I discovered this unpublished post from December 2012 on the concept of unbundling & thought I would share it. It’s long, rambly & otherwise broken, but the thought is interesting.

ARCHIVE — December 2012

There is no space for brands in mobile, only usefulness & novelness.

A typical software company will have one core product – the technology which they consider to be their business along with the ways in which it’s awesome – their competitive advantage. This product will have a large range of features with different features being intended to cater for different types of their customers.

Each of these customer segments have different needs from the product because they’re trying to solve (sometimes subtly) different problems and so need a slightly different solution. For each segment of users, with their own use case, a company will typically have a landing page which pitches the prospective user on why the product is perfect for their use case and attempts to convert them into a user. Landing pages are what a majority of new users will experience as their first touch-point with a company and they are a great solution that allows you to make very separate pitches to different groups of users who will discover your product through different ways. You can then independently refine and experiment with these pitches to maximize each of your mini funnel-feeders, market and advertise them separately & targetedly with very clear performance and ROI indicators.

Things are a little different in mobile. You get one landing page. Your App Store page (I’m going to write this assuming the iPhone App Store, but it holds true for Google Play too). On this page, you are expected to make one universal pitch that should be perfectly persuasive to every type of user your product is useful for. You have one name (probably a good thing), one icon, and one really long barely-readable dark gray on slightly less dark gray text area to tell them what you do and why it’s going to make all of their troubles go away. Nobody reads beyond the first 2-3 lines anyway, so you have 2-3 lines to tell every potential user why it’s right for their use case and then some generic screenshots.

This seems crazy and is a massive step backwards in good marketing – so how do you solve this problem? A landing page is to a web App, what a mobile App is to a mobile App.

Apps are small pieces of software that are novel, fill a need, solve a problem etc.. There is no space for brands in mobile, only usefulness, novelness and coolness. So for each unique customer segment and use case that you have (i.e. the things you would make landing pages for), you should also have a separate, correctly positioned and marketed App in the store.

This gives a whole host of benefits, bringing most of the usefulness of a landing page to mobile:

  • You can make a clear, well-defined and targeted pitch for each use-case / customer segment
  • The Apps themselves can be more closely aligned with the use-case, with minor copy, UI adjustments and perhaps even inclusion and exclusion of relevant features.
  • Independent Apps can be marketed and performance of each can be tracked
  • You learn about your users. You know which use-cases your mobile users are engaging in, what they want to do on the go and can inform your product roadmap based on this information.

Over time, the products may diverge as features are added to different Apps. Equally, Apps may be killed or merged as makes sense over time.

This sounds like a lot of hard work..!?

Not really, as long as you following engineering best-practice and keep separate your core functionality and presentation layer. I would propose that any new App should be two separate projects and repositories – one containing the App’s core functionality and a wrapper App – your landing page. This way you can easily create new wrapper Apps, brand and present them as appropriate and be on your way to your next App/landing page.

Common resistance…

Loss of brand awareness

Apps are not brands. They are Apps. They are small pieces of software that fit a need / want that is specific, immediate and mobile. Trying to create a big brand in mobile is pointless and very very very hard. You’re right in thinking that Instagram probably wouldn’t have been bought by Facebook if they had made 8 different Apps – the ‘Coffee Pictures’ app, ‘Emo Shots’ app, ‘Bridge Pics’ app etc.. I have two counterpoints

  1. In this case, the pitch is actually the same and so it’s not even recommended – take pictures of things and make them look cool, and by extension, make yourself look cool.
  2. We’re not in this for the 0.00001% chance of being bought by Facebook for $1B. We’re in this for the 10% chance to build a working business with revenue that allows us to continue solving the problem that we felt so passionately that we wanted to solve, that we left our jobs and risked everything starting a business.

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But we’re a big brand already – aren’t we diluting our brand / reducing brand awareness / other brand-building rubbish.

No. Not if you have multiple segments of users, for whom your product is used in a different way. By all means have one of your Apps be a ‘your brand’ App if you love it so much, but by now you’re likely finding that the filling of your funnel is mostly limited by awareness of your brand at the top anyway. Mobile is driven by cool, functional, awesome, not brands.

This isn’t without precedent. Take Facebook – they now have 5 Apps in the store (6 if you count Instagram) each of which lets you use Facebook in a different, and immediate way.

Evernote are perfect example of it working really well with 8 Apps in the store, each getting content into your Evernote in ways that are fitting and useful to different use cases and groups of people.

Is it always right to have 3-5 Apps in the store that do basically the same thing? No. But it definitely helps to solve some of the problems around Mobile App discovery and marketing and will almost certainly increase your downloads, marketing ROI and understanding of your user base.