Branded mobile applications for smartphones such as Google's Android and Apple's iPhone may be the most potent form of advertising yet developed, new research shows. The study confirms that using branded mobile apps increases consumer interest in product categories and improves consumers' attitude toward the sponsor.
Researchers also found that mobile apps that are informational or utilitarian were more likely to engage users than those focused on entertainment or gaming.
Apps could be a way for advertisers to reach across traditional product or gender boundaries to appeal to new types of customers. Unlike viewing information through a print ad, media spot or website, consumers will process a company's messages more deeply if they do so using an app they've decided to download to their mobile device.
"You have a more-personal connection with your mobile device than you will with a website," said Robert F. Potter, director of the Institute for Communication Research at Indiana University (IU) Bloomington and an associate professor of telecommunications in the IU College of Arts and Sciences. "One benefit of the mobile app is that you go, you get it and you download the app—it's now yours. It may be a deeper level of interactivity."
"The very personal nature of mobile phones, including the new smartphones, which are practically extensions of their owners, means that advertisers need to adopt new rules of conversation with mobile-phone users," said the research study, co-authored by Potter and four researchers at Murdoch University, in Australia.
But developing mobile apps is not without some daunting challenges. The research suggested that the most-successful apps were also the ones that required the most effort to develop.
Designing an informational app that consumers find useful in their daily lives is a lot more difficult than building an experiential app by creating or adapting an interactive game, because it requires developing a whole suite of tools instead of just one, Potter and his co-authors said.