app.

As technology evolves, so does Kendall-Jackson's view on using it as a tool - through social media, apps, and mobile marketing. It's something every successful brand must do - going where consumers are already having conversations and sharing knowledge and opinions, otherwise you miss out on having a dialogue.

Research shows that most of us reach for our smartphone or tablet 150 times per day, and generally have it within 18 inches of us at all times. That means mobile devices are one of the most relied upon tools in human history and therefore can and should be used as part of a communicator's toolkit to support brand engagement.

Sam Weston, VP, communications, Huge,
Given the significant changes in consumer behavior enabled by the shift to mobile devices, brands can be forgiven for racing to produce apps in an effort to cope. But of the 1.2 million apps across the App Store, 60% are pointless, gimmicky endeavors never embraced by users and abandoned by their owners.

So what can communicators learn from the failures of brand marketers? First, be clear about why you're considering an app. It is either a media tactic to position you as innovative or it is to serve a purpose as a communications tool. The first is probably a waste of time and money. The second is ambitious and takes real investment.

For an app to be successful, it must meet a specific user need or solve a problem in a way that makes life easier. Communicators should ask themselves what they would be able to solve with an app that Twitter, Facebook, and email, the biggest app of all, are not already achieving, keeping in mind that apps require their own promotion and marketing in order to generate a user base.

Given this, most PR teams would be best served by abandoning an app strategy for a website that works on mobile devices to ensure key company and contact info is easily discoverable for reporters. For reporters assigned to cover specific companies and for investors and analysts who want information, apps can be designed to get news out faster and in a more personalized manner than traditional press releases.

Rather than focusing on your own needs, focus on how you can use mobile and technology to meet the needs of your audience.

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