CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- If you want your branded app to be included in Apple's next iPhone commercial, the first rule is not to ask. The second rule? Make the app really useful to consumers.
A handful of branded apps are currently enjoying a cameo in Apple's latest iPhone spots. The bad news is there isn't some formal application process to follow in their footsteps -- the marketers in question didn't request to be in the commercial at all. But the good news is that the lucky participants think they know why they got the call: Their app shows off smart use of iPhone technology and offers great user experiences.
"Start from the customer point of view and really be completely customer- centric," advised Doug Gottlieb, VP-digital products at BarnesandNoble.com. "Decide what's going to entertain and engage them and then worry about your business model."
Apple's recent love for branded apps is a good sign for marketers trying to get their apps found in its crowded store. Barnes & Noble, Pizza Hut, Gap, Epicurious and Zagat were among those favored with free airtime in the new campaign from Apple's creative agency TBWA/Media Arts Lab. All of the marketers interviewed for this story said there was a measurable lift in downloads after the commercial first aired.
Epicurious, for example, released a recipe app for iPhone over the summer and while it already has about 600,000 downloads, billing in an Apple commercial makes a big difference. Sarah Chubb, president of Condé Nast Digital, said it got almost 20,000 downloads Wednesday, a three-fold increase over the norm.
There are now over 75,000 apps in Apple's store, and there are an increasing number from marketers, most of whom are clamoring for Apple's attention. Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the story, but it's clear the company looks for apps that use as many aspects of the iPhone as possible, such as sound, shaking, GPS or the camera. It also seemed to favor anything that highlights features of the newest operating system, such as in-app payment. Additionally, it appears that brands are given more credit for good user experience than whether or not they can match Apple's own cool factor.
Pizza Hut, for instance, doesn't have many common associations with the tech giant but its app was the first from the quick-service industry that let users place delivery orders. Ian Wolfman, CMO of Pizza Hut's digital agency, IMC2, attributes some of the app's success with using iPhone functions such as tilting (to remove ingredients from the pizza) and GPS. For its part, Pizza Hut is encouraging consumers to use the app by offering 20% off orders made by iPhone.
Gap, which is slogging through a long sales slump, also scored inclusion for its Style Mixer, which helps consumers assemble outfits with a handful of classic pieces. "Our main objective was to create an app for the user -- an app that consumers would engage with and use," wrote Julie Alonso, senior director-engagement marketing at Gap, in an e-mail.
Condé Nast's Ms. Chubb said that her team already had a strong relationship with Apple because the marketer advertises in Condé Nast properties and the publisher had worked with Apple last summer when it launched the Style.com app. The Epicurious app will also be featured in print work and in-store. As for how long the TV will run, Ms. Chubb said, "They never commit. You're just lucky to be included."
But there are things a brand can do to take advantage of those strokes of luck. Ryan Charles, senior product and marketing manager at Zagat, whose $9.99 app is the 77th-highest grossing in the store, said brands should consider using their logo or name on the app's tile icon so that even if it's just featured briefly, it'll still make an impression.
"Originally we just had our 'Z' icon, which was really recognizable in the mobile space, but it had never really been shown or exposed elsewhere," he said. "Subsequently I had us redesign the tile to incorporate Zagat. That way if we were to get that exposure, we'd [have] planned for it." Mr. Charles added that that's particularly helpful when Zagat's app is promoted in-store, where "they don't necessarily show more than the icon."
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Contributing: Abbey Klaassen, Natalie Zmuda