Brand is one of those squishy marketing things that are hard to understand, difficult to measure, and impossible to do without. Forbes says Google’s brand is worth almost $90 billion, and Apple’s is worth over $150 billion. An icon of Americana, the Coca-Cola brand is worth almost $60 billion, and McDonald’s golden arches contain just about $90 billion worth of nuggety goodness.
So there must be some value in brands on mobile.
But what precisely is that value for app marketers? And how does that brand value translate to what people do when they see your app listing on Google Play or the App Store?
Prior knowledge is the key
No-one answers “brand” when asked why they installed a particular app. In fact, when we asked 3,000 smartphone owners whether the name of the app maker or publisher was a factor in making download decisions, they placed it sixth out of seven factors.
When we asked another set of smartphone owners a different question, a clearer picture emerges. We asked 1,000 mobile users this question:
How many times did you see or hear about an app before you downloaded it?
Interestingly, almost 70% of people have seen or heard of an app before they install it. That’s more significant than it might seem, because most app install behavior is not see ad -> install app. Most install behavior is search app store -> install app.
(That’s precisely why app store optimization is such a big, big deal.)
And the biggest category of app installers — 25-30% — have heard of an app more than three times before they installed it.
Big apps, big footprints, big brands?
In fact, there’s a very strong correlation between brand and position on Google Play. Top apps are much more likely to be published by better known and more popular companies, as we learned by studying some of the most successful apps on the planet.
First, we took the top 50 apps on Google Play. Then we compared them to the apps in positions 250 through 300 — still top 1% apps, still very successful apps.
Top 50 apps average 5.3X more Google results and 5.5X more Facebook followers. Median numbers reveal even more extreme separation: 30X Google results and 25.4X more Facebook fans.
What this means
Yes, this is correlation, not causation. And yes, bigger companies with bigger pockets can invest more in bigger apps and invest in social and web at the same time.
However, the survey data very strongly indicates that prior recognition does matter, and matters very much indeed.
Mobile users generally don’t just search for your app by name. In fact, only about 9-10% of App Store searches are branded, we’ve seen, meaning that more than 90% of searches use generic terms.
But if brand matters, and if people who know your name or know your app are more likely to install it when they stumble across it on Google Play or the iOS App Store, that means that money spent promoting your company and your apps on the web, on social, and in mobile apps is money well spent.
And, it means that the organic multiplier effect of paid app install campaigns is not only found in additional on-store installs due to appearances in top app charts, app search, being featured, or people hearing about your apps from friends who have installed them.
The organic multiplier also receives a boost simply via app and publisher recognition increases from people who see your ads, even if they never click on them.
100-1,000X more installs
And there’s more. Being in the top 50 versus the top 250-300 means that you are getting far more installs: 100-1,000 times more.
Android apps in the top 50 slots have in the tens to hundreds of millions of installs — even surpassing one billion in some cases — while those in the 250-300 spots typically see single-digit millions, with a few outliers jumping up to tens of millions.
A good brand won’t carry a bad app forever. But a good brand in the niche you’re targeting can give you a good first impression and increased likelihood of the download.
In short, brand gives you a shot. It’s then up to you to grab that opportunity with both hands, and the maximize it via great post-install engagement.
Get the full, free report here: How Brand Impacts App Install Volume.
Before acting as a mobile economist for TUNE, John built the VB Insight research team at VentureBeat and managed teams creating software for partners like Intel and Disney. In addition, he led technical teams, built social sites and mobile apps, and consulted on mobile, social, and IoT. In 2014, he was named to Folio's top 100 of the media industry's "most innovative entrepreneurs and market shaker-uppers." John lives in British Columbia, Canada with his family, where he coaches baseball and hockey, though not at the same time.