Writing about the Sonos iPhone app got me thinking about branding (and brand extension), so I thought I’d get a little brandsignerish today. If you have an iPhone, you’ve probably seen the free Lightsaber app, which is now essentially an ad for The Force Unleashed, an iPhone game. But, did you know that Ralph Lauren has an iPhone app? And so do Pink (or is it P!nk?) and Nine Inch Nails (theirs is a paid version of the normally free Dance Dance Revolution-like Tap Tap Revenge).
There are worse companies to align your brand with than Apple, and the iPhone is their hottest product. Despite the diversity of branded iPhone apps available now, I still think this is a relatively untapped market. Several months ago, I tried to convince my then-employer to pitch an iPhone app to a retail client to no avail. But, if you want your brand to be cool, an iPhone app is a great way to go. It’s certainly cheaper than securing expensive indie rock or pop music to put in a commercial, and Apple sold 6.8 million iPhones in 3Q08 alone. Of course, there is a downside as well. Coors got in some trouble for releasing a free branded app that was a little too similar to an existing paid app.
I see a lot of energy being put into social media right now (I’ve been invited to three social-media themed events this month alone), but that kind of community building can be a big undertaking. If you are going to create an interaction on Facebook or some other site, you need to put time and resources into managing that undertaking — that’s a lot to go through for a little borrowed brand equity. (Let’s face it, most people haven’t figured out how to make money directly off of social media yet, and not all brands are poised to, anyway.) I think an iPhone app, especially one that is useful to your customers or makes direct use of existing brand equity (or both, like the Sonos app), is a better way to go.