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To develop or integrate into existing apps ? that is the question

Instead of building applications from scratch, there are many opportunities in partnering with an existing application and integrating a brand?s content into it, according to 360i.

Marketers can work with application publishers and developers to create custom, integrated experiences that are far more involved than ad buys. However, finding an existing application with the right audience and reach can be challenges often times.

?So there?s a lot of temptation to just build mobile apps right now but it takes such tremendous commitment in both time and budget,? said David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation at 360i, New York.

?To go ahead and plan for this long term is really different than how marketers plan to for other types of marketing programs,? he said. ?Integrating with existing apps is an option that can limit the challenges.?

A good example is Calvin Klein, which integrated its own content into GQ magazine?s Style Picks application via a sponsorship that hardly feels like advertising (see story).

CK bought this sponsorship directly from GQ to present its new product line to mobile shoppers. The ad unit is what NearbyNow calls a ?sponsored guide,? and it is full of interactive content such as model shots, a product catalog and videos.

The idea is to make the ad unit as close to content as possible, so that it is useful to men looking for style advice, which is the purpose of the GQ application. It is a true marriage of advertising and content. 

?What is key is finding an app that is resonating with the target audience and figuring out how you can add value to it,? Mr. Berkowitz said. ?Beyond the non-intrusiveness of this type of advertising the hurdles of having consumers find that app are gone.

?They already have it and there are publishers willing to market it for you,? he said.

According to 360i?s POV report, some applications even reject standard ad units and will only run custom promotions.

The company said that these are harder to develop and scale than running a mobile banner across thousands of applications, but the impact can be considerable, as the marketer may find deeper ways to connect with its target audience.

One thing that a lot of brands are concerned with when integrating with an existing application is the loss of control.

Per 360i?s POV report on mobile applications, most popular apps are for gaming and entertainment, which may be a fit for certain entertainment and CPG brands but is often not in line with the objectives for other marketers.

Another challenge with building a branded application is there needs to be enough budget available to build the application and promote it.

Without a strong commitment to promotion, the application may never gain enough visibility to break through the tens or hundreds of thousands of other applicactions.

Marketers should consider what channels they have available for promoting the application, from email to in-store to branded social profiles, the report suggests.

Additionally, building an application from scratch requires ongoing commitment.

The best applications, branded or unbranded, go through constant iterations as they improve based on consumer input, internal ideas and changes in the technological capabilities of mobile operating systems and handsets.

Updates also encourage consumers who may have moved on to other applications to return and give it another shot.

This kind of commitment takes strong leadership and buy-in to muster the time and budget required keeping it going, especially if the application takes time to gain traction, per 360i?s POV report.

?The issue is that some brands are so focused on controlling their own brand experience that integrating with an existing application becomes out of the question,? Mr. Berkowitz said. 

Final Take
360i?s Mr. Berkowitz visited Mobile Marketer?s offices in New York. Here is his final take on 360i?s POV report: