American Marketer


Mobile apps as part of a short-term campaign

August 22, 2011

Magnus Jern is CEO of Golden Gekko


By Magnus Jern

It is becoming as natural today for a brand to have a mobile application and mobile Web site as it was to launch a Web site in the 1990s.

This is not a question about technology or effectiveness – brands simply need to be where consumers are, and consumers are spending more time on app stores and interacting with apps.

At the same time, most users only have about 10 apps that they use every week or month.

One-off-apps effective as core business apps

But is there anything wrong with 1 million people using your app only once?

Mobile apps as part of a short-term campaign may only be used just a few times, but the marketing effect can be just as efficient as that of a core business app or mobile Web site.

You can draw a parallel between a mobile app and a viral video, an advertisement on YouTube or a brand microsite. Most people will only visit it once, but the brand manager will be very satisfied as long as the interaction has made a longstanding impression.

Examples of great mobile app campaigns include:

Waterslide Extreme (Barclaycard)

A fun 3D game, based on the TV advert, which received more than 20 million downloads during its first year.

Malibu Bowling (Pernod Ricard)

The first branded bowling game in which users can bowl with melons and coconuts, in one player or multiplayer mode, achieved 10 million-plus downloads.

Lynx FX mobile apps (Unilever)

A series of mobile apps that “turn a mobile phone into a pulling machine” encouraged sharing of the mobile app experience and was one of the most talked about mobile marketing campaigns in Britain.

Virtual Zippo Lighter (Zippo)

One of the first branded iPhone apps which is still going strong with 20 million-plus downloads across the world.

Note: Downloads figures are based on public comments from each of the brands.

Campaign apps are quicker to develop

While core business apps and mobile Web sites can take up to a year to develop including the required backend integration and testing, one-off apps are less complex and can be developed and launched within weeks.

As a matter of fact, mobile platforms seem to be getting more complex at the moment due to technical factors such as integration with legacy systems for customer registration, product catalogues, ordering systems, payment systems that require PKI certification, all combined with tough security and reliability requirements.

But there is no reason why you cannot launch other apps in parallel with these being built or upgraded.

Examples of core applications and mobile Web sites include:


A high-complexity app, it allows both Pay As You Go and Pay Monthly customers to check their tariff details, see how much of their inclusive allowance of texts and calls has been used, and view their latest bill or any bolt-ons that are on their account.


This extremely well-developed, high-complexity app allows users to access the eBay marketplace including the ability to shop and sell.

Tesco Clubcard app

This medium complexity app can be used in place of your Clubcard at the checkout in most Tesco stores and has more than a half-million downloads to date.

Heathrow Airport

The high complexity Heathrow app provides access to travel planning tools including parking and public transport, terminal information, flight monitoring, weather, news and special offers.

One-off apps offer more freedom in terms of innovation and creativity

One of the beauties of software development is that concepts can be turned in to real apps that can be tested by the end users within a matter of days or weeks.

This means that, rather than spending weeks on requirement specifications and designs which never get developed, time can be spent on creating and testing the apps with customers.

This potentially means that they can be more innovative and creative and leave a deeper impression with the end user. It also allows the company to try a new idea in one market and incorporate the concept and learnings into the core service later.

Remember that consumers are easily bored and constantly looking for new things.

Campaign apps and core apps complement each other

It is also important to remember that there is no need for an either/or situation.

In the same way that brands usually have corporate websites which live for years and microsites launched throughout the year for targeted campaigns, we expect brands to do the same with apps.

For example, a three-month campaign app for Marks & Spencer’s Spring season collection could very well be the main driver of traffic to an mobile commerce application or mobile Web site where customers can go to buy the goods.

Apps can be cross-promoted and they can also invoke each other on some platforms, such as Android and Windows Mobile 7, where the purchase button in a campaign app launches the core app or provides a direct link to the mobile Web site where the product can be purchased.

So what are you waiting for? Go away and develop some exciting apps for your next campaign and get some quick wins while you are building your mobile platform for the future.

Magnus Jern is CEO of Golden Gekko, London. Reach him at