Branded Desktop Application! Coming soon to a desktop near you

What is a Branded Desktop Application?

Didn’t big brand software companies sell desktop applications all the time? Yes, but it is different this time. Here we are talking of applications from brands like Coca Cola, CNN, ESPN and Southwest Airlines! Yes, you download from their website!

Why not just the website?

Direct marketing outside of the browser has interested the marketers as the web advertising is crowded, complex (need to track user behavior), and well, not everyone goes to their site every day. It would be best to be on the consumer’s desktop all the time, focus on content and user experience of the brand. Serves most of what marketers desire – immediacy, relevance, attention span, permission and repeated brand impressions.

These branded applications are cool. They carry the slickest interface (obviously). They innovate on what exactly is helpful (why would anyone download). Imagine the Branded Desktop Application, which knows where you are going, provides real-time flight update, destination Weather, itinerary planner and seat-picker. OTOlabs has a platform for building such apps. Southwest Airlines has stimulated more ticket sales from a small desktop application called DING. CNN/Pipeline, ESPN/Motion, WeatherBug are good examples.

What do they gain?

Big brand companies would love to be on your desktop. Enhances brand loyalty and lifetime value of their customers. Builds a personal relationship and increased traffic to their website.

It’s all about advertising.

Some applications like WeatherBug sell advertising space to other publishers and brands. Just like the ads on your Yahoo! Internet Messenger.

Although they are ad-supported, these applications are not like the typical Adware that track the user behavior on the web and annoy with indiscriminate pop-ups.

Fine. But why would I need such an app?

While everyone wants some real estate in your icon tray and desktop, why should you permit? Well it provides information, entertainment and functionality at your doorstep and you choose to download and use. Of course, the application provider has to worry about keeping it useful and engaging, all the time.

How is it different from a widget?

Widgets are also tiny applications that work off your desktop, but mostly designed for a widget framework (such as Google Desktop). Branded Desktop Applications are mostly self-contained and independent. Widget frameworks like Klipfolio are brandable, extendible (by downloading more klips) and highly customizable.

Is it about doing more on the desktop or a landgrab of our desktop?


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5 Comments »

  1. Fred Dixon said

    Good article – especially about the differentiation between a widget and a branded desktop application (BDA).

    However, we’re seeing many companies asking us for ‘widget’, which is what the market is calling that branded-application-that-users-download-from-my-site.

    Regardless of what it’s called, the application must offer immediate and long-term value to motivate the user; otherwise, it does not stay. Kudos to Southwest Airlines for offering an application that saves users a few dollars. That’s a very good motivator.

    I would disagree that it’s all about advertising. Sure, you can think of a BDA as a form of permission based marketing, but no user is going to keep a BDA around that, frankly, is one big ad. WeatherBug worked because it offered a good view of the weather first and foremost, and the ads were part of the experience.

    In our experience, if a BDA saves users money and effort (usually in that order), then it becomes sticky.

    One question you could also ask is “how much should a BDA try to reproduce the web site.” The answer is, of course, as little as possible, and only as much to offer clear value to the user. The slippery slope is to sow confusion in the user’s mind … which should I visit, the desktop or the web site?

    Users download widgets because they want to personalize their desktop. Companies offer BDA because they want to increase loyalty (and thereby sales). Users try out BDAs because they believe there is a short-term benefit. User’s keep BDAs on their desktop because it offers long-term benefits.

    A good BDA is one that is part of the whole customer experience, not replacing the web site or e-mail marketing, but enhancing it. The design focused on analyzing why a user cares about a company’s product/service and finding ways to enhance that service.

    Easy to say, hard to do well, but very successful when done right.

    Regards,… Fred

  2. Great post, and nice follow up Fred.

    At OTOlabs (formerly AdTools), we’ve built literally hundreds of Branded Desktop Applications on the ThinkDesktop platform over the last 8 years. Most of these have been built for large companies to distribute to their customers or target prospects for the purpose of advertising as suggested above. Fred is certainly right – it’s hard to do well, but very successful when done right.

    I agree partially with the original post and partially with Fred as to whether BDAs are “all about advertising” in that it depends on whether you are looking at it from the brand’s or the user’s point of view. For brands, BDAs are all about brand relationships. For users, it’s about relevance and engagement.

    At OTOlabs, we believe that BDAs are improving the online marketing climate for both brands and users by asking for permission and then delivering desired and relevant content thus creating a mutually beneficial relationship.

    If you ask a consumer how they would like to view their advertising, nine out of ten will say “not at all”. However, like a lot of self-reported data, this is apparently in-accurate. For instance, DVRs (TiVos as well as cable company branded versions) are commonplace and users are becoming used to being able to fast-forwarding through the most common form of interruptive ad – the TV commercial. However, data shows that some users are now actually selecting some commercials here and there that they watch all the way through. To an avid fast-forwarder, a television commercial must be relevant for them to decide to begin watching and even more engaging to continue to play through an entire 30 seconds. For a fascinating look at biological measurement of emotional engagement, check out InnerScope.

    In the online world, relevance and convenience can cause a consumer to invite a brand back to their desktop. The deeper engagement and convenience that a BDA provides causes consumers to interact with the BDA more often than a website and keep the BDA for a long period of time. By building this brand relationship via a private and customizable channel, companies create loyal and deeply engaged users. Everyone wins.

    For example, check out the Hawaii Anytime BDA in which consumers get updating pictures of Hawaii, , desktop wallpapers, streaming Hawaiian music (KINE 105 FM), live webcams etc. This BDA is designed to provide the user with the sights and sounds of Hawaii in a non-invasive, emotionally engaging way in order to eventually promote ticket sales.

    One last point. The question of how much an app and a website should overlap is a good one. The answer really lies in determining how complete a relationship a brand wants to have with their consumer on the desktop. Given that users tend to interact more often (and in Southwest Ding’s case for instance, they buy more often) on the desktop than on the website, it makes a lot of sense to try to build as large a desktop audience that get as complete an experience as possible. Of course, not everyone will download the application and so the website is always there for that segment of the audience.

    Chris

  3. jaypullur said

    Chris, Fred,

    Let add a little more on BDA and advertising.

    Among several other forms, Advertising to the desktop (as BDA and Widgets do) will be viewed differently by the consumer for a few reasons.
    (1) advertiser strives hard to ensure the relavence, quality and overall usefulness; otherwise the user permission could easily go away.
    (2) the application value (information/functionality/entertainment) far exceeds the advertsement effect in the user mind; this was a prerequisite for downloading anyway.

    The direction of web applications is definitely moving towards the desktop. Integrated web desktop strategy will be expected from most brands that need to be on top of the consumer mind.

    Thanks for your comments.

  4. Ramesh said

    Abt the advertising driven content/BDA, guess Google mastered it by changing the ad game completely. Instead of “advertising”, they had content related to the purpose of the page search. Just that this was “paid for” and “placed” content. And guess what worked very well here is the “non-intrusiveness”, which was just amazing. While still keeping it extremely relevant to what the user is searching.

    Now BDAs.. seems like the trend is to go with utility first, and leverage the “stickiness” by generating Ad revenue. And unlikely that anyone can get “non-intrusive” ads the way google did. When someone does, that shd be extremely creative. Conventional ads.. potential really depends on a cool idea.

    Personally though, I feel that Ad driven biz model is kind of frivolous. Sure there is a google. But unlike brick and mortar biz where reasonable success is mostly assured, here for every successful google there are zillions of companies that have failed in their attempts at similar models. Unless you get lucky like a flickr or a grouper.

    One thing that does appeal here is the fact that BDAs can be “downloaded” from the web. A very different way of having apps on the desktop.

  5. Ankit Gupta said

    Hi…
    BDA is def a great concept and I am looking for a developer to build a BDA for my company. We are a leading apparel manufacturer in India. Could someone provide any pointers to developers in this field with sufficient experience.

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