Posts Tagged ‘app’

Please Vote For the Betty Crocker iPad App!

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

While many brands and agencies are “exploring” iPad marketing and considering added-value apps, only a handful have actually made the investment and turned talk into action. I’m proud that our agency, Possible Worldwide, and client, General Mills, came together to produce one of the first and best branded apps in the marketplace.  Now, the Betty Crocker iPad App has been nominated for a Webby People’s Voice Award, and I would appreciate your help in giving the combined team the credit they deserve.

The Betty Crocker App Case Study:

Betty Crocker is not just a national brand: She’s a national hero. The sharing and exchange of Betty Crocker recipes and tips between family and friends–and down through the generations–has made Betty the “original social media queen.” General Mills asked us to take this brand trust, recipe knowledge, and need for instruction to a new level by creating one of the industry’s first iPad cookbooks. The Betty Crocker team wanted to “take Betty into the 21st century” by creating a tool that cooks can more effectively use in the kitchen.

The new iPad app makes it easy to find recipes and features a “cook mode” that helps users who are deep into a recipe. We’ve created easy-to-read instructions and clear, enlarged food/meal imagery. We’ve also integrated multiple timers to help cooks stay on top of the tasks at hand, whether it’s boiling an egg or baking a soufflé. The larger screen and innovative gestural interfaces make the Betty Crocker iPad app a visual, as well as practical, aid in the kitchen.

The Betty Crocker iPad app was an instant hit: In its first week, it reached #1 on the free app best-sellers chart (above Netflix and WebMD), and remains a best-seller to date.

How You Can Help:

Voting takes a little more than one click, but please do take the time to register and vote. You might even discover some other great examples of meaningful digital marketing in the process. Here’s how to vote:

  1. Register to vote: (Look for a confirmation email in your junk folder.)
  2. Visit
  4. Cast your vote for the Betty Crocker iPad app.

Voting ends April 28 and we need everyone to help spread the word right up until the deadline. And please also encourage your friends to vote via Facebook and Twitter:

You might be surprised to know that most of the award winners come down to just a couple of votes. Last year our Pringles Can Hands banner barely edged out work from Apple and Burger King to win the People’s Voice Award–thanks to your help!  So please lend a hand again and put the iconic red spoon on top.

Why I’m out of Foursquare, and Why Some Apps Succeed

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

And so another personal venture into the new is complete. Following in the footsteps of services such as Second Life and Pointcast, I have now decided that Foursquare is no longer for me. It has gone down a personal “hype cycle” in my life–going from interesting to integral to ignoble in just a few months. Where once I was checking in with glee and sharing my whereabouts with new collections of friends, now I’m moving on with life and onto Facebook Places. My personal journey is one that others have also reported, and I think a look into why Foursquare worked for a while, and how others continue to be a part of my life, shows a path to meaningful platforms.

What I Loved About Foursquare

I got into Foursquare big-time back in March 2010 during the annual SXSW event. I attended with a small group of Bridge people and we had fun checking into new places and tracking each other’s locations around Austin. I was immediately attracted by the fact that you could walk into a restaurant and find a digital trace of other people who had been there in the months, days, or minutes before. The app allowed me to share my experience with Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and I was delighted by the chance to earn fun badges. And as a digital marketer I also saw firsthand the promise of location-based services.

Over time I tried to build Foursquare into my routine around town. I would meet people for a drink at a bar and excuse myself to check in, and I would dutifully add new locations to the service in order to “get credit” for my appearance. As a digital marketing consultant, I also began to speak glowingly of the possibilities of this new service

Where It Fell Apart

But soon the bloom came off the Foursquare rose for me. The first negative came in my attempt to work with the company on behalf of some of our very large clients. Phone calls went unanswered and scheduled phone calls ended with me sitting on the line waiting for their side to pick up. I quietly advised my teams and clients to wait until the company got its act together before we went further down this road. As a user, I also started doubting the value of this once-cool toy. I began to hear stories of people getting burglarized when they were not home, and my wife wondered why I was telling the world when I was out of town and she and my girls were alone.  The “Honey, I need to understand what’s new in digital because it’s my job” excuse goes only so far, especially when there is no real utility in Foursquare at the end of the day.

And here we come to the real issue: There is no clear reason to install and use Foursquare. It is a toy that entertains for a few days or weeks, but at the end of the day there is no reason to make this a habit. Hardly any stores or restaurants pay attention to the service by, say, offering free offers with check-ins. The mayorships and badges seem silly after a while.  And your friends tend to get tired of seeing where in the world you are.

Meanwhile, Facebook has come into location services with something that works much better. You can utilize your current friends list rather than starting from scratch with a new network, and check-ins can link directly to the Facebook pages of where you happen to be. Stores and restaurants can do marketing on their Facebook pages and offer information or special deals. Foursquare is still figuring out how to build a business and service users and marketers. But Facebook has this down already.

The Lesson: What New Apps Need to Succeed

In looking at a wide range of new digital services, I believe some patterns begin to develop. And the biggest one that I see right now, across everything from mobile apps to social media services, is that success comes in degrees based on whether the new company has the following:

  1. The Toy Factor — When people can download your app, try something new, and show their friends you have yourself a great “toy.”  Foursquare is a toy. It has novelty, a link to the real world, and some games including the chance to earn badges. This is enough for people to download and play with for a few days or weeks, but it won’t last forever. The gang at Foursquare is still keynoting conferences and now has some investment dollars, but I believe the time has gone. The company should have built these next two factors into their initial design.
  2. A Valuable Tool–Once past the toy factor, your app needs some kind of useful service in order to succeed. Facebook, for example, started out for most of us as a clever toy that allowed us to play with self-expression. But many of us started using the service to communicate regularly with our friends. And because it was so useful, we built it into our daily habits and rituals. Foursquare could have created a simple way for retailers to communicate with the people checking into their businesses. Or it might have been launched with a focused purpose of helping people find money-saving offers on the places they visit. Now an app called Shopkick is showing it the way in this direction.
  3. Meaningful Marketing Model–Here’s where a lot of services have still not cracked the code, and where there is still tremendous opportunity for today’s start-ups. For marketer-supported services, you need a business model in which the advertising itself adds value to the service. Facebook is a great tool, but it still hasn’t shown that the little-seen ads on the right-hand side can drive marketers’ business. The best example of success here is Google and its AdWords service. The company started with a new search algorithm based on human link sharing. This was immediately a new “toy”–and because the results were so much more accurate, Google became a valuable tool. When the company created an advertising model based on search, everything came together; Google search ads are relevant to the searcher, and the marketer pays only when a desired action takes place–so there is a win-win-win that has created a +$20 billion business for Google.

I’m obviously simplifying the world of digital services and apps here, but I think this list helps to put a lot of things competing for our attention into their place.

Why the iAd Model Faces an Uphill Battle

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

(Kudos to Fast Company for this image)

Steve Jobs has a well-earned reputation for willing Apple to success in markets with innovative products that consumers fall in love with. He’s done it with computers, music players, mobile phones, and tablets. Now he is turning attention to a market that is desperately in need of his genius: advertising. Jobs recently announced that his company is creating a mobile advertising service called iAd, which will arrive with the next operating system upgrade in June. With iAd, app developers will have the chance to embed their games and tools with advertising brokered by Apple and receive 60% of ad revenue. Sounds like a great deal for the millions of entrepreneurs around the world who are dreaming up better games and tools for Apple products. But there are five six reasons that I believe iAd will fail to meet the lofty expectations for a world-changing ad model:

1. The cost per engagement model is not variable.

Apple has been known for simplifying pricing in every market it enters. It chose to set music prices at $.99 for a song, and $9.99 for a movie download. Although the music and movie companies fought for more variable pricing, Apple stuck to its guns because it felt consumers wanted a simplified model. With iAd, the company has announced that it will charge one penny per advertisement exposure, and $2 per person who clicks on (or otherwise chooses to engage with) each ad.

I think marketers will accept the penny-per-exposure pricing.  That translates to a $10 CPM, which is high compared to Web banners but below most TV buys. On the other hand, a $2 per interaction comes with a big problem: It is an arbitrary number that is set with no knowledge of the end value. After more than a decade of Web marketing, brands still have little ability to measure what a website visit or banner click-through is worth. I’m surprised that Apple did not implement a bidding system like Google Adwords, where brands compete for space and pricing ends up rising or falling to what the market will best bear.

2. There is no scale opportunity.

At the end of the day, no matter how much excitement Apple’s products generate, iAd will be just another of the dozens of new and old places where marketers can run advertising. There are 85 million iPhones, iPad Touches, and iPads out there worldwide today, on which users spend 30 minutes a day with apps. But not all of these apps will have advertising. Meanwhile, there are 300 million people in the U.S. alone who watch television an average of 2.8 hours per day. There will be many, many more people who read newspapers, buy magazines, or ride subways than own iAd devices.

The big brands that Apple is targeting desire to create an advertisement once and spray it across as many of these media options as possible. But in its efforts to improve the advertising market by controlling it, Apple is making it a hell of a lot harder for marketers to include it in an ad buy. The service will not allow Flash programming–making most banner ad creative units obsolete–and it will have other rules and processes that are still being sorted out. Apple will also use its own measurement system instead of tying into other services that allow comparisons across media choices.

3. The cost to play is too high.

Reports are trickling out that Apple will only allow advertising by companies that agree to spend up to $10 million on the iAd platform. This compares to similar deals in the $100,000 range for other mobile ad networks, which I would guess is often cast aside anyway. Again, even the big brands that Apple covets and that are used to paying for media in the millions of dollars will be loathe to bet so many bucks on a relatively small, unknown, and untested advertising model.

Big marketers want the chance to test and play with a new medium before going in guns-a-blazing. What they like best in new media is a self-serve advertising model that even allows them to place a few ads with a few thousand dollars to see what happens. Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, for example, both allow brands to learn with limited expense. No matter how cool it might seem to place your brand on the most discussed ad network ever, it takes a big personal risk to move so many dollars so early.

4. Better creativity cannot be forced.

Apple showed off its iAd platform by mocking up what ads for Nike basketball shoes might look like. Of course they look cool–like just about anything Nike does. Jobs has spoken often of how poor the world of banner ads is, and he believes that marketers will do a much better job with the tools that Apple is creating with iAd. But not every brand is Nike….

In fact, most advertising is for stuff that people likely won’t want to click on, no matter how cool the iAd platform can be. Will people want to engage as much with day-to-day companies such as banks and toilet paper? Nope. And while Jobs thinks most banner advertising is crap, that’s not because there aren’t enough tools to spiff them up. Flash and rich media banners allow a great deal of creativity and engagement already. You can play games, request samples, get geo-targeting, and watch cool video from a banner today.  Sorry, Steve, but most banners suck because the companies that buy the space don’t believe that the extra cost of creative development and rich media buys are worth it. Why would these same advertisers Jobs wants suddenly believe that iAd is now the answer?

5. Apple will have a hard time building a sales competency (NEW).

I added this after my original post after reading a great Twitter comment from David Rubinstein. If Apple really wants to get into the ad game, then it needs to play by the rules. And Rule #1 is that you need a sales force that can start wining and dining the clients. This has got to be a pretty foreign concept for Apple. It is the coolest kid on the block, and more used to companies coming to its campus in Cupertino for help and advice versus begging for a 30-minute meeting in Manhattan. But that’s not how it works in the advertising world. While some clients will be enamored enough with the company to write a big check right away, most trust their media planning and buying agencies to do the hard work of deciding where ad dollars go. So the Starcoms and GroupMs of the world are the ones with the power. Apple will have to put the hard sell on these tough negotiators in order to build up an ad business.  They will have to play the game of relationship building and create a true sales organization. This is not easy. Just ask Google, which built its billions on a self-service and self-selling ad platform, and is only now, slowly, getting its arms around selling to big, billion-dollar brands. It’s been tough for the Google engineering-driven culture to figure out how media planners and mass marketers think, despite hiring many folks from the traditional ad-selling side.

6. Apps are more meaningful than ads.

Regular readers knew that this point was coming. I believe Apple does have an opportunity to make a few bucks by creating a slightly better option for interruptive advertising. But Apple has already done so much more for marketers by creating these killer platforms for value-added apps. In fact, I would wager that brands have already spent more on creating apps than they have in buying mobile banners like what iAd will sell. Examples such as the Kraft iFood, the REI Ski Report, and Charmin restroom finder apps all provide value to the consumer and create much more meaningful connections for life. These brands and a growing number of others would rather create apps that directly engage with the consumer, instead of buying ad space on someone else’s irrelevant game or utility. This is where the marketing world is going, and surely where marketers will play most on Apple’s platforms.

Steve Jobs is not afraid of taking on a large, old industry with inefficient practices by bringing the end consumer a better way of living. In music, for example, he created an iPod device and iTunes software that improved the music-listening experience so much that the music industry had to play ball.  With iAd, Jobs is challenging the advertising model built around cheap GRPs, poor creativity, and buggy software. But while this new platform might be marginally better, it is still an interruptive advertising model that is barely a fundamental improvement for the end consumer.

MasterCard App Begins to Deliver on ‘Priceless’

Friday, July 31st, 2009

For as long as I can remember, credit-card marketing has been stuck an endless cycle of equity advertising. It’s a story we see in categories as diverse as automobiles, beer, and life insurance: When there is little innovation and lack of differentiation among major brands in a category, their advertising agencies are called on to gin up something remarkable.

In credit cards, the pattern has held firm for years, and the result is an endless loop of ads that celebrate how much life can be enjoyed because of the convenience and buying power of credit. Visa recently moved from its “Life Takes Visa” campaign to the current “Go” work, which includes millions of dollars in celebrity endorsements (Michael Phelps), celebrity voice-overs (Morgan Freeman), and licensed music (Moody Blues). American Express has had “My Life, My Card.” And MasterCard has stuck with its own version, “Priceless,” for more than 12 years. But a few weeks ago MasterCard took one small step out of the pack with an iPhone app that finally does something “real” through meaningful marketing to deliver on its promises.

The MasterCard Priceless Picks app, a free download from iTunes, is a clever tool that recognizes your location and presents a 3-D map of various “Priceless Picks” in your area. Its use of the touch screen interface is excellent, and within seconds I was able to explore the city around me. Unknown people or bots have populated the maps with restaurants, bars, museums, and popular items on sale. A little clicking offers more information, and the chance to send to a friend, flag as improper, or get more details. I actually discovered two interesting places across the river from my office, a coffee shop called the Bean Haus (“best place for a snug cup of coffee”) and an ice cream shop called Sweet Tooth, which apparently has great homemade chocolate chip. The video below from MasterCard shows a few user examples:

As a MasterCard customer, I really appreciate that the brand is trying to actually deliver on its “Priceless” brand promise, and the choice of an iPhone app works because it is a tool that is truly integrated with our daily lives. In fact, this is the second iPhone app from MasterCard. A few months ago it launched an ATM Hunter that allows users to find ATMs near their location, and sort by preferences such as drive-thru and no service charge.

As a Meaningful Marketer, I love that MasterCard is carving off at least a small piece of its mammoth budget and adding value to its customers’ lives through marketing itself. While Visa dumps hundreds of millions of dollars into beautiful TV “film” that is aimed at brainwashing viewers into pulling its card out more often, MasterCard has given us something worth talking about and playing with, and it just might help us discover something new and “priceless” in our hometowns or travel destinations. This kind of marketing (rather than a pretty new ad campaign) actually has a chance of helping the brand differentiate in the credit-card category.

I do admit there are some bugs and bumps in this app. I would expect a lot more than a handful of flagged locations in downtown Cincinnati, for example. And some of the picks are pretty lame, such as ”$13.99 Huggies or CVS/pharmacy infant formula.” In an Ad Age article about the app, marketing consultant Tom Anderson suggests that, “You only have one chance with an app like this. If users come to it and it smells like an ad, then it is an ad, and with no value added it will die quickly.”

I actually disagree that the MasterCard app has to be perfect out of the gate, as long as the company goes into the app with a plan to continually learn and improve. There is much to be learned from seeing thousands of actual users engaging with it and adding their own picks. Some features such as its partnership with ShopLocal (which likely supplied the questionable Huggies ad above) might just be temporary tools that help get a critical mass of content while people are just discovering the app. At worst, people who have a subpar experience will revisit the app sometime in the future when they are bored and give it another chance.

I’m rooting for MasterCard’s value-added app approach and plan to upload a few of my own Priceless Picks, while pulling out my own MasterCard more often.

Selling Your Marketing—The Holy Grail

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

The most intriguing story I heard last week was that Apple has made somewhere between $20 million and $45 million in revenue from the 1 billion iPhone apps that have been downloaded from its store to date. In blog posts and Tweets about this estimate, the most common reaction was “That’s all they’ve made?” Since most apps are free, and Apple gets only a 30 percent cut of any revenue from paid-for apps, this seems like relative nickels in the grand scheme of things.

But one @reply from my Twitter feed, Rob Saker, had a great point that’s been sticking with me:

“I’d love [$20 million] with no inventory, spoilage, and few promotional costs… They may have found the Holy Grail of marketing, promotion that in itself generates revenue.”

To paraphrase Rob, Apple’s true take from the app store is much higher considering that these apps are the best marketing possible for the pricey iPhones and revenue cut from AT&T service (30 million of which are now in the market). The ulitmate test of Marketing with Meaning is when people actually pay for your marketing. And I believe marketers must set this as a new goal and revenue source for the work they do.

iPhone apps offer the perfect way for companies to create marketing that in some ways pays for itself.  Kraft’s very successful and slick iFood app is probably the best-known example. At the iMedia conference in March, the brand owner of the program, Ed Kaczmarek, said that Kraft chose to charge $.99 for the tool because they felt it was valuable, and putting a price on it actually helped communicate that value to consumers. That’s right-charging for the marketing made it even more valuable and meaningful. The result: iFood hit its three-year download goal in a matter of weeks.

At Bridge Worldwide, we’re developing a few iPhone app ideas, and my strong guidance to clients is to charge at least $.99 for them. Not only do I believe this adds to the value impression, but business managers start to get excited when new revenue comes in. Even if it doesn’t add a lot to the bottom line, the money that comes from selling apps can be directed toward further development and marketing of the app, which, in turn, can drive greater app quality and total downloads.

Another related and exciting piece of news last week was that Amazon has opened up a beta program to allow bloggers to get paid for people who subscribe to their blogs via the Kindle. Subscriptions are priced up to $1.99 per month, and the blogger gets 30 percent of the revenue. Of course, this is small beans right now, as there are likely not even 1 million Kindles on the market yet. But, again, we’re starting to see a model in which people are willing and able to spend a little for blog content. And blog content is almost always considered “marketing.”

In a recent post on his blog, John Gerzema makes a great point about consumer mentality of micropayments:

“The luxury of micropayment pricing is that a consumer can instantly make a low-risk value judgment. Limiting risk allows for product experimentation leading to little failures or successes and the consequent expansion of brand loyalty.”

It’s still too early to make this claim across the board, but I believe most iPhone and Kindle owners do not blink at being asked to spend less than a buck on impulse for a useful service. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that killer apps such as Facebook and Pandora for iPhone do not even charge a penny for their services. Both lack a viable business model today, and it’s so easy and cheap to make a buck through the app store. But I was also disappointed to see that Nationwide doesn’t charge for its very cool Car Accident Toolkit app, and Bloomberg—a company that charges thousands of dollars for its proprietary information and terminals—is giving its milk away for free as well. The industry actually needs these big players to start charging for apps in order to set the bar. Let’s not lose this opportunity to convince people that free is not the standard!

I’m very excited to see where brands play in the world of charging for their content. I’m so excited that I just signed up for the Kindle blog program, and invite those of you who are Kindle owners to subscribe to Marketing with Meaning now. I promise that every dollar that comes will be put right back into making this blog bigger and better. In fact, I will send a free Tide Loads of Hope T-shirt to the first person who subscribes and emails me the receipt!