Posted May 12, 2009 3:19 pm by with 2 comments

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iphoneApp mania is certainly running rampant in the mobile industry led by the frenzy to create another fun little time waster to add to the over 25,000 apps in the Apple App Store. Fortune reports that both the Wall Street Journal and Forrester are talking about how Madison Ave. has embraced this medium to reach the nearly 37 million iPhone and iTouch users. It’s the 37 million and growing number that makes everyone stand up, take notice and create an app.

There are always two sides to every story. On the ‘apps are the only thing that matters’ side of the ledger the WSJ says:

n the past several months, companies such as Burger King Holdings Inc., Zippo Manufacturing Co. and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. have experimented with promotional software applications that can be downloaded onto the iPhone, or they have created ads that are placed within other popular applications for the device.

The applications come in all shapes and sizes with the most intriguing taking the ‘it’s advertising but not really’ tact of creating an app that is a game but is branded. It’s more about exposure more than it is fun. Zippo for instance has regained access to the smokeless arenas that it once ruled when a concert crowd wanted an encore. Instead of firing up your Zippo disposable lighter you can now fire up the Zippo app that looks just like ….. you guessed it …..a lighter. I couldn’t help but think of the practical side of this development. Zippo has done a public service by preventing many lighter related concert injuries like the scary (but still kinda funny) “Oh crap, I just lit that person’s hair on fire!” issues that have plagued concert goers for decades.

Back to marketing! Coke, Lion’s Gate Entertainment and CKE Restaurants are just some of the many marketers that have seen the value of creating these inexpensive messaging vehicles.

IPhone advertising is also relatively cheap. CKE said it spent $12,000 to create its hamburger application. That’s much less than the millions of dollars it might have spent for a quality TV spot. Users can download the app free at Apple’s online App Store.

“Apple has supported App Store developers creating apps to promote their brand as well as utilizing in-app advertising,” says Natalie Kerris, an Apple spokeswoman. “We’re thrilled with how well this has worked out for both iPhone developers and customers.”

The other side of the equation is one that Neil Strother addresses in the Forrester study. For every success iPhone app story there are some clunkers. This study simply warns that fools rush in.

“A poorly conceived application or one that is buggy could spoil your best efforts and damage your brand,” he writes. “Early adopters can be unforgiving, as Sony found out when reviewers trashed its underwhelming Underworld game app.”

In addition, while the 37 million user number is attractive to advertisers it is still limiting. There are another estimated 50 million BlackBerry users that are not going to be reached although there are now more apps being developed for the BlackBerry’s AppWorld.

This industry is continuing at breakneck speed for sure. Will it be a fad or a long term opportunity? Should developers be hustling to ‘make hay while the sun is shining’ or will this first wave of apps simply pave the way for next gen versions that will make the iPhone the iCon that Apple envisions?