Got an iPhone what? Proliferation of apps presents a marketing challenge.

"Build it and they will come” won’t work for app marketing any longer. A “Street Smart” app marketing plan is what is needed.  Much of the focus in the past two years has been on rushing to develop an app, get it approved by Apple and tweaking it to be more visible in Apple’s App Store.  But, the sheer numbers of Apps makes this approach futile.  Apple has 100k+ apps, Android 30k+ and both are growing by huge numbers monthly.  The number of apps downloaded in U.S. up 9X in 2 years according to Strategy Analytics.  Apple’s new iPad has over 1,000 "multi-touch" sensors creating further app development opportunities. This "app soup" creates the classic dilemma - how does one break thru the clutter?  Experienced marketers have dealt with this clutter problem before, but how you handle it in the social world we now live in requires new digital street smarts.

Just why are there so many apps?  We live in rare times.  We are witnessing the convergence of many significant trends and paradigms.
  • Smartphone adoption is soaring. In December’s Mobile Internet Report, Morgan Stanley stated "Regarding the pace of change, we believe more users will likely connect to the Internet via mobile devices [smart phones] than desktop PCs within five years." Apple and Google’s Android platform competition that is yielding more innovation and user value.  
  • The rise of social networking has given consumers a strong voice and helped to move the technology adoption from consumers to businesses versus the opposite that we have experienced over the last few decades.  
  • The wide adoption of business models that leverage Cloud computing is enabling a mobile society and un-tethering users from their desktop PCs. 
  • Mobile bandwidth continues to improve (3G) with 4G expected within the next 12-24 months.
  • Developers are rushing to develop Apps due to better and simpler tools and financial rewards.  Expect this to continue now that iPad and associated developer tools (new SDK) has been announced. Finally, users are showing a willingness to pay for apps due to the enhanced user experiences (simplicity), instant gratification and portability. U.S. apps revenue increased 60% in 2009 with a CAGR of 22% between 2008-2013 according to Strategy Analytics.  But, according to a survey by, while most developers focus primarily on [iTunes] App Store gaming strategies, they have limited understanding of other marketing tactics and channels.

Digital marketers now have an opportunity to think strategically and develop a holistic, app marketing plan that leverages their assets and the new socially interconnected, digital world we now enjoy.  Always remember that a cornerstone for any mobile or app marketing plan is having a solid social networking strategy. Here’s a check list for marketers to consider when developing their plan. 
  • Identify your target market and aim app at the right customers.  Is your app meeting an unmet need or unmet want?  Is the need/want latent?  Understand optimal messaging and positioning.  How should you craft messaging that is both concise and clear in order to best position your app? The better your work is with audience profiling, positioning and targeting, the more effective and viral your app marketing will be.
  • Understand and leverage social velocity and WOM marketing. Mobile and social are “tied at the hip”.  You need a solid social plan in order to successfully market a new mobile app. What is needed to spark and sustain WOM?  How do you solicit user and expert feedback and reviews?
  • Measurement is key.  You need to fully understand mobile and app measurement - what's the value of an app user? an app download?  What are the growth rates?  Are you able to measure online media that promotes your app including clicks, downloads, conversions, ROI, etc?
  • Think holistically about media opportunities and how they work together.  Leverage owned and earned media before considering purchased media.  Should you consider offline media opportunities?
Are mobile applications an opportunity or threat to incumbent brands?  In my view, this should be an opportunity for large established brands as users seek out apps they know and trust. Brands need to understand this opportunity and not delay to take action and start the process. On the other hand, I would not be surprised if Apple and/or Google launches paid search for apps.  Apple is in ideal position to launch a PPC ad model for apps.  With their acquisition of Quattro Wireless in 2009, they have already shown a willingness to add an advertising business model to their successful software, hardware and media models.  Apple could add this iWords service to their App and iTunes Stores.  Google could simply integrate into Google Mobile search and, eventually, into Google search when iPad and other touch-screen devices become widely adopted.  We will talk more about app search in future posts.

We don’t pretend to have all the answers – just a point of view.  What do you think about what I have written above?  Please share your thoughts and opinions below.