Chances are you went to college, earned a degree and honed your craft in part to avoid a career serving up burgers and fries at McDonald's. But how about devoting your workday to developing mobile applications for the fast-food giant and other corporate behemoths? According to Adweek, a growing number of brands are turning to mobile developers to create interactive wireless services and tools in lieu of conventional mobile media buys, spooked by consumer research that suggests customers are already facing mobile advertising saturation. According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, more than 70 percent of respondents rated formats from search result placements to banner ads "unacceptable," while only 16 percent rated video clips from nearby stores "acceptable." In response, advertisers are investing in what Madison Avenue calls "branded utility"--i.e., services they believe enable their customers to perform tasks, rather than interrupt the mobile experience.
The challenge at hand is essentially the same mandate facing all mobile applications: Develop something that adds value and depth to the mobile user experience--and don't just mimic an existing app. Adweek cites as a superior branded utility "ColorMatch," developed by consumer goods manufacturer Proctor & Gamble to recommend shades of CoverGirl brand makeup based on the user's complexion and clothing and accessories--a perfect tool for shoppers at the mall and away from their PCs, and a perfect fit with the CoverGirl brand and consumer profile. That's the key, of course--matching the right product with the right app. Even the most ingenious application will fail if it doesn't jell with the targeted consumer demographic. But for developers, branded utilities represent a golden opportunity to tweak innovative mobile applications lacking broad consumer appeal to fit the specific niche demographics that will embrace them, complete with the corporate muscle necessary to get those apps into the marketplace. Beats flipping burgers, that's for sure. -Jason