The iphone: the next big thing in mobile marketing?

Right now, most advertising agencies that I speak to about mobile marketing have one interest: iphone apps. So is it the way forward for mobile marketing?

On the plus side, a well produced app can engage people and become a good piece of viral marketing. Last year’s big success was the ipint. The concept was simple (and borrowed from someone else), which as that your iphone became a pint of beer that you could ‘virtually’ drink. It was the kind of thing that everyone showed to their mates in the pub. So not only did the iphone owners get to play with it, but half a dozen of their friends also saw it.

The level of app downloads from the Apple appstore speaks for itself. And on the back of that many brands such as Nike to the BBC have produced some good apps for the phone.

But how much business does it generate? Is it really something that enhances a brand?

A few interesting facts about the iphone suggest that there is little to gain in marketing terms from creating an app.

In the UK there are around 1.5 million iphones. Quite a few, but there are double the number of Blackberry’s out there. And when you look at other manufacturers like Nokia, the iphone can be described as little more than niche.

An advertiser would say that the iphone represents and important group of opinion formers. That is true to some extent, but most of these are over 24 years old. After all the iphone is not cheap and is best used on a subscription.

More significantly figures from Comscore regarding iphone app usage revealed that 90% were used only one or never at all.

The other revealing figure from Comscore is that in Europe, over 70% of users are men. It would be a mistake for a women’s brand, such as a cosmetics company, to focus only on iphone apps, not to mention all those other products and services such as holidays or insurance where women often make decisions for a household.

So, the iphone app offers some fun branding opportunities, but as a long terms serious marketing medium I think its potential is limited.

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