Applications are the new websites.
Think about it; in a distributed media environment where syndicating content is the core of a user interaction strategy, applications can become as important if not more important than your actual website. This is especially true when you consider that mobile is rapidly growing in importance as it becomes standardized on three primary platforms; iPhone OS, Android and Windows Mobile.
As more and more people are becoming familiar with the various app stores from Apple and the phone carriers, more people are downloading and installing apps that provide them with access to their favorite content and services. If you peruse the Apple App Store on iTunes, you see some very familiar brands taking advantage of this new environment. Facebook , Google, Yahoo, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal; all of these big brands are establishing a regular user base with applications and the fact is that when people start using these applications they dramatically reduce their time spent with the brand’s central website.
As a focus group of one I can tell you there are a number of brands and experiences that I only view on my phone through an app and have never visited their actual site. FML is a funny site that I’ve only viewed through my phone. Twitter and Facebook are viewed evenly through my phone and through a browser, but when it comes to Twitter I tend to use TweetDeck more than the actual site. All of these are examples of companies that have embraced the syndication of their platforms and recognize that consumer behavior is changing.
What this means for marketing is clear.
Marketing in this kind of environment requires additional fragmentation and the addition of more tactics to clearly execute a strategy. In Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 it was possible for brands to focus their digital marketing efforts on 2-3 fundamental tactics. You could focus on search, display and one other component to execute effectively, but that doesn’t work as well anymore. You need to pick partners and work with them to execute across all of their platforms in order to sustain targeted reach and as a by-product you most likely achieve frequency as well. That means applications are ever more important and potentially crucial as a vehicle for interacting with a consumer.
Back in the olden days of the internet, brands did multi-year upfront deals with the major players like Yahoo, Excite and Lycos and they locked in multiple avenues to get their messages to the right target audience. In recent years those deals became fewer and far between because networks came into play and provided broad reach by aggregating many smaller publishers together. As fragmentation increases, I foresee those larger package deals coming back into vogue as marketers identify key partners and look to use those partners across multiple platforms, with the platforms including web, mobile, apps and video.
Google apparently has already gone down this route and is including mobile and in-app advertising with its AdSense product. For me as a marketer, this provides a great way to start testing other platforms, but I can see how some marketers would get upset with this if they weren’t aware it was happening. As always, a policy of full disclosure tends to take care of any issues, but where Google is headed seems very logical to me. Marketers need to be cross-platform at this point and this seems to be the wave of the future.
If you aren’t examining the application space yet, you should get started very soon. It’s heating up quick and the players with the most reach and the strongest units that can drive impact will win that race quickly!
Are you advertising in applications? Tell us about it on the Spin boards!