Branding for app developers

After my first blog post I had someone ask about what a brand advocate was and, while I was at it, what was a “good brand” for a developer? So, I decided to write a post about branding.

It’s probably easiest to start with what a brand is NOT. Your brand isn’t your:

  • Logo
  • Name
  • Product

All of these things should support and be consistent with your brand and over time they will hopefully evoke it. But in and of themselves, they are not your brand. The emotional and psychological relationship that app buyers have with you is your brand. It’s what people think of when they see your product, name or logo. It’s incredibly powerful and is something that social media is born to support because when you interact with your buyers on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere you are creating and strengthening your brand in a very personal way.

I think all of this is best illustrated by some examples and I’ve got a couple of non-app ones for you to consider first.

Starbucks logo and brand discussion

Grande non-fat, no-foam latte please.

I chose Starbucks because if I had $1 for every time I had heard developers say – “why do people have a problem buying an app for $1.99 when it’s less than a cup of coffee?” – I would have at least $46.

The reason most people go to Starbucks has very little to do with coffee – it’s certainly not the primary reason I go there. If it were, I’d drink Starbucks coffee at home because it’s cheaper. The reason I go to Starbucks is for the experience. It gets me out of the house. I get to hang out with other adults, people who read books and newspapers and talk in sentences (mostly). It’s a quiet, comparatively child-free space. For 30 minutes I get to remember that I’m not only a mother and I get some time to myself to recharge my batteries. It’s part of my “Oxygen Mask Project“.

All of that has nothing to do with coffee, but it is reinforced by coffee. Sensory experiences, especially those that engage our sense of smell, are very powerful. For less than $5 I can purchase an experience that, for a mother of two special needs children, is not only cost-effective but also priceless.

The second example I want you to think about is Coca Cola.

Coca Cola logo and brand discussion

There are volumes you could write about Coke and branding. As part of my Master’s degree I wrote a paper on Coca Cola and the invention of Santa Claus as part of a topic on marketing in the 20th Century. But the one thing I would like to focus on here is that Coca Cola is the perfect example of how a brand is so much more than its product. If the Pepsi taste tests and the debacle that was New Coke show us anything, it’s that the beverage is not the brand. People don’t drink Coke because of how it tastes, they drink it because they have an emotional and psychological attachment to Coca Cola. Mark Pendergrast in his book For God, Country and Coca Cola talks about finding the recipe for Coke in the company’s archives at their Atlanta headquarters. He asks them if he can print it in his book and is given permission because someone else could replicate the drink exactly and it wouldn’t be Coca Cola – it’s the brand that drives sales, not the beverage itself.

If you come to me interested in social media services, the first thing I will ask you is questions to find out what your brand is (as you see it). Ideally, you should determine your brand right from the beginning along with your business plan. Your logo, name and apps will then all be created to support and be in-line with your brand. If you’re an established business without a clearly defined brand then you should likely make developing one a top priority. Let me give you an example of a developer that I think has a strong brand.

Oceanhouse Media logo and brand discussion

When I think of Oceanhouse Media I think of childhood, education and quality. The apps they develop support and reinforce that brand – Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears, Five Little Monkeys and Byron Barton are already childhood staples for many. The Smithsonian and Hay House books affirm the importance of education to their brand and in terms of quality, not only do they develop books by excellent authors but their apps are benchmarks for how book apps should be produced. With their recent Record and Share upgrade to some of their titles they demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement of their apps.

Their brand has nothing to do with their logo but it’s what I think of when I see the logo. I hadn’t read the Kidwick books in hard copy before getting them as apps so my decision to purchase two of these apps was based solely on trust in their brand. When I recommend their books apps to others I am an advocate for their brand.

Returning to the start of this post, when I talk about using social media to turn people from customers into brand advocates – I’m describing a process in which you develop a relationship with your buyers. Individuals who have that relationship with you will buy your apps when they are launched and will recommend them to others via word of mouth.

But you can only create brand advocates if you have a brand…


5 reasons why app developers must engage in social media

Independent app developers typically have neither the time nor the money to spend on marketing, which is precisely the reason why social media engagement is likely to be a crucial part of their success. In case you’re not convinced, here’s five reasons why you should reconsider:

Word of mouth sells

We all intuitively know this but in this case our intuition is supported by data. A Nielsen report earlier this year found that with respect to purchasing decisions:

  • 92% of people trust recommendations from people they know. In contrast;
  • 33% trusted information provided by online banner ads.

App buyers dominate social media

Women make most buying decisions. Period. Just a few select data points for you to consider in relation to this:

  • Women account for 85% of ALL consumer purchases
  • 92% of women pass along information about deals to others (there’s that word of mouth thing again)
  • 91% of women in one survey said that advertisers do not understand them
And women also dominate social media – they represent:
  • 57% of Facebook users
  • 59% of those on Twitter and
  • 82% of users on Pinterest.

Effective social media doesn’t have to be expensive

You can set up a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn page and a Pinterest board for free.

You can reach a worldwide audience relatively easily

It doesn’t matter if you’re a developer in Australia, Singapore or Finland because social media makes it possible for you to converse with people across the globe.

Social media is a highly effective way to create brand advocates

The two-way conversation social media enables you to have with your customers ultimately creates a relationship with them. It’s this relationship that will result in your buyers evolving from customers into advocates of your brand. This is where you generate your largest ROI (Return on Investment) from social media. Gary Vaynerchuk, in his book The Thank You Economy, quotes an IBM study of online retail consumer buying patterns that showed:

  • Advocates’ share of wallet is 33% more than that of customers who aren’t advocates
  • Advocates spend about 30% more dollars with their favourite online retailers than non-advocates do
  • Advocates are loyal – they are much less likely than other customers to switch to competitors
  • Advocates have a higher lifetime value than regular customers because they not only spend more now, they continue to spend and may even increase their spending in the future.

Using social media effectively will not only result in creating advocates for your brand but those advocates are themselves already engaged in social media – which is where you want them so they can recommend your product to their friends online.

I’ll leave you with a real-life example of a brand advocate in action; in this case, me. One of my friends posted on Facebook asking for app recommendations and here’s our conversation; I’ve erased both her name and that of her other friends:

Word of mouth app recommendations on Facebook

Two things to note about this conversation:

  • Price wasn’t mentioned as a consideration.
  • For some of us these conversations happen every day. How can you make sure that your apps are at the top of people’s minds when their friends ask for recommendations?


*Featured image for this article is a word cloud created using Meet Generation C: The Connected Customer, an article by Brian Solis:

Generation C