These days, apps are frequently touted as the ‘must-have’ fix-all solution to any and all PR and branding woes. There’s been plenty of discussion about whether or not brands really need apps to succeed in today’s markets, and it has been often noted that the app market has become completely over-saturated by useless, identikit apps.

Simply having an app presence is not enough. There’s a need to understand the impact apps can have on a brand,” argues Marie Ng of Millward Brown. You shouldn’t be dissuaded from producing an app simply because the market is over-saturated—you should, however, be motivated to produce an app which is useable, functional, and most importantly, unique enough to possess staying power and ensure success. So how can we incorporate branding into app interfaces without alienating users through ostentatious product placement?

Go easy on the brand assets

As Apple rightly argue on their developer support site, “successful branding involves more than adding brand assets to an app. The best apps integrate existing assets with a unique look and feel to give users a delightful, memorable experience.

We’ve all had experiences of lacklustre, over-branded apps. Brands who want to produce apps as quickly as possible to jump on the bandwagon often put little thought into the end-user experience. Volkswagen is one example, with frequent product placement and overuse of their logo.

Volkswagen app's heavily branded interface

Your app interface should obviously feature some brand presence, but covering your interface head-to-toe in your brand logo is really going to put people off. Over-branding is going to make users feel that your brand is aggressive and only concerned with the bottom line. The focus needs to be, first and foremost, on the user experience and the service your app offers them. Depending on what type of app you’re designing, it might be worth considering combining your brand logo with an app icon—freeing up space in your interface for more functionality.

Provide value to your users

Users download your app because they think it will provide them with value or a service. If you’re neglecting content for the sake of fitting your logo onto the screen, you might want to think again. You could achieve the same results through a subtle change in background or through custom typefacing.

The best way of exposing users to your brand is by building up a regular, consistent user base. You need to give users a reason to keep coming back to your app—whether it’s through event-based notifications, daily reminders, or regular content updates. Building an active audience will expose users regularly to your brand simply through the content and interface of your app. Having this pool of users to engage with is much more effective than simply plastering your interface with your logo.

Ideally, users should not be immediately aware of which brand has provided them with a service. The content should be first and foremost, while you subtly remind users who provided them with that content through smaller visual elements. Don’t sacrifice your content at the altar of brand recognition—that way, madness lies.

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