Channel Signal: The new competitive arena - iPhone apps

Mobile apps are the latest hot topic for companies. There is a collective belief that apps will help build a brand, build traffic to an online site, and help a company ultimately sell more stuff. The good, well-configured apps can do all of the above -- and more. But...
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Channel Signal regularly shares some of its analyses of the major topics online that are important to the subscribers of SNEWS®. The topics will range from promotions to marketing initiatives, to issues that have virally exploded into crises. What are the online conversations? What issues are bringing people into the conversation? And which ones may be helping or hurting the growth of the industry? You’ll find out Channel Signal’s viewpoint here. 

Mobile apps are the latest hot topic for companies in the outdoor industry. There is a collective belief that apps will help build a brand, build traffic to an online site, and help a company ultimately sell more stuff. The good, well-configured apps can do all of the above -- and more. But, there's the rub: building a good one. A bad app can have the opposite effect -- alienating and turning off consumers to your brand.

Channel Signal has been measuring the success of apps recently and has seen a significant increase in Twitter and blog buzz about the good ones. We believe that an app can strengthen a brand if it improves the lifestyles of its customers. Brands that build apps that just sell stuff, miss the mark and receive little comment. Here are a few that have caught our attention, and those creating chatter online:

In July, The North Face introduced the Trailhead app, allowing users to find hiking and biking trails all over the United States. (Full disclosure: Channel Signal monitors and measures social media for The North Face.) The app locates users and then shows them, with maps, where to go to access all the trails in the area. It works because it is social. Users call their friends, saying, “Let’s go on a hike.” It gets passed around during the hike, and then afterward, they share it with friends online. It is viral, in a good way. What does it do for The North Face? Plenty. It strengthens the perception of the brand as authentic by becoming a part of the outdoor experience for users. It’s social, meaning people share it. And, hopefully, after an adventure, users will have positive thoughts about purchasing The North Face products when at retail or online.

Patagonia is introducing an app that primarily is an e-commerce play. This is interesting because it, generally, goes against the Patagonia brand DNA. Users get an explanation of all the gear, can see videos and some other content about Patagonia, but for the most part, this is all about driving traffic to its e-commerce site. For a company that has grown on the strength of its commitment to the environment and sustainability, it is confusing to Channel Signal that it would simply provide another portal for consumers to do nothing more than just buy its products. The Patagonia story is huge and has many chapters. This effort seems limiting.

Nike has entered app-land in a big way. Mobile apps branded with Nike are all over the iTunes store and Internet. The one we find most interesting -- and directly builds the business -- is NIKEiD where users can design the color scheme for their own shoes or clothing. It allows users to engage with Nike, and for the company to deliver exactly what they want. In addition to being a smart move, it also positions the company as an enabler of dreams. In short, an app that embodies the company motto, "Just Do It."

The name Coleman defines the world of camping to millions of users. Last year, the company launched a social media campaign that Channel Signal thought was inspired -- click here to see.

And the company is now building apps to complement the total camping experience to many who remember camping trips with the family or summer camp: cooking, lanterns and creepy campfire tales. Bravo.

Bass Pro offers an app called the Snowball Bonanza. Users touch the screen and a snowball is thrown at a moving snowman, gingerbread man, moose, etc. When they hit one of these objects, their score goes up. It is timed and the score is displayed. It then drives you to a site called "Santa’s Wonderland," which sells all of the children’s Christmas events at BassPro and links users to the online store. Clearly, this is for kids, but Channel Signal asks the question, "Is this the best use of an app?" It is an indirect play to the kids of the real customers: the hunters and fishers. There must be hundreds of applications that would improve the hunting and fishing experience. This app is an e-commerce play wrapped in an entertainment shell and misdirected to children.

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Skullcandy has long understood that simply selling headphones won’t be enough. So, it has completely embraced athletic lifestyles. And that is what this app does. It provides users with different options, depending on the lifestyle. Surf reports from all over the United States. Skate parks and locations. Snow reports from resorts. Media and music segmented into different lifestyles, and then a button to shop. This app continues to position Skullcandy as a go-to brand. (Again, full disclosure -- Channel Signal just began monitoring and measuring social media for Skullcandy.)

The above are just a small sampling of the free iPhone apps available in the outdoor market. Remember, if your brand is planning on creating an app, then it must provide value in the social media world. And value means useable information that helps with everyday lifestyle choices.

It does not simply mean, here’s an app that showcases our stuff…now go buy it.

Build an app that builds trust.

Channel Signal

Channel Signal is a social media monitoring and measuring platform that enables all businesses to track, manage and quickly react to online conversations. Channel Signal is the only software that offers: Intelligence through categorized analysis and reporting by social media experts; integration of all units of your business; work-flow processes and one consolidated dashboard. The result is a social media program that is accurate, measured and, therefore, easier to manage. For more information, email Paul Kirwin at paul@channelsignal.com or go to www.channelsignal.com.

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