Melanie Zimmermann is Head of Marketing at Wooga, where she leads a team of professionals for various story-driven casual mobile games. With over 20 years of experience in the creative industry and 10 years in gaming, Melanie merges the best of marketing PC games and mobile. Before Wooga, Melanie held impressive roles as Head of Design at Disney Interactive (Club Penguin) and as Creative Director at Riot Games (League of Legends).
Learn more about Mobile Hero Melanie.
We live in a world of infinite choice, continuously being fed information while having very little time. What makes us say yes or no? Why do we choose to install one app over another? And what makes us come back and stay?
The answer lies in the gut feeling we have about an app or a publisher. It is the cornerstone for any successful app: “brand.”
Does the advert we see speak to us? Does the app look like it’s worth installing? Does the first-time user experience (FTUE) live up to the expectation offered by the marketing materials? Is this email newsletter of value? All customer touchpoints influence how we evaluate a product and its brand, from first split-second impression to long-term retention.
Users love charismatic, authentic brands. A brand that stands for something they want and believes in. A brand that has a story to tell.
If it is so important for a business’s success, what are some essential steps for building a strong brand?
10 steps for building a strong brand
- Know yourself
With helpful techniques like a brand workshop, your team will define brand attributes to inform your guiding mission statement. From here, you start building a Brand Strategy.
- Specialist over generalist
Dare to be different and unique. This does not mean you should try to be edgy. Being authentic is rule number one, but your brand needs to reflect what you believe in. What it does mean is being concise with a clear strategic focus. Do what you do best. Do not try to cater to everybody. Over time, specialists beat generalists. Become the leader in your niche of the market first.
- Know your audience
Knowing your audience is essential when it comes to developing…anything. A brand, a marketing strategy, a product itself. It goes beyond looking at the pool of users from competitors’ apps. There is research to be done using different platforms and methodologies. The more you can invest in this, the better.
After defining primary business goals, questions to answers are:
- What do you have to do to become the number one choice for your apps’ audience?
- What do users want?
- What do users need?
- What drives users?
- How can you connect with users as a brand?
- Who do we define to be our audience, based on what goals?
Audience research is something you want to do at all stages of any apps’ lifecycle. Once an app has matured, the questions you need to answer may change. At this point, have a good knowledge about your core audience based on the data you collected and analyzed. Now, focus on optimization and personalization for existing users and expanding to find new ones. It can mean a brand strategy change, but ultimately, you have to avoid alienating your core audience. Remember, the core audience trusts in their experience with your brand to stay as they know and love it—loyalty builds on this.
- Know yourself
- Brand identity
The brand identity reflects your apps’ personality and is instantly recognizable by users. Brand identity also plays a significant role in attracting new users to your brand. Make informed design decisions based on your brand and marketing strategy. Be as appropriate to the market niche but also just as bold. Exciting visuals ignite passion in users and helps make your app stand out from the crowd.
Key elements of brand identity are:
- App Icon
- Key art
- Colour palette & lighting
These elements and how they appear in marketing materials will play a valuable role in how a brand is perceived. Looking at trends in the market and taking inspiration is good practice; aggressively copying designs of a competitor is not advisable and frankly just lame.
One more thing about the importance of marketing designs: Visual information can be processed 60,000 times faster than text and is easier to remember.
A brand’s success intertwines with the emotional connection your marketing can evoke in existing and future users. It doesn’t have to trigger a strong response, but we see the power of “pleasure and pain motivators” in recently popular TV ads like #likeagirl and #Herzensangelegenheit.
Nowadays, how the public perceives your brand revolves around company values and mission. Attaching meaning to your brand is a core part of the branding process. Next is connecting to potential users and building a relationship.
TV commercials are a great way of using storytelling to grow Brand Awareness and attract new users—some you wouldn’t reach via direct marketing channels. However, TV commercials come with a hefty price tag.
You don’t have to run TV commercials to apply storytelling principles to marketing, both in advertising and product marketing. All channels enormously benefit from it, particularly when used with a consistent message. The key to success is choosing an appropriate narrative for your brand and meaningful to the audience.
- Multi-channel marketing & attribution challenges
To maximize exposure to new and existing users, a successful brand lives throughout various marketing channels. A combined channel effort creates a cohesive picture in your audience’s mind, so consistent messaging for visuals and text is indispensable. This successfully grows brand recognition, preference and loyalty.
Within your marketing mix’s overall success, it is essential to assess winning and underperforming channels regularly—more content doesn’t necessarily mean better ROI.
When you’re doing multi-channel marketing, it isn’t always possible to attribute success to a single participating channel. In an ideal world, we would have a clear ROI for each thing we do, but not all traffic is directly trackable. There isn’t a simple solution. You will need to invest in various tools, methodologies, and experts (marketing, data science, UA, engineering) to answer the big “where do we best spend our budget” question. This process is slow and tedious but worth doing.
Another piece of advice: When trying anything new (channels, partners, networks), start with a test-budget you can afford to lose. Depending on your result, scale-up. At Wooga, we do not run big bang campaigns and hope for the best. Instead, we base our decisions on analysis and ROI performance. Still take risks, but minimize them (and maximize the gains).
Consistent branding across marketing channels means close collaboration between the managers of your various channels (e.g., UA, CRM, SMM, Influencer Marketing)—on an evergreen and campaign level.
Particular channels to mention are Social Media Marketing, Community Management, and Customer Care. They do the heavy lifting of directly communicating with our audience and are the faces of our brands and business. All Wooga teams receive thorough briefings on our brand, values, tone and voice.
Great Community Managers build healthy communities of users, with like-minded people who often are the biggest (and always the most vocal) fans of your app. They often become ambassadors and bring in new users. For June’s Journey, we have an incredibly engaged community. Open dialogue brings us resourceful insights, but our primary goal is to assist and delight our users—a real win/win situation.
- Choose your partners (influencer marketing)
When it comes to Influencer Marketing, it is crucial to choose the right partners. The story they tell must convey authenticity. To make integration successful throughout the funnel, their followers must be appropriate for your brand. People may click on a link but then won’t install, retain, or monetize—all simply because they aren’t the right audience.
Nowadays, people care more about the company’s values and mission and question if the brand of a product, service, or app fits in with their lifestyle. It can make or break the success of your business.
Being aware of this is valuable for entertainment products, as we offer our users ways to spend their precious time. Wooga’s players identify themselves with the characters in our games. They want to follow their story. And while doing that, they become detectives themselves.
In this context, choosing the wrong influencer or celebrity can backfire. Remember, they actively act as faces of your product and brand.
- Brand validation
Following the steps above builds something called brand equity. Going into detail about brand equity requires its own blog post, but in a nutshell, it is how strong your brand performs in the market. If people think highly of your brand, it has positive brand equity. This results from positive experiences with the brand and business throughout the funnel and on an ongoing basis. Over time, you are growing a business while being loyal to your brand and scaling positive brand equity. Noticeable impacts on your business include customer loyalty, reduced ad spend and higher profit margins.
To build or scale brand equity, first have audience knowledge. Audience research and listening to user feedback are two simple yet effective ways to get the information needed to validate your brand and plan innovation.
At Wooga, we do a lot of audience research to learn more about our players and the best ways to speak to them. We also use various channels to maintain an active dialogue with our players; way too often, social media channels are still used as a monologue-style advertising platform.
Altogether these strategies inform our brand and marketing strategies, but also our product feature development.
- Evolve & innovate
The goal here is to end up with a robust and defined brand. This does not mean you won’t evolve—a brand is a living thing. Listen to the audience and use their feedback to get inspired, innovate, and validate.
Innovation is a powerful tool to set you aside from the competition and to challenge the industry’s status quo. To be a significant long-term player in the market, be an innovator and not a follower. When everyone does one thing, do the other. Of course, always be on top of the competition and borrow working elements for your own. However, your innovation machine should be running to deliver the next big move before everyone else.
- Authenticity, consistency & change
We talked a lot about authenticity and the importance of alignment and consistency for your brand.
Again, existing users want in-app experiences to fulfill their expectations consistently. The reliability offered to users when interacting with your brand is what forms trust and loyalty. It is an essential factor in your brand equity.
So, how do you make changes without damaging the relationship with the audience and disregarding the hard work gone into your brand development so far?
A brand is a living thing. There is no status of “done.” Think of a brand as a person. It changes over time. It has to. A brand, like a person, responds to a changing environment. I also touched on the importance of innovation. Successful publishers need to be dynamic and continually adapt to the market, industry, and audience. It isn’t a contradiction to the previous points; it is the evolution of your brand. Be authentic, and do not abandon brand-defining attributes—your users will follow you through change.
What are some of your favorite ways to build strong branding alongside user acquisition? For more from our Mobile Heroes, check out our latest blogs or join the Mobile Heroes Slack Community to chat with over 2,000+ marketers.