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What a Brand Should Know about App Usage

If your smart phone is nearby, as it almost certainly is, take it out.  Count your apps.  How many do you have?  How many do you think the average consumer uses?  Probably a lot less than you think.  And app usage has important implications for brands in an increasingly “appified” world.

It seems like only yesterday when Apple began advertising “there’s an app for that” and ushered in an avalanche of new apps for just about anything and everything.  Brands noticed too.  Many brand managers and CMOs found themselves asking the question: “what does this mean for my brand?” and, more importantly, “does my brand need an app?” to better connect with or engage consumers.

Apps─More App Usage, But Not More Apps Used

Nielsen recently took a hard look at app usage to better understand consumer app behavior. Here are some key points:

  • Consumers 18+ spent 30.1 hours per month on apps in Q4 2013.  Their app usage increased by 65% vs. just two years ago.  People are spending a lot more time with apps.
  • On average, consumers used 26.8 apps per month in Q4 2013, virtually flat versus 26.1 apps from two years ago.  Consumers are not using more apps despite their increase in time using apps.

We’ve Seen This Before

Does this sound familiar?  It should.  It’s not unlike TV where, even as the number of channels and average hours of consumption increased over the years, the average number of channels watched by viewers remained relatively flat.

We’re seeing the same phenomena in app usage—more overall time spent on apps, but not many more apps being used.   Consumers seem to have an upper limit when it comes to TV channels or apps used.

Every Brand Manager needs to ask themselves a question:  “how likely, really, is it that consumers would use an app from my brand as one of their 27 apps used each month?”

The answer depends a lot on what kind of brand you have.  The Nielsen data shows that over 80% of time spent on app usage is in just three categories:

  1.  Search, portals, and social;
  2.  Entertainment; and
  3.  Communication.

So, if you’re Google or Facebook or a Digital Publisher or Snapchat, it all looks good.  If you’re managing a brand not in one of these categories, you really have to think twice about what this means for your brand.  And what it means is that it’s highly unlikely that an app from your brand is going to enjoy lots of usage—you’re not likely to be one of the lucky “27.”

What Does App Usage Mean For Your Brand?

I think it means two things:

  1. Apps Are Advertising Opportunities─Most of the biggest apps are also advertising platforms, and their reach can be very broad.  And importantly, mobile app advertising audiences are now measurable just like TV and online browser based advertising.  Marketers have been asking for cross platform comparability for years and now they have it:  brands can measure mobile app advertising reach, brand, and sales impact—just like online or TV.
  2. Brand Apps Are Products and Services─If you must have your own brand app, treat it like a product or service of your brand.  It needs to meet an important unmet need, it needs to be designed to be different and better than the alternatives, the user experience has to be great, and you need to market it to gain trial and penetration just as you would with any new line extension or flanker.  To put it bluntly, it’s a lot like launching a new product.

Should Your Brand Have an App?

Apps are here to stay—the explosive growth proves it.  I just checked my smartphone.  I have almost 80 apps.  That’s about 3x the average consumer.  And you know what?  Most of them are search, social, portals, entertainment and communication—and almost all are advertising opportunities for your brand.

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This MENG Blog post was contributed by MENG member Randall Beard Global Head — Advertiser Solutions at Nielsen IAG,
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About Randall Beard

Randall Beard is Global Head -- Advertiser Solutions at Nielsen IAG. He is a leading and award winning Chief Marketing Officer and General Management executive with 25+ years of global experience. For more about his thinking, visit Randall Beard’s blog at randallbeard.wordpress.com.

One Response to "What a Brand Should Know about App Usage"

  • Marcie Wiehagen
    August 20, 2014 - 11:06 Reply

    Agree, Randall! Seasonal apps are okay too, like the one for the iTunes Festival. But in order to keep users, apps should provide functionality that cannot be easily accessed through another channel. And that’s a great way to reinforce your brand, get users talking etc…

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