If You’re A Marketer, Think Like An App

By | May 24, 2012

A piece in the New York Times by writer Nick Bilton describes a typical evening. He’s tired. It’s been a long one and he’s not interested in watching television. “Every night, I get home from work, drop onto the couch and sit there surfing the Web or watching videos on my 3-1/2 inch iPhone screen. My big-screen HDTV sits powered off on the other side of the room.”

I had no idea other people felt this way. After a work day , my Kindle Fire can be more appealing than a mega-channeled television with it’s vast capability that never seems to work right.

True, the Kindle’s screen is small, but navigation is simple and quickly delivers content with a few soft touches. If I want music, I go to TuneIn radio. For news, I have a choice of several newspaper apps. I can socialize on Twitter or Facebook or watch a movie on Netflix. Or even write something in Quickoffice and stick it in my Dropbox. Apps for everything — but at the same time, apps for one thing. Yes? And that got me to thinking …

Quite possibly, the future of technology interface will boil down to app-alikes — these little somethings, those whatevers —that do just one thing perfectly, but connect many things simultaneously.

That’s brilliant …

… which is why we marketers should learn to think like an app.

In terms of television, for example, your “dog” app might offer a one-stop spot to watch multiple episodes of Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan being calm and assertive. Or maybe the app would connect to other dog shows on other channels … or connect to Oprah Winfrey’s list of “17 books for dog lovers” …  Or launch a live camera feed from the local animal shelter … or show you dog training facilities in your area…. well you get the point. A Dog app would do all that because that’s how how apps (and humans) think: in scattershot bursts crawling a web of possibilities.

Bilton thinks Apple will be the pioneer manufacturer to recast television interface by connecting software, hardware, and user appetites. Maybe. But, whoever rewires TV first, the  integrated approach to satisfying user thirst already maps the way marketers should think about gratifying customer needs.

As we marketers adapt the essence of apps, we learn to connect the dots for our customers.

Human beings seem ever more eager to search for and glom onto “interlaced customer experiences,” wherein a whole set of cross-functional, cross-channel experiences send the user spinning forward to fresh “real time” connections. In fact, isn’t that what Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn have done so successfully?


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3 thoughts on “If You’re A Marketer, Think Like An App

  1. MaryClaire

    Your article has helped me in how marketers should learn to think like an app. I have been in constant touch with your writings and really admire your style. Continue posting!

  2. Todd Butler

    So extending your analogy to printers, a traditional printer is your Dog app. All they do is is deal with the physical marketing piece… design, print, and mail. And printers transitioning into multi-channel marketing service providers are like your complex, complicated, hundreds of channels TV that never works right.

    Makes you question the direction in which the printing industry is being driven.

  3. Nancy Scott

    This is a thought-provoking question from you, Todd (as always). In my analogy, the Dog app is not synonymous with “a traditional printer.” Rather, the Dog app — or perhaps more accurately in this case, the XYZ Print App — embodies the marketing approach that a contemporary printer can adopt to attract, educate, and serve current or prospective “print” customers. Let’s put it this way: Using this analogy, the marketing department would think like “the XYZ Print App,” creating an easy beginning point for print customers. From the simple concept of “print,” the XYP Print App would/could seamlessly incorporate the larger marketing/ information/presentation mix (for example, personalization and VDP, QR codes, transpromo, email marketing, signage, packaging, postcards, brochures, catalogs, books and magazines, and so on). In short, the change lies in the way marketers might choose to think differently about promoting print products.

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