Back in the olden days of 2010, the brand app was given the "meatball sundae" award for being two good ideas that do not go together. For example, over 8,000 users gave the NIKEiD app one star out of five back then because its design-your-own-Nike feature didn't allow users to then order the shoes they had created. What’s the point of that?
Slowly, marketers have come around to understanding what users want from a branded app. They don't want some gimmicky freebie; they want a premium app that's free because it's sponsored by a brand.
By the end of 2011, 91 of the top 100 brands had a mobile app out there in the app-space. (Why not all 100? Because who wants a Kleenex app, that's why.)
So who has the most interesting apps these days?
The sports and shoe giant now has a whole family of apps, ranging from running to fitness to golf, but one stands above them all - Nike Training Club - which offers specialized exercise plans based on users' goals, in four categories: Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong and Get Focused. Better yet, it features over 1,000 5-star user reviews.
Yes, Band-Aid has an app (take that, Kleenex). When you point your app-enabled smartphone at a app-ready Band-Aid bandage, you get an augmented reality performance by the Muppets. Sounds crazy, but it's highly rated.
Total app overload. Disney apparently has an app for every Dalmatian - apps to watch the Disney Channel; apps to navigate its theme parks; apps to shop at the Disney Store. One of the more interesting is the Disney Movie app, which has trailers and features for almost every animated movie in its extensive catalog with information about the new movies and where they’re playing. With over 800 five-star ratings, the app's average rank is pulled down to three stars because of more than 600 one-star reviews, mostly noting that the app crashes. Once the bugs are worked out, this should be a winner.
All the apps for those high-end auto brands, they just show dealer locations and let you design your new Porsche or Maserati by color or available options. Ford has branched out into many app niches, including multiple apps exclusively for Mustang owners, but its MyFord Mobile app could be the most practical app for an automobile brand.
With the MyFord Mobile app, you can pre-condition the air temperature of your plug-in electric Ford and find nearby charging stations. That's useful stuff.
What could possibly be the point? Does anyone need a store locator to find the nearest Coke? No. Can you use an app to enhance the experience of enjoying a cold Coca-Cola? Not sure how. This is classic "meatball sundae" territory, and yet this granddaddy of marketing has found a way to generate over 2,300 five-star reviews for an app. An app that does what? An app that spins the bottle. Yep, it's the Spin the Coke app. Creep out your friends with it.
It didn't become one of the bluest of blue-chip stocks by letting others lead the pack in the way of innovation. Sure, GE has its share of totally worthless apps, like the one that helps you design room lighting ... but the GE CA Mobile app? This could be a huge step forward for app development, even if it's in a niche market.
CA stands for Centricity Advance, and it’s a workflow management tool for MDs. With this app, right from his or her smartphone, a doctor can review and edit patient information; order prescriptions; check lab results and appointment times - everything a doctor might need, in the palm of his or her hand.
It’s almost unfair to rank Apple as succeeding in interesting branding of a market it virtually created by itself overnight. But if you’re going to invent the app market, you might as well dominate it. What’s the best and most interesting Apple-branded app? Find my iPhone, of course. The branding and its functionality are both right there in its name. Also useful for keeping track of your Apple-packing family members. The 3,200+ five-star ratings speak for themselves. Those iPhones got found.
This thing used to come out weekly in paper, and people would buy it at grocery stores and it would tell them what was on the seven channels all week long. Then, it was its own TV channel, which is kind of weird. Now, TV Guide is its own branded app, with features like a five-minute heads-up when your selected show is about to start. That's handy, although recent software updates make registration and signing in required, and pre-registration-required users are not happy.
OK, what can an app from a coffee retailer do that’s not weird or dumb? Well, customers can use the app to pay for their coffee in over 9,000 locations. That's not weird or dumb, that’s ground-breaking. Although from the customer comments, it still might be a little crashy. Bring your wallet, just in case.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a free game app that brings the brand of the longest running show on television onto users’ smartphones. With it, players can harvest tomacco; party with Duffman; overwork Apu; and eat donuts. Mmmmm, donuts! With over 9,500 five-star reviews from a fan-base that is notoriously fickle and judgmental, this app pleases the difficult-to-please crowd and re-enforces the idea that the brand of The Simpsons stands for fun, humor and wasting time in the best ways possible.
What's your favorite brand app?