Branded Mobile Apps: Possibilities for Advertising in an Emergent Mobile Channel

Branded Mobile Apps: Possibilities for Advertising in an Emergent Mobile Channel

Jean M. Brechman (The College of New Jersey, USA), Steven Bellman (Murdoch University, Australia), Robert F. Potter (Indiana University, USA), Shiree Treleaven-Hassard (Murdoch University, Australia), Jennifer A. Robinson (RMIT University, Australia) and Duane Varan (Murdoch University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch012
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Marketing professionals are increasingly interested in creating branded mobile phone applications. These “apps” prominently display a brand's identity throughout the user experience, typically in the form of a brand logo, and are designed to perform a range of functions. This article reviews current available research, and specifically addresses two important areas: (1) the effectiveness of mobile phone apps as a form of persuasive advertising and (2) factors that moderate these effects, specifically creative execution style and product category relevance. This article concludes with a discussion of directions for future research.
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“How important is the branded app to the marketing mix? To use an analogy, if that mix formed a cake, what ingredient would it be?” According to Thiago de Moraes, creative partner, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO: “It depends on the campaign. Sometimes it can be the whole cake. And other times, it can be the horrible marzipan you scrape off the top” (Levy, 2011).

An increasing number of marketing professionals are interested in creating branded mobile phone applications. These “apps” perform a range of functions from e-mailing and text messaging to weather reports and navigational tools to games, online shopping, product how-tos and more. Importantly, branded apps prominently display a brand’s identity throughout the user experience, typically in the form of a brand logo.

The appeal of the mobile app as a marketing device is manifold. At a base level, apps create an ecosystem of services, ranging from social connectivity to functionality and this, in turn, extends a brand’s relationship with its consumers. For example, the Zipcar app guides users through the reservation process, locates nearby cars and contacts customer service. Users of Kraft’s iFood Assistant can browse recipes by category or occasion and conveniently add ingredients to a shopping list.

The personal nature of mobile phones generally requires opt-in permission from advertisers utilizing this channel (Tsang, Ho, & Liang, 2004). Apps overcome this barrier, however, insofar as they utilize “pull” rather than “push” advertising (Li & Stoller, 2007). Consumers opt-into only the apps they download and they control information exposure based on their customization preferences.

Moreover, apps encourage interactivity. Interactivity in advertising is associated with high levels of user engagement; this engagement enhances the persuasiveness of advertising messages (Brakus, Schmitt, & Zarantonello, 2009; Calder, Malthouse, & Schaedel, 2009; Wang, 2006). Users of mobile apps tend to process brand-related information more deeply (Liu & Shrum, 2002; Sundar & Kim, 2005) and for a longer period of time (Cauberghe & de Pelsmacker, 2010). Positive interactive experiences typically result in positive effects on attitudes toward the sponsoring brand (Cauberghe & de Pelsmacker, 2010; Hutton & Rodnick, 2009) and brand purchase intention (Bellman, Schweda, & Varan, 2009). In short, well-developed and executed apps present advertisers with a powerful way of engaging the consumer and creating a “reservoir of goodwill” towards a brand (Levy, 2011).



Mobile research in general can be found in the pioneering work of Stuart J. Barnes (2002a, 2002b) who proposed preliminary conceptual frameworks for value-chain creation and wireless advertising, respectively. These frameworks have served as a foundation for empirical explorations that followed.

Some of the earliest work on the effectiveness of advertising via mobile channels involved testing the effects of customized text messaging. Drs. Patrick Barwise (Barwise & Strong, 2002), Ting-Peng Liang (Tsang, Ho, & Liang, 2004) and Shintaro Okazaki (Okazaki, 2005) are among the earliest examining this topic.

Key Terms in this Chapter

M-commerce: The use of mobile devices (e.g., cellular phone, tablet) to purchase and/or sell products or services.

Branding: The process of developing a unique position for a product, service, or idea in the mind of a consumer; this is often accomplished through creating a brand name, (visual) identity and voice.

Mobile Application (APP): Software that runs on a mobile device such as a cell phone or tablet computer.

Mobile Marketing: Promotional efforts that deliver messaging to mobile devices such as cell phones or tablet computers); often associated with multi-channel marketing initiative.

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