Big brands hone in on Android to unlock mobile?s creative potential
Red Bull and Priceline are among a handful of brands that are taking advantage of the growing creative opportunities with Android applications as marketers begin to pour more money into the operating system.
Apple?s iOS has dominated mobile app investments over the past few years, but there are some recent signs that brands are now beginning to get the hang of how to create engaging Android apps. In addition to bigger screens, Google?s operating system gives marketers deeper integration opportunities such as widgets and lock screen takeovers to keep a brand top-of-mind.
?What I believe we are seeing is not ?Android-first? as a mentality, but ?Android-next? for coverage in the marketplace,? said Scott Michaels, vice president and partner at Atimi Software, Vancouver, Canada.
?What is unique to Android is the use of dashboard widgets, so experiences around that app are ones that utilize the platform well,? he said.
Growing app opportunities
Android has always been appealing from a creative perspective because its open operating system lets marketers tweak design and app features more than iOS apps.
However, big brands have traditionally prioritized iOS over Android when developing apps, citing higher value in iPhone and iPad users.
Android ownership is on the upswing though. Gartner predicts that 1.1 billion Android devices will be shipped in 2014, up 26 percent from last year.
With marketers increasingly looking to reach these Android users, Priceline and Red Bull are two brands that are stepping up their app initiatives.
Priceline debuted a new Android app earlier this year that centers around a unique experience that plays up specific designs, a clean type and navigational commands (see story).
According to Ranjith Kumaran, founder/CEO of PunchTab, Palo Alto, CA, Android apps for online travel brands make a lot of sense in reaching a wide group of consumers.
?It's more affordable and has more users on the platform ? it makes sense for a money-saving travel site to focus on users who also looked to save money when making a smartphone purchase,? he said.
On the other hand, Red Bull seems to be more interested in leveraging mobile apps with features that go beyond basic design.
For example, the energy drink brand has an Android app called Red Bull Augmented Racing Reloaded that uses augmented reality to power a car racing game.
Red Bull also a series of different apps that essentially store all of the brand?s content. One of these apps is called Red Bull TV that enables consumers to create custom video playlists.
Additionally, brands including Red Bull are partnering with manufacturers directly to get apps pre-installed directly on the device. Driving downloads remains to be a top problem for marketers, which could help some of the bigger and competitive app categories, such as music streaming services, get a leg-up.
Red Bull has leveraged its brand reputation to work with the manufacturer ZTE to sponsor a ZTE V5 phone.
Again, what is interesting about this tactic is that Red Bull is able to push its brand message outside of a basic app, including lock screen messages that are not possible on iOS devices.
Other CPG brands targeting money-saving moms are also a big target for Android-specific marketing, per Mr. Kumaran.
Pulling in multiple pieces of data
Google Now is a prime example of how marketers can uniquely leverage Android to better tailor marketing messages, per Paul Alvarez, vice president of sales and business development at Atimi Software.
Google Now serves up information to consumers based on data that is already available via the device. For example, the app can tap into an email account to find flight information that is then leveraged to pull in real-time flight status updates.
At the same time that creative branded Android apps begin to take shape, iOS apps are likely to remain important to marketers going forward, too.
?There are going to be verticals that work well on Android, but to be clear, that doesn?t mean that they are better than iOS, but it is different,? Atimi?s Mr. Michaels said.
?Budgets can dictate how brands manage their cross-platform development as apps will launch with the same feature set versus unique features per operating system,? he said.
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York