In Q1 2013, the four top app stores worldwide collectively accounted for 13.4 billion downloads, with $2.2 billion in paid app sales, in-app purchases and subscriptions. (source: Canalys’ App Interrogator research, April 2013)

And this is how we spend our time on apps:

  • · Games 43%
  • · Social networking 26%
  • · Entertainment 10%
  • · Utilities 10%
  • · Productivity 2%
  • · News 2%
  • · Health & Fitness 1%
  • · Lifestyle 1%
  • · Other 5%

(source: Flurry Analytics, November 2012)

Fun, networking, faffing and simplifying. These are the things we enjoy and value. Apple and Google app stores alone lure us with over 1m apps to indulge in such preferences. In this wonderful labyrinth of choices, over 700,000 apps are gathering dust and only 200-300k enjoy success. That’s not surprising, but it is concerning. Radical innovations in digital devices and hardware are birthing a new age of information and content consumption. Accelerated and enabled by technology, everybody races to build another app, more content, more options, more noise. I wonder how many apps would exist if there was an ISO-like standard that only declared apps ‘fit for market’ if they made lives better and added real value.

So what has all this to do with marketing? Well, marketing today is all too often one of the 700,000 apps that is gathering dust. Accelerated and enabled by technology, marketers race to create and distribute more content, more options, more noise. Pressured by demanding and impatient sales leaders and executives such as myself, marketing all too often races to make a difference in the quarter – come what may.

Ironically, the people who suffer as a result, are marketing’s target audiences: internal customers, partners, end customers are getting confused, harassed and overwhelmed as one brand scrambles over the other to win. Unsuccessfully. The 200-300k apps that are garnering engagement and revenues have one thing in common. They make lives better and they add value. That has been decided by the people.

Look, we’re all trying to survive in business. But the brands that will enjoy the most profitability and longevity are those that don’t take a short-term view on success. They are brands whose sales and marketing leaders bother to understand how they can improve their customers’ lives and truly add value. To paraphrase Michaelangelo, “the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

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