Mac News: Mobile Apps: Need an App? Ask Your Creative Technologist
Need an App? Ask Your Creative Technologist
By Dan Neumann
12/01/09 4:00 AM PT
Generally speaking, creatives do not keep up with the latest trends in consumer technology, and developers do not care about a brand’s strategic goals. This is why marketing departments and agencies are increasingly establishing positions for “creative technologists” who can steer these two teams toward platforms that enable direct connections with consumers.
Digital advertising is evolving beyond the desktop computer, leaving companies relying solely on Web sites and display advertising woefully behind the eight ball. More and more, brands are relying on software development to create engaging consumer experiences that span multiple open platforms. Branded mobile applications
are fast becoming an important element of this new digital ecosystem as evidenced by Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) announcement that its App Store had surpassed 100,000 apps in early November.
This shift away from more familiar mediums for brand communication has important implications for the composition of, and interaction between, established groups within agencies. The pervasive dynamic between technology and creative groups is not always conducive to more technically demanding campaigns because of a fundamental disconnect between these two groups’ proficiencies.
Companies need people who are passionate about the creative aspects of branding and effective messaging, as well as the technical elements of software development. Without someone to bridge the divide, brands risk winding up with apps that are either unsuited for their purpose or projects that make unrealistic demands on developers.
While an influx of “do-it-yourself” app platforms have reduced the cost of entry into this new channel, these solutions often depend on inflexible frameworks that limit creativity, leading apps to fall short of the mark when delivering an engaging customer experience to a brand’s target audience.
Considering that enterprises must still invest a significant amount of capital into these template-based apps, it makes more sense to leverage a creative technologist’s expertise rather than create a cookie-cutter app. Leveraging one app build and reskinning it for multiple brands is an efficient way to enter the channel, but companies need to focus on how their consumers engage with their brand within the context of a mobile app to ensure they are creating a positive experience for customers.
Catalysts for Big Ideas
CTs bring creative and technology groups together to develop branded software. That’s made plain by their title, but what does that really entail? How do they create value? The first area seems like the most obvious but is critical to the success
of any marketing campaign — education and evangelism.
To attract interest in a new technology or platform, a CT needs to be able to communicate its value in terms that everyone, both clients and agency peers, can understand. People are scared of what they don’t know. It is still difficult to connect the dots from clicks to sales to real ROI. So then, if after 10 years, the industry is just now getting good at calculating ROI for display advertising, who wants to invest in tactics that don’t have established measurement practices attached?
CTs are the catalysts behind big, new ideas that get marketers excited and then validate their strategies by identifying key consumer interactions within an app/platform and help analytics groups craft measurement plans that will accurately tie back to strategic goals.
The ability of a CT to identify best practices before they are established provides confidence and guidelines for brands seeking first-mover lift. In a development phase, CTs should ensure that their best practices are observed within the architecture of the application.
While this can be very difficult to do, depending on the category, the key here is to remember that the number of downloads is not the only means to measure success. Because it does a brand little good if an app is downloaded and seldom used, consumer engagement is an important metric that should be taken into consideration.
Speaking the Language
A key consideration when establishing metrics for success and promoting your application is its role within the brand’s broader campaign or messaging. It is the CT’s responsibility to craft sensible connection points between the campaign and your app.
How does your audience move from media, to engagement, to realization of a strategic marketing goal? Does your online advertising promote the app? What sort of CRM model makes sense for people using your app? Should actions from within the app generate a post to Twitter or Facebook ?
What, if any, content generated by your campaign should be consumed from within the app? Where are the friction points between discovery, download and regular usage? A CT should be able to create user-flow and experience map documents that illustrate the experience as a whole, and how users are expected to move through various elements of that experience without requiring users to create an account.
While the experience architecture is important, CTs create value for clients and agencies by understanding the nuances of users’ interaction on new platforms and develop apps that work within these behaviors.
Consider developing an application for a newly open platform — Verizon’s FiOS widgets, for instance — that allows users to stream video content from your library. Do you make search a primary navigation element without realizing that users will need to rely on a virtual keyboard? The better alternative would be to design a menu structure optimized for the remote’s D-pad.
CTs are often the quickest route to effective branded apps because they can serve as translators who are fluent in the languages of technology and creative groups. This skill allows them to help brands temper cutting-edge ambitions with the realities of building experiences that work across multiple platforms in multiple channels.
As connected open platforms approach ubiquity, opportunities for marketers are proliferating at an astounding rate. A brand’s ability to capitalize will be vastly improved by staffing with people who can predict which platforms have the potential to alter consumer behavior and which will fade into the sunset.
Dan Neumann is emerging platforms strategist for Organic.Talkback: Join the Discussion.Great Article.asciibn
Posted 2009-12-01I totally agree with your premise. Agencies are producing highly branded software, in terms of …
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A good take on what it means to be a truly creative technologist