Mobile Knickknacks for Utilitarian Marketing

From Jim Ellison:

Some mobile apps are written to make money directly. Think iTunes. Amazon. eBay.

Mobile apps for branding may justify development costsBut I’ve not found many other companies whose apps have become virtual licenses to print money. Rather than direct sales, mobile apps built to market or brand products and services appear to stand the best chance of justifying their development costs.

In Ireland, Red Oak, a tax refund service, built an app through which people can take photos of medical expenses, deductible in that country, and store the data on Red Oak’s servers. Come tax time, Red Oak could be a familiar name to the handheld’s owner. Moreover, Red Oak uses that info as leads to generate new business.

Oakley, the maker of stylish sunglasses, uses weather and waves to attract the surfing crowd. The Oakley app tells them current surf conditions, including surf height, swell direction, tides and a two-day forecast. REI similarly keeps its name in front of skiers with its ski and snow report.

Drug store photo apps bring in business directly. But the apps are also a response to changing consumer behavior while keeping the brand current. Why should I get in the car and go to the nearest Walgreensor CVS if I can upload my snaps via app and quickly get them back in the mail? Plus, I’ll remember the drug store’s name next time I need to fill a prescription.

Captive audiences will be eager to buy via their handhelds. Pizza chains were ready to deliver during the Super Bowl and though numbers aren’t in yet from the big dough boys, records are expected to be set.

These mobile knickknacks are free. No surprise, as the object is to distribute them as far and wide as possible. Even then, the big boys need ads in the apps to help pay back development costs.

What’s crucial: These apps are a form of utilitarian marketing. They’re not just decorative. They actually do something for the user. The best do it quicker and better than a website. They can even make life a little easier. Even if the task is ordering pizza or hitting the surf.

Jim Ellison is a Roanoke, Virginia-based freelance writer and web developer.  For more from Jim Ellison, read We Need an App.

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