App Wars: Nike Vs. adidas
Mobile applications are the latest must-have item in a brand’s digital marketing strategy. Many companies that first embraced smartphone platforms did so for the novelty factor and publicity this would generate as an early adopter.
Developing an app was originally a source of differentiation but, with an abundance of branded apps now available, these days they are merely a point of parity for many companies. Any reputable brand can’t be seen not having an application. How companies leverage apps compared to rivals, and how they are integrated into wider marketing and product strategies, now determines who will triumph through this channel.
Two companies making the most of the medium are Nike and adidas. With a sizeable armoury of apps between them - 15 in total - these are the newest weapons in these brands’ battle for supremacy. I've been taking a look at their most notable offering to discover whose marketing might dominates the App Store ring.
This app enables joggers to record their pace, distance and route using satellite positioning and the iPhone’s accelerometer. By tapping into powerful hardware features Nike has produced one of the best training tools available and at £1.19 it’s a bargain.
Strong adoption of past releases is clearly motivating Nike to test the potential for apps to generate revenue directly, this being the company’s most recent app and the first it has charged for. Nike+ GPS has been well received, instantly becoming the company’s highest rated item on the App Store. This will in part be a reflection of its quality but there is also a tendency for free apps to receive lower average ratings. There is less reluctance to discard of an app that was free and Apple’s system of requesting a review on deletion tends to capture the negative sentiment of unimpressed users without a similar prompt for feedback going to those who use the app regularly. You can see a demo of the app here.
NikeID is a long-running service that enables consumers to customise sneakers in the colours of their choosing. This app now provides a way for customers to extract a palette of colours from a photo on their handset for precise colour matching.
A common reason why businesses commission their own app is to enhance an existing service through new functionality. Nike has done that here, harnessing mobile technology to improve their total offering in a way that wasn’t possible before. However, by failing to provide the ability to purchase directly through the app, the company is really missing a trick here.
The app has received a strong uptake, with over 34,000 reviews in the US App Store, but many of these are from disappointed users wanting to buy their creations more easily. Not listening to your users is a cardinal sin for app publishers, something both these brands are guilty of. Both have received substantial negative feedback for the latest version of an app but gone on to publish newer ones without first fixing the holes in these.
adidas Urban Art Guide
This is a guide to locating art on the streets of Berlin and Hamburg. The link between adidas and street art might be tenuous but shared values towards mobility and urban style make it an appropriate fit and a connection by which adidas is aiming to gain some cool kudos.
This format is typical of a sponsored, rather than brand-developed app, where content unrelated to the company is presented with subtle branding in an attempt to create positive brand associations. The response has been good but the app’s scope is too niche, with user requests to broaden its coverage so far falling on deaf ears. You can see the app here.
With inventory and deals that vary from store to store, adidas has created a way to deliver localised promotions to consumers in a cost-effective manner. Store-specific and general use savings coupons are distributed via the app based on location, which can be redeemed in-store by scanning an on-screen barcode.
Push notifications are used to inform users about new deals, a great way to keep users returning. Details of limited edition items and appearances by sports stars in nearby shops are also disseminated through the app as a way of giving extra value to loyal users.
When first launched, the user is prompted to enter their email and zipcode. adidas retail regularly uses direct email marketing and this helps boost their list of recipients while opening another channel for reinforcing its messages to the same users.
adidas Reader (Russia)
This app was produced to support a street marketing campaign, encouraging users to interact with adidas’ outdoor and print marketing, while driving foot traffic to stores. A barcode was posted on the streets of Moscow and on flyers in adidas shops which, when examined through the iPhone’s camera using the adidas Reader app, produced an augmented reality athlete on screen. This could then be held up to a PC monitor to see the character working out in different environments on a supporting website.
Most augmented reality campaigns serve little practical purpose but do create a few "Oohs" and "Aahs", which encourages virality through word of mouth. This doesn’t buck that trend. You can see the app here.
Thanks to a bullish app strategy, Nike is currently on top. The quality and volume of the company’s output is impressive, with no less than 10 apps under its belt. The majority of these are free training companions, congruent with Nike’s mission “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”.
Training apps promote regular re-use and this stickiness means repeat brand exposure, with the aim of furthering brand affinity. They have also leveraged their relationships with sports clubs and athletes to create exclusive and rewarding content. Few brands have been as prolific, signifying a satisfactory return on investment for Nike to keep apps coming at this rate.
adidas has launched five solid apps, but three of these are aimed at specific international markets that fail to cater to the majority of iPhone users. Fragmentation between regional marketing departments means the company has failed to extract the maximum value from each app, which could have been shared and localised.
adidas has, however, been the more creative of the two, using apps to serve different purposes, while successfully integrating them into larger marketing campaigns. Nike may have won this battle but the war rages on.
Bob Gallagher is managing director of Appsynth, an agency that develops apps and helps brands market themselves through established third party applications