Why should brands care about widgets?

The folks over at Organic posted a great presentation about widgets on SlideShare.  In my eyes:

widgets are one of the least understood but highest potential tools of the digital age.

So what is a widget?  Well as Organic puts, a widget “is a small application that does one simple thing, but does it well.”  Love that description.  Right now widgets exist on the desktop, mobile phones (think iPhone) and on the web (Facebook, etc).  But in the near future, they are going everywhere (the Chumby is just the tip of the iceberg).

So why should Brand Managers care about widgets?  Couple of reasons come to mind:

  1. Widgets are the ultimate expression of Brand Affinity: In most cases, widgets are being displayed in a highly visible social space (Facebook, blog, etc).  If you or your friends are going to be looking at a widget on your personal page, you want that widget to be say something about you.  A widget is a brand badge that a person is wearing for the world.
  2. Widgets deliver relevant information on the go:  If there is one thing all experts agree on, it is the fact that time is the most valuable commodity around.  Despite all the talk about multi-tasking, you can’t make, create, grow, or find more time.  But widgets can deliver information quickly and at your fingertips…giving time back that could be wasted searching.  That is a brand delivering value to a person.
  3. Widgets can insert a brand into a person’s interactions with their friends:  Back to point #1 where widgets are an expression of you.  The right widget (usually games like Scrabulous or SuperPoke) create interactions between people.  A brand that is properly integrated into that widget becomes part of the social interaction.
  4. Widgets keep your brand top of mind:  How many times have discovered a great site on the web but then completely forgot to go back to it?  Or you heard about a new band you wanted to check out, but then couldnt remember the name.  Widgets keep your brand, website, or band “top of mind” to a person.  They won’t forget about you!

Now I’m not going to get into rules for widget success (the presentation does that) but I will toss out a call to action.  Right now most brands are content with letting developers create the killer applications and then the brands buy the media/partnership from a company like Slide or Playfish.  The argument is that they are then the ones doing the hard work of getting the install base and the users.  But I fundamentally disagree with this.  If you are just buying ad space/placement on a widget, you aren’t building brand affinity.  You can be replaced.

Brands should be investing in building the future generation of widgets…not just buying ad space

We as marketers need to stop applying the interruption model of marketing to new tools like widgets.  Let’s start trying to get an invitation to the party by bring something meaningul to the party.  An ad won’t do that…but a great application/widget that gives people something they want sure will.

Check out the presentation below.  See if it inspires anything for you.  Do agree about the future potential of widgets?


3 Responses to Why should brands care about widgets?

  1. Thanks Dave for the interesting post.

    I completely agree that widgets and games offer a great opportunity for brands to engage consumers in a far more compelling way than most other types of advertising.

    I wouldn’t be so black and white about the sponsorship vs build strategy choice, though. It’s true that by building something you have full control and you can’t be replaced, but you also suffer from a very high risk of not being successful in reaching the right consumer or generating the kind of engagement you were after.

    The widget business is incredibly hits driven – look at http://adonomics.com/leaderboard/apps?order=active_users&filter=0 for just how steep the curve is. Engineering a hit is very difficult, and predicting who will end up playing with it is even harder.

    We at Playfish have worked in the games industry for a long time and even with 100+ developed and published titles between us we still sometimes get surprised by who is actually playing a specific game. You might think your graphics and mechanics are designed for tweens and still end up having 18-34 males as your core demographic or the other way around.

    Today we engage with around 1 million players every day through our titles on Facebook. These players spend nearly 40 minutes on our games each day. The advantage of tapping into these consumers is that you have the benefit of knowing who they are and how they behave already instead of predicting who they might be. And because of the very active feedback and reviews you know they are enjoying the experience.

    We are working hard to provide brands with meaningful interactions with these users, which feel rewarding, unique and generate emotion in their own right. Current sponsorship models on widgets are still in their infancy and as companies like ours talk to each other more we should see some very engaging alternatives to taking the risk of trying to build your own widgets which need to become hits and reach the target audience you were after.

    I’d be curious to hear about more about other experiences out there.

  2. Dave Knox says:

    Kristian – thanks for the response. I’ve actually had talks with Sebastien over at Playfish so I know your model well and he actually shared the same Top 100 list with me.

    I think you misread my point on how brands should approach it. If a brand believes that widgets are the right tool for connecting, they need to work with the experts out there on the creation. That would be people like Slide and Playfish (but eventually is also might be people like Avenue A Razorfish, Digitas or Bridge….even Facebook themselves). But just sticking your brand on whatever widget is out there is not the right thing to do. That’s like the old world of Advergames where brands just stuck there logo on whatever casual game was popular. The best widgets out there (for brands) are ones that reinforce and build a brand’s equity. Maybe there are a few existing games that can do that and in that case, a permanent sponsorship could be the right answer. But a revolving “sponsorship” that is nothing more than a traditional ad buy is doomed from that start and will take the widget industry down just like it did advergames and others before it.

    Just my thoughts as the guy looking to build my brand with these new tools and vehicles

  3. Thanks Dave – I think we agree – and definitely advergames are not the way to go – I guess my point was that when you create something from scratch even the experts don’t always get it right, so if it’s predictability you want a good alternative might be better to work on something novel / long term around an existing widget which fits well with the brand. Either way it’s a great topic for discussion and it will be interesting to see what solutions come up over time!

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