The Mobile Learning App as Brand Advocate

How Mobile Can Strengthen Your Brand

Mobile Apps, Mobile Strategy Comments (0)

What if you had an employee that worked 24/7 every day of the week, could interact with interested learners or customers all around the globe and was constantly promoting and strengthening your brand? And, you would only need initial money to get him started and then an occasional “bump” to keep him current? He would work tirelessly for free! As great as that would be to have an actual employee with that level of dedication, you can leverage the power of mobile learning to log those endless hours for you and be an advocate for your brand during the entire user experience.  The goal of this application is to strengthen your brand with the user and then to make them into advocates of your brand. When you have others talking about you, recommending you and even defending you in the marketplace or the workplace, you are getting valuable support.

Let’s inspect an application that is a great example of brand advocacy. Did you know State Farm Insurance is in the moving business? Not. They aren’t and have no plans to be. So why do they have a full-featured mobile application called MoveTools in the Apple App Store? MoveTools is an interactive planner that helps the user in all the details of a house move. It comes with sections like “To-Do List,” “Pack Up” and “Moving Tips” and it has a planner to remind you of the different steps you should take in the weeks leading up to the move. It not only provides helpful content, but it allows you to input your own information about your move. In the “Pack Up” section, the user can create a parallel packing process to their actual box packing which results in a digital list of all the boxes and what is contained in each. Then, the user can print out labels with barcodes that can be read by a smart phone that contains a list of the contents for each box! It is a complete app to make any move significantly smoother.

All analysis of the content, functionality, and construction of the app aside; why is State Farm, a leading insurance company, making this app available to the public? Your first answer might be so they can sell more insurance. That is a goal but any type of “sales” content within the app is contained within a tiny pop-up menu that is revealed when the user touches the State Farm logo in the bottom menu bar. It’s inconspicuous and, in fact, almost hidden. The obvious motivation for the application is for State Farm to strengthen their brand to a target audience. The application itself is conveying a message that has a positive effect on the user such that they will associate the good experience with State Farm. Because of this, the MoveTools app is an excellent example of brand advocacy. Let’s look at how that works.

First, the MoveTools application solves a problem; it relieves pain or stress. Have you ever met anyone who likes to move? In fact, usually when a family or individual moves, during the move they proclaim, “We are never moving again!” The entire moving process is a stressful experience. State Farm tries to ease some of that anxiety by providing an app that helps the user be organized and more efficient in the multitude of steps it takes to execute the move. The availability of the app creates many positive touch points between the target audience and State Farm. When the user opens the app and in the interface, the State Farm logo is clear but not obtrusive so it serves as a constant reminder of who is providing relief at a difficult time.  The app is designed in the State Farm branding guidelines so it has the “look and feels” of State Farm.  If used correctly, the app is needed throughout the whole moving process so dozens if not hundreds of impressions take place over the move.  After successful use of the app, the user tells a friend about it and two more friends and before long they have become a brand advocate. They might not even be a State Farm customer! When a mom learns that her neighbor is moving, and she recommends the MoveTools app, then brand advocacy is in action.

A mobile application can also reinforce a brand’s core qualities. As mentioned, State Farm is not in the moving business. But, as an insurance company would like to be known, they are in the “help you with big life decisions” business. They want their customers to think of them first if they have a critical or difficult experience or change in life. Whether it’s an auto accident, a tornado disaster or knowing loved ones are taken care of if the head of the household dies, there are answers and security in the brand. That’s why MoveTools is such an appropriate brand advocate.  It reinforces that State Farm is a brand of strength and expertise—a leader in their industry.

A mobile application can also be a significant differentiator for you in your market or industry.  If you have a message to get out, you need to stand out, especially if you are broadcasting your message in a cacophony of other messages. Because mobile content delivery is still a nascent technology, you are delivering your message on this platform before your competitors or from whoever you need to distance yourself. Mobile also says you are progressive and forward thinking. Let your audience know you care enough about them to deliver information to their mobile device so you can get the message right into their hands anytime, anywhere.  Like any longstanding company, State Farm fights an image they are conservative.  The MoveTools application sends the message that as a company they are adapting to new technology to meet the needs of their target audience. This result shows that the mobile application not only reinforces the core qualities of the brand but it can also start and fortify new qualities, too.

One final clue that the goal of this application is to strengthen the State Farm brand: it is available for free. State Farm wants it in the hands of anyone who wants to use it or even thinks they might use it. The messaging about the brand is meant for public consumption—for customers and non-customers alike. So, what is the ROI for this app? After countless successful user experiences, State Farm has “hired” an untold amount of brand advocates, working for free in their neighborhoods and towns. Not a bad ROI!

What mobile apps are you seeing that are brand advocates? What companies are you seeing that have creatively leveraged the power of mobile to strengthen their brand? Let us know in the comments.

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Scott McCormick is a founding partner of Float. Building on more than 30 years of experience in training, eLearning, and mLearning efforts for Fortune 500 companies, Scott helps companies embrace new learning strategies and deliver results. Scott is in charge of client relationships with global leaders in healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, and insurance, and is instrumental in building new business and contributing to Float’s thought leadership efforts. Scott is featured in Float’s latest book, “Mastering Mobile Learning,” available from Wiley and ASTD Press.

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On May 28, 2011
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