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How long have you been sitting in front of the computer developing the next killer iPhone app? 50 hours? 100 hours? More? How much money have you put into becoming a registered developer, paying artists, hardware, software, and training? The day has finally come to submit your hopes and dreams to the whims of the Apple approval team and hope that you don’t get that fateful rejection email in your in-box. But… did you forget something?

In order for your app to succeed, you need a strategic approach to marketing it. With almost 100,000 active apps in iTunes, the likelihood of your app being “discovered” and succeeding on its own gets harder every day.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a developer say, “That’s okay though… I’ll get to the marketing thing once the app gets approved and goes live”. By waiting until an app goes live, the developer looses a number of significant marketing opportunities right off the bat.

To start, one of the most important components of your marketing, Search Engine Optimization, can ONLY be performed before your app has been submitted, or when uploading a new binary. Too many developers we have worked with didn’t realize this, threw a couple of keywords into the keywords field and figured they would come back to it later… they simply wanted to see their app in the store. We even read a story of one developer that simply didn’t use keywords because they were worried the wrong keywords would get them a rejection and their application was Halloween themed meaning a delay would render their app useless. Unfortunately.. having no keywords will render your application practically useless as well.

There is also a period of a few days at most where your natural browsing will be higher. The default browsing of iTunes is by “Release Date” – giving you first page visibility when a consumer wanders into your category. Depending on the category, you might be on the first page of this listing for close to a week! This is a great time to take advantage of the boosted sales and use a blitz marketing campaign to drive yourself into the higher rankings – shooting to either get in the top 100 listing, or get noticed by Apple and featured.

Social media is another tactic that requires some pre-planning. Most social media tactics rely on “followers” of your content. If you have not started building a following before you launch.. you are already missing out!

Finally your PR buzz is much more effective if its about a “new” product. Reporters are less likely to cover a story about something that has been sitting available for a while unless there is something new and unique about it. “Company X releases a new app that is the first to do Y” is much more of a story than “App Z is still in the App Store and still not doing that well even though its a good concept..”

Already launched? Its not optimal… but its not too late either. Drop us an email and we will be glad to take a look at how your app is being marketed.


 

In our last article, we talk about Schiau studios and their use of publicity stunts to gain promotion for their app and generate sales. There’s an old adage in PR that says "any press is good press".

Or is it?

Take Pepsi for example. Pepsi’s energy drink Amp takes an approach to marketing that is reminiscent  of Axe Deodorant in its hayday. Targeted primarily to men, er, "guys", their marketing message is full of extreme sports, hot girls, and rock music. The target demographic that this appeals to is a younger male audience, mid teens to early 20’s still living in a hormone driven haze where "hooking up" with the opposite sex ranks high on their daily priority list.

Is that a guy wtih a wig?

Um… is that one on the right a  guy with a wig on?

Enter the iPhone.

As the newest and if I might say, sexiest way to get your brand message out these days, it’s no surprise that Pepsi and Amp decided to jump on the bandwagon and launch an app of their own.  Grab the creative agency, brainstorm around the table for a few hours while hyped up on their own product, and the "Amp Up Before You Score" app is born.

The Premise: an app to help you hook up, complete with pickup lines and a how-to guide.

The Execution: Not only did Pepsi create an app that asks you to sterotype women into one of 24 categories including but not limited to "Cougar", "Princess" and, um… "Married" (lets hear it for Pepsi family values… I’d like to also mention that PepsiCo’s mission statement includes the following line: "in everything we do, we strive for honesty, fairness and integrity.").  The app then gives you a handy way to keep track of all the women you have ‘scored’ with and finally, my favorite… a way to brag about it to your buddies. In fact – the social mavens that they are – you can brag about it via Twitter, Facebook or Email! Now the whole world can know how misogynist you really are.

While I disagree with the execution – I understand that they are trying to speak to a very specific target that will frankly get the albiet misguided humor in this. The problem comes when we look at the target they are trying to reach, and the demographics of the typical iPhone user. They started out right – 75% of iPhone users are male, however according to Neilson, only 13% of users fall into Amp’s prime target age of 18-24. You can boost the percentage to 18% if you drop the age as low as 13. Add to that a society that is highly charged with conservative religous values, and you have a PR disaster on your hands. 

Calls have been coming in from all sides that Pepsi should pull what is being called "offensive", "sexist" and

Amp’s twitter site on October 12th posted this appology: "Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback. #pepsifail"

Love it or hate it....

 

The creation of this hashtag on Twiter has created a forum for tweeters to sound off about the app – both in the positive and the negative…. and it seems like consumers either love it or hate it.

So lets hear it readers – #pepsifail or #pepsiwin? IS all press good press or do brands have a social responseibility to live up to? Do you think this was created purposefully to stir up controversy?

I would have to say it was on purpose. Why? Because the app is still live in the app store. Who apologizes in earnest and then keeps doing what they were apologizing for?


alchemize 40

I like to call this Stunt Marketing/PR at it’s best.  Schiau Studios, the creators of Alchemize, an iPhone game – have caused quite a stir in the iPhone App blogosphere.  Tired of all the complaints that their game was priced too high at $2.99, Schiau Studios went and (brilliantly) did the unmentionable – they RAISED the price of their game to $39.99! While only a temporary price increase, the drastic change made a point and got a ridiculous amount of press.  The price of a game in the iTunes store is still considerably cheaper than buying a console game.  But the best part of this stunt – free publicity!  People (including you after reading this) now know about the game, Alchemize.  And the more people who know about the game, the more people will check it out and possibly purchase it.

At Appency, we’re in the business of marketing iPhone apps, and publicity is one of the services that we offer.  People often ask, what kind of publicity can you bring to a new app?  My definition, anything that gets people to take notice and/or talk about your product. As long as they are talking, you are building brand awareness.  In most cases, a press release and pitching to journalists/bloggers can be a great first step to getting people’s attention.  It helps if you have an angle – first game of its kind, new use of technology, great game play, or in Schiau Studios case, most expensive iPhone game ever!!

Before you take action, we recommend you take a good look at your app. What’s your angle?  Why did you make this app in the first place? Do you have competition in the marketplace?  If yes, why should people download your app versus the competitor’s? Is it priced fairly?  Does it have a good user experience?  Check any current reviews and make any necessary tweaks. When you’re ready to make a big noise, make sure your product can stand the heat!

Kudos to Schiau Studios!  Nicely done.


admobI’m a big fan of AdMob – they offer a great mobile advertising service and for quite a while have been publishing a monthly “Mobile Metrics Report” that provides a snapshot into the types of traffic seen on their ad network. Its nice to see a company willing to share information with the community.

I’ve also read quite a few blogs that have picked up bits and pieces of information from these monthly reports… and totally misrepresented the data to their readership. To that end – this is a lesson in statistics – and how to read AdMob’s Mobile Metrics Report. This months report can be found here – and focuses on the various ways to look at smartphone market share globally. Before you read it however – please try to remember a few things:

For those who don’t know AdMob – they are a mobile advertising network, which means they represent over 9,000 publishers on the mobile web and serve up the ads on those sites. They also represent a vast majority of the in-app iPhone and Android advertising banners you see (Over 3,000 apps represented). Every time someone lands on one of their sites or loads an ad in an app, they identify the handset and operating system and log it into their databases. This report is an analysis of that data.

Smartphone Handset Marketshare from the August AdMob Report

Smartphone Handset Marketshare from the August AdMob Report

There’s an inherent problem with his however, because App data and WAP data are being treated the same. While WAP sites are browse-able by any web enabled handset,  the vast majority of apps are on the iPhone OS platform, followed by Android. This means that when AdMob reports that the iPhone OS has a over 50% market share in the US, they are not reporting how many iPhones are in the marketplace, but how many views they are getting on their ads from iPhones. (AdMob does try to explain this in their disclaimers). Because AdMob is representing a huge chunk of impressions that can ONLY be seen by iPhones, this will always skew the data in the iPhone OS’ favor.

Of course – iPhones dominate the applications market, so this makes quite a bit of sense. Does that mean this is useless data? Not at all. The report still gives us a great snapshot into how people are using their phones.

“…the data includes our in-app traffic for both iPhone and Android platforms,  so yes that is certainly something you should consider when reviewing our numbers.  However, the huge growth in mobile usage of apps is, in many cases, replacing mobile browsing activity on devices like the iPhone and Android.. ” – Mike Fyall, AdMod Product Manager

Mobile applications are generally easier to use and have more functionality then the limited WAP environment, and even phones that can access traditional websites still have difficulty with sizing, and handling the vast array of browser plugins like Flash and Shockwave that many websites rely on. Mobile applications are optimized for the handset they are being used on, do not typically require zooming in and out to be able to read content, and all app bugs aside, always work.

up up and ad-way!

up up and ad-way!

Another interesting insight from AdMobs report is the steady increase in overall impressions in every region around the world. This bodes well for application developers looking to make revenue through free applications that are ad supported and relying on constant traffic to generate impressions. It also makes it so much more important for free apps to be utilizing effective marketing strategies to help them garner their share of that traffic in an increasingly competitive market environment.


Have you been thinking about getting your app reviewed by a popular review site like 148apps.com or AppGirlReviews.com? I’ve had a few of my customers come to me concerned because there might be another app in iTunes that happens to be slightly better, done by a large company like EA Mobile or Digital Chocolate, or has more features. Reviews by their very nature are suppose to be unbiased, so – like every 14 year old acne faced boy, they ask themselves the same question:

“What if they don’t like me?”

The fear that a bad review will hurt sales can be justified, but as CNNMoney reports – even bad reviews can drive sales!

Take their example of a the product website AlpacaDirect.com, a purveyor of Alpaca products such as sweaters, socks and yarn, considered by many as an alternative to cashmere.  Recently, they hired PowerReviews, a company that provides the tools which allow consumers to leave ratings directly on your website – both good and bad.

Not all the reviews were good! Take for example this post from a customer in Santa Cruz about a pair of alpaca socks:

** (2 Stars)
Fit: Feels too small
Pros: Durable, Regulates Temperature Well, Wicks Away Moisture
Cons: Uncomfortable
Best Uses: Daily Use
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

Comments: I’ve ordered and enjoyed the old version of this sock but it seems like they have changed and possibly the wool isn’t as “smart wool” as it used to be. Next time I’d order a man’s version, and will avoid these WOMEN’S LARGE. I went by the picture to identify the right sock to order but the product looks slightly different.

Before bringing in the PowerReviewer tool, Alpaca Direct had  a page that hand picked all the best comments they had recieved about products and displayed them for customers to see. Now – they are paying out of pocket – and sometimes to have bad reviews up on their site. So why keep it up?

First of all – no one believes you when you put up your hand-picked reviews. How many reviews did you have to get before you got a good one? Consumers want to know. Sites like Yelp and CNet thrive on direct from the consumer reports because people want unbiased opinions to help guild their spending, especially in a tight budget economy.

The most impressive part however, is that Alpaca Direct has seen sales increase… even on products with bad reviews!

“A month after installing the PowerReviews service, Hobart saw sales climb 23% on items that had customer reviews (even that cardigan, which garnered an average of four stars).”

So what does that mean for iPhone developers?

At Watkins Mobile (the parent company of The Appency Press), we devise reviews into two categories – external and engine. External reviews are done by professional journalists and bloggers and are posted either online or in a print publication, a few steps away from the actual purchase.

Engine reviews are those that consumers leave in the sales engine itself (read- in iTunes, Blackberry App World, Android Marketplace, etc). These are usually gated so that only consumers that have actually downloaded the app are able to rate it and leave comments. These review sites often have major traffic – and can expose your app to new users that would be willing to download and try your program – even if the review given was not the best. This is no excuse for shoddy programming – I in no way want to encourage developers to strive for anything but the highest quality work – but you cant please all of the people all of the time.

Okay... so maybe 2.5 stars isnt what you were hoping for...

Okay... so maybe 2.5 stars isnt what you were hoping for...

In iTunes specifically – when you delete an application from your phone, you are allowed to give it a star rating. The problem with this, is that its not a valid picture of your consumers. People that keep the application on their phones long term often do not go back to the app store to provide comment on an app they use. This leaves us with the majority of star ratings from the (hopefully) smaller portion of consumers that are uninstalling your app.

After an email  conversation with Jeff Scott, founder of 148apps.com and the O.A.T.S. group (Organization for App Testing Standards), we decided to come up with a way for developers to get reviews on their apps within the search engine that is both unbiased and inexpensive to the developers. We have put together a large app review focus group called RateMyApp, composed of consumers from all walks of life with only an iPhone as their common denominator, willing to download and leave their honest opinions of apps directly into the app store.

*please note – we DO pay the focus group back the cost of the apps – they are donating their time and we do not want them to be incurring costs*

Is it worth it? We think so. If you believe in your app, and have put in the time and energy to get it developed, it is important to get feedback from real consumers – even if sometimes its tough love.

To join our app rating panel, or to have your app rated, check out RateMyApp!


As many of you already know, Apple and AT&T will finally have MMS capabilities for the iPhone this Friday, September 25th (Announced on their Facebook page here).

While many iPhone developers may let this come and go without a second thought – my clients – and other smart developers will be taking this opportunity to implement a strategic price drop

Whats the connection? Traffic. Every time there is a major new update for the iPhone, a significant jump in traffic is seen in the iTunes app store. Many of the consumers who are coming to get their update, will also take a few minutes to browse around the store (even if its harder to do then it use to be) and will choose a few new apps to try out. Typically developers do not have good advanced notice of when an update will be – there is alot of buzz but when it finally happens everyone is scrambling to adjust their marketing accordingly.

In a great presentation by Pinch Media, one of my favorite iPhone analytics engines, we can see the effects of a well timed price cut, even without the advantages of the increased traffic.

PInchGraphUsers who may have been looking at your app before but not wanting to pay full price may take notice of your app and finally take the plunge. There are also a number of sites like 148apps, AppShopper, and FreeAppAlert (if you are dropping from paid to free) that track price drops in apps, alerting a waiting public to sales they can take advantage of.  All of this translates into free eyeballs… and more downloads for the in-the-know developer.

Knowing ahead of time also allows you to get a media buy in place, however with only 48 hours before the event, I’m afraid it would be hard to get your ad and buy together in time. Besides… my clients already got the good spots 🙂

To learn more about promoting your iPhone app, click on Marketing Services or contact me at aaron@watkinsmobile.com


As part of the promotional mix, many iPhone apps have started using various sales promotions that include a number of different types of sweepstakes, contests and giveaways in order to drive downloads. While a sweepstakes or contest can be great for promoting your app, there are a few things to keep in mind.

GunSmoke uses a Re-Tweet promotion to virally promote their app

GunSmoke uses a Re-Tweet promotion to virally promote their app

One of the most common questions I get from app developers when it comes to these is “What is the difference between a sweepstakes, a contest and a lottery?” Why do they ask? Because a “lottery” has very strict rules and generally can only be legally operated by a state government. There are some legal loopholes when it come to Vegas and Indian Casinos, but as we are talking about iPhone apps here, that have national distribution (If not global – we will get to that in a minute) -you have to be legal across the country. Running an illegal lottery will quickly land you in front of a judge and you could be subject to some pretty heafty fines.

There are three components that we need to take a look at:

1. Prize

Does your promotion include some sort of prize? It can be monetary(Many apps give away iTunes gift cards), physical (some sort of actual gift), digital (software) or even experiential (some sort of experience that would be hard to get someplace else).

2. Chance

Is there some element of chance involved? This is opposed to a game of skill such as having to be the first person to beat a specific level of a game, answer a set of questions correctly or collect specific items from within your application.

3. Consideration

Consideration is a legal term which translates into: “I had to pay for it” (The lawyers will say “an undertaking in response to a promise”). Mind you that consideration is not always financial – it can mean an investment in time or effort as well. A great example is a car dealership that requires you to  “come in and test drive” to participate. Because you had to get to the dealership and probably spend gas money (or bus fare for you first time car buyers!), many courts would define that as consideration. There are ways around consideration however – which is where the infamous “No Purchase Necessary” comes into play. Just because there is a “paid ” method of playing, doesn’t mean there can’t be a free method as well. Often this comes in the form of a sent in 3×5 card or an online form. It doesn’t have to be easy (sure, hide the free online form deep in your site, I don’t care), but it has to be available and explained in the official rules.

So what happens when you have two of the three?

Prize + Chance: This is your typical sweepstakes. You enter, you have a chance to win. Pretty straight forward. What you do need to keep an eye out for is the monetary value of your prize. A few states require that prizes over a specific monetary value (often $500) require your prize to be bonded.

Prize + Consideration: Well… not to be blunt… but this just means you are selling something! You paid (consideration) for an item (Prize)

Chance + Consideration: Not really sure WHAT to call this other then, well, a donation.

Finally… what happens with you have all three?

A lawsuit.

Having all three makes you a lottery, of which is not allowed by anyone but the state.

Looking for help putting together a winning promotion? Give us a shout – we would be glad to help you out, following all applicable state laws of course!


I was going to wait until I had this blog site fully setup before I started posting blogs, but I finally had a chance to really sit down and play with iTunes 9 today and was shocked at some of the changes.

Lets start with the good. I love the Home Sharing music feature. There is probably over 5,000 downloaded songs in my household, while only about 500 of them are mine. The woman of the house is quite the music enthusiast and has a library that would make congress jealous.  Its nice to be able to tap into her songs and not worry about having to re-download them if I want to take some with me.

Okay, enough of the good. (Wait, thats it?). I am a mobile application marketing consultant. I teach classes in how to get your mobile application noticed, how to get it ranked well, and how to use the interface (iTunes) you’ve been given to succeed. I’m writing a book on the subject as well. One of the gold standards of marketing your mobile app in iTunes is to strive for a coveted top 100 spot in your category.  (Top 20 in your category is of course much better, but top 100 and you start getting noticed by soft browsers). With over 75,000 apps  in the app store, its extremely difficult to get into the top 100 overall (not category specific) without a brand name and big marketing budget behind you.

Getting ranked in your category however worked because many people browsing without a particular application in mind would first head into a category and then scroll through the top apps of that section. The higher you were ranked, the more likely someone would see you before they got tired of browsing pages. Its the same concept that drives companies to spend millions on SEO tactics to get higher up the natural search listings in Google.

Missing something? Oh right.... Navigation

Missing something? Oh right.... Navigation

There’s something missing in the iTunes 9 app store… quick category browsing. The bar on the left that listed each category for a quick link into that section? Gone. Replaced with? Well… nothing. In the small print at the bottom of the page there is a “Browse” feature that takes you to the most illogical browsing flow I’ve ever seen. Lets say I’m still intent on checking out what the top social networking apps are.  The browsing function lets me choose App Store -> Social Networking. Okay, so far it makes sense. Down below it populates with a list of 6000 apps in a text list (no icon, no images). The first app in my list……

“Big Red Button”

Category….. (wait for it)

Entertainment.

What?? Did I not just specify social networking?  Maybe I’m missing something. So I double click on the app name to see the description. Nothing. No app description page pops up. Nothing at all happens actually. Thinking maybe that I clicked on the wrong spot, I tried clicking on the artist, price, release date…. nothing.  The only thing that is clickable… “Get App”.  Okay, well its a free app, Ill take a risk and click “Get App” hoping that it will actually take me to a description of the app before actually downloading it.

Nope. Sorry. I am now the proud owner of a Big Red Button. What does it do? No idea. I’m a little scared to push it.

Maybe there was just a glitch in Social Networking. Lets try a more obscure category like Health & Fitness. A few clicks in the browsing later and ta-da! The top app in Health & Fitness is…. a Health & Fitness app! Were off to a good start. Unfortunately number two is a Medical app so were still not perfect. I have to assume this is because you are allowed to choose a secondary category for your app that they show up here. I can accept that… though I find it hard to believe this Big Red Button will help me socially network. (No, I still haven’t pushed it).

The browsing apps are ranked 1-6000, however I quickly can see that its not a popularity rank. Actually, its currently being sorted by date released, so my Big Red Button only really had the advantage that it was released on Friday and will sit there till Monday when new apps get added. Its possible to click on the features to change the sorts – by date, by cost, by genre (didn’t I already specify Health & Fitness? Ooh look. Here’s four weather apps that fall into Health & Fitness!). You cannot sort by two variables.. that is – if I want to look at which of the lovely weather-slash-health-and-fitness hybrids are free vs paid, I simply have to scroll through. Thank goodness there are only four of them. What there isnt… is a way to sort by actual rank / popularity.

Dammit.. I want to know what the best free Health & Fitness apps are!

Remember the page from the last version of iTunes? The category page that showed the top paid on the right and the top free on the left? Thankfully I still have an image from a class I am teaching of what it looks like…

Not gone.... just really really hard to find!

Not gone.... just really really hard to find!

Turns out this page isnt actually gone. I managed to find the top free Health & Fitness apps with these, well, 10 easy steps….

1. Open iTunes

2. Click on “App Store”

3. Look for a Health & Fitness app in the promotional categories on the front page

4. Dont find any. Click into the top paid apps section to see if there are any in there

5. Find “iFitness” in the top 100 paid list.

6. Click on iFitness

7. Admire clear use of icon, good description, read some comments…. oh wait. I had a purpose here…

8. Find the location path at the top of the page. The one that says “App Store -> Healthcare & Fitness -> iFitness

9. Scroll over Healthcare & Fitness and notice that its a clickable link

10. Click Healthcare & Fitness and marvel at finally finding what I was looking for.

(By the way… you use to be able to get to this in three clicks. )

I am a fan of Apple and how they have opened up mobile applications to the world and made it accessible to smaller developers. Looking at what is starting to happen here however is disappointing. It looks like what has replaced the category section is a new top list…. “Top Grossing” (ie – What apps are making the developers, and Apple, the most money). Apps that make this list which sits on the front page, will gain more attention, and thus keep driving more revenue…. and staying on top of this list.

iTunes 9 makes it harder for hard working app developers to make it without the direct assistance from Apple themselves to get featured on one of their front page categories. This doesn’t seem like the smartest move from Apple. Instead of the public finding the next best app and driving it to the top, more and more its apps that Apple chooses that make it… which means in a slew of new apps, the likelihood that the newest gem of an app will get missed and instead of gaining traction and driving sales for the developer and Apple…. get lost in a sea of app clutter.

Yup. There’s an app for that.


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