Lesson 4

Defining Your App Branding & Messaging

If you think the marketing team doesn’t come into the process until your app is ready to launch, think again. Figuring out how to push the buttons that will inspire a target user to take action and install your app is the marketing team’s specialty. Bringing it in early will lead to a stronger product down the line.

The two pillars for this part of strategy development are:

  • A core value proposition
  • An app brand positioning statement

Your core value proposition is a broad, high-level business blueprint that should speak to your primary offering to the marketplace at large. Brand positioning is a subset of your value proposition and is usually more specific; you can also have several positioning statements (usually for different audiences) under one value proposition. This statement should include your target audience and competitive differentiation..

Both elements will shape the messages you use to convince people to download your app.

What Is Your App’s Core Value Proposition?

If you’re not sure how to answer this question at first, that’s okay. Hopefully you have a few ideas in mind that you believe are the key value points for your app. It’s about giving your app a story to tell, instead of just a job to do.

Get people from different departments together to go through brand-building exercises. For example, one popular exercise is assembling a brand pyramid. Once you’ve built your pyramid from the bottom level up, you’ll have a well-defined brand.

These exercises will help you define the innovation, service or feature that will inspire your (well-researched) target audience to try your app. Pick the feature that most directly and powerfully solves a user problem to act as your core value proposition. Remember, it’s always better to launch with fewer features that you’re highly confident in than an array of features that still need significant work.

Digit is an automatic-saving app. Its value proposition, “Save money, without thinking about it,” concisely communicates both what it does and why people would want to use it. Done right, one phrase is all you need to hook people into learning more.

Your value proposition should do much more than serve as marketing copy. It will also help drive:

  • The name of your app: Its name, like everything else in your brand, should reflect a unique position in the marketplace.
  • Your app’s logo and icon: Is your app playful? Useful? Maybe it’s strong and loud. Your core value proposition should make that clear in an emotional, recognizable personality that shows up in your logo and icon.
  • Visual branding: What colors and graphics will you use? Are you a friendly match-making app or a serious user tool? Depending on what your app offers, you’ll have very different visual and design choices.
  • App content: The words you pick to lead people through your app should reflect a personality that’s true to your core value proposition and a voice that appeals to your target user.
  • Advertising campaigns: All brand campaigns should map to your company’s defining values and the story your app is telling the world.

All of these elements should reinforce your core value proposition — and yes, that may be a lot to manage. Many app publishers rely on a third-party design and branding agency to help bring these components to life.

Before you interview designers or agencies, there is another step to take with your internal team: developing your app’s brand positioning and messaging. This should be the summation of your work on a core value proposition.

Brand Positioning and Strategy

Any marketing campaign is underpinned by a strong brand strategy, and the same is true in the app marketplace. Your brand strategy should detail your big idea, target audience and its main pain points — who needs your app, and why?

This will also dictate the high-level brand messages and creative assets you can use to convince someone to download your app. Acquiring new users for your app is ultimately an act of persuasion.

Many marketers use brand positioning statements to help uncover a place in the marketplace where their core value proposition can connect with their core users. In your case, you should be able to complete this sentence with a compelling insight:

“For [!em!], [!em!] is the [!em!] among all [!em!] because of [!em!].”

As an example, here’s what a positioning statement for the driving community app Waze might look like:

“For today’s GPS-loving audience, Waze is the best way to connect drivers with local traffic watchers and map editors to make driving faster, safer and more fun.”

Your value proposition and positioning statement make up the heart of your app’s brand strategy. Testing it with potential users is an important part of the process.

Field Test Your Messaging

This is the time to turn high-level positioning statements into brand messaging. This means coming up with key messages that communicate your brand strategy and core value proposition in simple, evocative sentences that will appeal to your target user.

Testing your positioning statement and brand messages with a focus group is ideal. Indeed, presenting variations of your value proposition and brand messages to a small group of people unfamiliar with your product can provide valuable insight.

You’ll also want to A/B test other elements that reflect your brand messages — this includes your app’s name, icon and visual branding. Never assume you know what people will prefer when you can know for sure.

Photo-sharing app Instagram extensively tested a redesign of its app icon and went so far as to call it a true community effort. Because the app relies on the frequent activity of its users, enlisting its users to help choose a new icon reflects its core value proposition and brand positioning.

Keep Learning

In the next lesson, we'll drill down into specifics that will help you develop your own app.

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