Real-World Brand Advocacy & Mobile Learning

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In our March newsletter we introduced the concept of using mLearning to build brand advocacy. The basic concept is relatively simple. In essence, the idea is that when companies provide useful information that increases a customer’s knowledge about a product and illustrates the benefits of the product clearly through educational content, then those newly informed customers will experience an increased affinity for the brand and perhaps even be more likely to share their newfound information with friends and colleagues. This build’s Brand Advocacy over time, one of the most powerful forms of marketing available to you as a company. 

This information was met with a positive response in the comments, with a great follow up discussion. Beyond that, many of Float’s contacts are beginning to consider how this approach to mLearning fits in with their overall strategy as well.

Since then, we’ve done quite a bit of surveying of the current marketplace in a few key sectors that we’ve identified that could benefit from having informed customers and increased brand advocacy. We’ve found a few isolated examples of some organizations doing this well, but noticed an alarming number of companies that are overlooking the mobile user’s needs to have access to training and how-to content.

Who’s Doing it Well?

Anyone who is a bit of a car nut and enjoys cleaning, detailing and caring for their automobile is likely familiar with the Meguiar’s brand of car care products. Meguiar’s has been in business for over 100 years, so they must know a thing or two about how to market their product. Car care is a seemingly simple but actually quite involved hobby or job. Dozens of waxes, polishes, soaps and other products are available on the average store shelf. Beyond that, applicators, sponges, brushes, and more make the buying and use of these products even more mystifying to the uninitiated. Meguiar’s has obviously recognized this, and provided a large “How To Center” on their website. Packed with videos, the site is fully usable on the iPad and even navigable on a modern smartphone, with videos playing pretty smoothly and easily. Beyond that, they have a stellar iPad application in the app store. Clearly, they’ve recognized that people might be taking their tablets with them to the garage. The application is listed in the “Education” category, and furthermore, it’s easily findable by the keyword search “car care.”

The paint company Benjamin Moore has an app in the store that can help the “color challenged” with a little inspiration. Use your camera or any image stored on your device and then sample the image with the touchscreen interface. The app then matches the color you have sampled with their 3300 paint colors. After you have one color chosen, why stop there? The application can also assist you to create a palette of related, contrasting or coordinated colors as you desire. This definitely can help you out if you’re stumped for inspiration or lack the ability to properly select an attractive color scheme for your home. Their website is relatively navigable on handheld devices, though it could benefit from a bit of smart detection upfront to identify that you are on a mobile device and tailor the content better for your needs.

MOMA was founded in 1929 as an educational institution. It is arguably the world’s foremost museum of modern art. Their website is an excellent resource of educational content and history. It provides a well-designed mobile user experience; focusing on the items a mobile user is likely most interested in: the calendar, ticketing information, mobile tours, current art and artists. Its navigation is masterfully tailored to the device, providing a pleasurable experience and it’s plain to see that they have really taken great efforts to provide a maximum amount of useful content via the mobile web. When viewed in tandem with the gorgeous interactive apps for iOS, you can really get a sense for where they envision their next big platform for extending their mission to educate people about modern art. MOMA has created a fantastic blueprint for other educational institutions to follow.

Marshall’s, a UK based home improvement and landscaping products company has an innovative little iPad app called “moodboard” available on the iTunes App store. After downloading the app you can create themed spaces in it, complete with textures, colors, building materials and inspiration images. You can integrate your existing photos as well to create a sharable moodboard of your concept that you’ll be soon putting in your backyard. Very cool indeed. I personally recommended that several of my friends also in the market for some landscaping work download the app and use it to help brainstorm and share their concepts for the work to come. Brand advocacy achieved.

In the fitness arena, Reebok and Nike both have some interesting apps. We’vetalked about the Nike+ app before in our blog, but since then Reebok has also jumped into the game with their Promise Keeper app. These apps both increase the connection that buyers have with their brand, enforce the concept of fitness as a lifestyle and serve as a powerful, useful way to continuously put their brand in front of the user.

After looking at these success stories, it probably seems as though everyone must be on the same wavelength when it comes to connecting with customers via their mobile devices and providing great educational content that builds brand advocacy. Sadly, that’s not the case. We found entire market segments that were virtually devoid of useful mobile learning content. We searched for both apps and reviewed their websites to find examples of content in the following sectors.

Who’s Missing from the Picture?

Tool manufacturers such as Ryobi, Black and Decker, DeWalt, and Milwaukee could all benefit from the customers having better understanding on how to use their products more effectively. Some of them already have project ideas or tips on their websites, complete with videos. None of the major players have this content available in a mobile friendly format or offer dedicated apps that provide this content to mobile users. Considering that so many people watch television channels like DIY and HGTV, it seems like a no-brainer that this content would be very popular to have available in a mobile format, especially considering that just-in-time information delivery is perfect for the amateur handyman.

In the home electronics sector, the usually high-tech lineup of big brands was noticeably missing. Home theater setup, calibration and usage can be very confusing. The manufacturers aren’t helping either. None of the major makers surveyed from Samsung, Sony, LG or Vizio offered setup guides or how to videos via their websites or mobile apps. Considering that wiring can be complex, tuning your speaker setup is a black art and most people have no idea what size of television works for a particular room configuration,There seems to be a lot of room for innovation in this area. The only electronics retailer we found that had something of utility in this area was Wal-mart with their application that offers comparison shopping, but also can use the device’s camera to determine the optimal TV size for that room. Impressive. Nimap’s Home theater guide application has some fairly useful content in it, but lacks the depth needed to truly make it a home theater guide as it is billed in the app store. With devices having microphones, speakers and lots of potential for communicating with home theater devices with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, there is a huge gap between expectations and current offerings in Audio and Visual product educational materials.

Extreme sports, hunting and fishing companies and outdoor living companies also were disappointing. Blind Skateboards, Quiksilver Surf, and lots of others in the extreme sports area had only semi-functional websites on the iPads and iPhones we used to test them with. Content in the app store was pretty much non-existent, with Quiksilver’s lone app being a leaderboard for surf contests and a video/event viewer with no educational tips or even product information contained therein.  Birdhouse skateboards faired a bit better, largely because their videos are all hosted at Vimeo. Burton Snowboards had a mobile site, but it was pretty much devoid of content past online shopping and some wallpapers. It seems somewhat strange that these specialized skill based sports offer little or no instructional content on how to use or care for their products. Given the youthful demographic’s likelihood of having advanced mobile devices, it seems like a no brainer to offer this content for smartphones and iPods. Even a cursory safety video or two would be welcome given the extreme nature of these activities.

Speaking of safety, firearms manufacturers sites such as Smith and Wesson and Winchester could obviously easily benefit from providing safety content and maintenance tips to visitors, but their sites were almost non-functional or seemingly devoid of content on our iOS devices, due to their heavy dependence on Adobe Flash for interactivity and media. There is definitely room for one of these firearm manufacturers to differentiate themselves from the competition by releasing a mobile app that shows that their customer’s safety is a priority. This trend continued through our assessment of other outdoor brands like Coleman, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. None of these brand’s offered rich media or educational content on their websites for mobile devices and Bass Pro Shop’s only app in the iTunes store was some sort of a casual game called “Snowball Bonanza.” Cabela’s popular hunting games have a presence in the app store, but nowhere can you find any of their websites “Outdoor Info” section content in a format you can use on your handheld device or tablet. With it being so easy to “do it wrong” when you are hunting, fishing, camping or otherwise enjoying the great outdoors, why not show your customers how to do it right?

What Now?

So, some companies are obviously getting it, like Meguiar’s for instance, but so many others are missing the opportunity altogether. Where can you go from here? The answer of course is heavily dependent on your company’s offerings, but there are certainly some baby steps that can be made to jumpstart your brand advocacy through mobile learning efforts. Surveying your market sector to see what efforts are being made to reach customers with educational content would be a good way to determine the level of effort you are going to have to put forth to establish your brand as one that truly connects with their customers in the mobile space. Talking to customers informally or performing more structured surveying in the marketplace about how they could use your content when on the go and at the point of need is a great way to gauge level of interest. Next, consider what content on your site or in your educational material would benefit most from mobile delivery. Then, simply making that content on your websites accessible from mobile devices would be a start. After you have a small amount of content out there, track its usage and see what is resonating with users and what sorts of content is being accessed by mobile devices. You’ll be well on your way to building your own group of brand advocates through mobile learning in no time.

The great news is that with mobile being so new for many brands, and for that matter consumers, you aren’t so far behind right now that it is an insurmountable effort to be on the road to building brand advocates via your expertise and original content.

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Chad Udell is the Managing Partner, strategy and new product development, at Float. There he leads his design and development teams to successful outcomes and award-winning work via a strong background in both disciplines and a singular focus on quality. He has worked with industry-leading Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to design and develop experiences for 20 years. Chad is recognized as an expert in mobile design and development, and he speaks regularly at national and international events and conferences on related topics. Chad is author of Learning Everywhere: How Mobile Content Strategies Are Transforming Training and co-editor and chapter author, with Gary Woodill, of Mastering Mobile Learning: Tips and Techniques for Success. His newest book, Shock of the New, co-authored with Gary Woodill was released in April of 2019.

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On June 6, 2011
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