Exclusive Interview with John Casey, author of "The Art of Launching an App"

On May 3, 2012

With more than 600,000 Apps available in the App Store it can be extremely hard to get your app noticed. Recently John Casey wrote a very interesting article titled “The Art of Launching an App in it he describes the app world like a giant forest filled with millions of trees.

Today we are lucky enough to present to you an exclusive interview with John Casey where he answers some of the questions on all developers minds, he discussed things such as developers needing to treat their app launch more as a product launch, the importance of spending enough time testing your app, as well as the dangers of only positive reviews.

1) You mentioned that app developers are a lot like independent filmmakers, can you explain?

First, having worked with both developers and filmmakers, love them both!  They are alike in expressing their passion and creativity, and to some extent how they treat their marketing endeavors.  Both groups create these wonderful vivid and engaging products, and then in some cases, just push them out to the masses, without much thought as to how to market them effectively.  The founder of Jumping Pages, Rania Ajami, a kids mobile app developer, is also a filmmaker, and she, like other smart filmmakers and developers, makes sure to integrate a thoughtful marketing strategy, with an eye towards a successful launch that reaches and excites key demographics.  The promotional step is becoming a paramount requisite in both the ever changing film-making and app development communities.

2) Why is it becoming more necessary for app developers to treat their productions like a retail product?  

I have experience working for four major retailers, so I see an evolving symmetry taking place in the app world.  Venues like the iTunes store are quickly becoming preferred online shopping destinations, so developers should be treating their apps like they were putting a product on a shelf at a retail store.  Now, what do I mean by that?  Generally, big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target aren’t going to promote your product.  So, if you make detergent, for example, your product goes on the shelf with the rest of the other detergent brands.  It’s up to you, as the detergent manufacturer, to “scream” louder than the other brands and get the buyers attention.  As apps become more mainstream and face more competition in the online market places, it behooves the developer to cleverly market the product, via a strong retail-like strategy, in order to stand-out on the iTunes “shelf”.

3) At what point in the production process should an app developer begin to form a marketing strategy?  

There are three points at which a marketing strategy can be formed.  Preferably and first, a strategy should be conceptualized during the initial production process, so that the app can include components that can be used to facilitate a broader marketing campaign.  Secondly, for Jumping Pages, we incorporated a new narrator for the David & Goliath story at the end of the production process, and re-calibrated our marketing strategy around the narrator, and moved our launch date to provide for a successful implementation of the strategy.  Finally, apps are adaptable in the way they can be updated, changed, and enhanced at any time.  Thus, for many developers who aren’t seeing movement from their existing apps on the iTunes store, it’s never too late to re-examine the landscape, devise ideas for a re-launch via a strategic publicity campaign, and incorporate slight changes to the app that will accommodate an agreed upon marketing strategy.

4) Why is it important for developers to be cognizant of apps as new mediums for brand awareness?

TV, radio, newspaper, magazines, even the film industry, these traditional forms of media are all seeing the affect of lagging ad sales, ratings, circulations, purchases and attendance.  And as such, brands that would traditionally advertise or purchase product or brand placement opportunities with these outlets are furiously searching for alternate and more creative ways to spread awareness about their brand or products via new media.  App downloads are off the charts, and people are spending more and more time using these apps. Why not capitalize on these facts?  It just makes sense for brands to start using apps as an additional medium to engage their audiences, provide entertainment/value, and promote themselves.  Thus, app developers should take a look at their apps, and start to think about them as venues for brand or product placement.

5) You mention that it is important to pinpoint an audience, do you think it is impossible or impractical to target too broad an audience(i.e. everyone) ?

If there’s an app for living longer, then maybe you’ve got something for everyone!  But, without question, it’s impractical and virtually impossible to target “everybody”.  This is a big world, there are a gazillion products, services, etc. flying in the face of consumers everyday.  A smart developer will realize their app isn’t for everyone, and take the necessary steps to develop a marketing strategy that engages and excites a niche audience that will be the spark of the fire that spreads positive word of mouth.

6) A lot of developers get their friends and their dog to review an app with 5 stars, do you think this is a good/bad idea? 

Those poor dogs, and to a certain extent those poor friends!  Don’t you hate it when you feel obligated to fulfill a request on your Facebook news feed, even from actual friends, to review, comment, or like something they’re trying to sell?  Most people want to use their own initiative when making the effort to review, comment or like anything.  It’s better just to let them know that the app is available via a friendly post, for example, and if they feel so inclined, they’ll post something positive.  To that end, many consumers are growing wary of any extreme comments, reviews, etc. – partially because they suspect that these tend to come from the developers’ friends or paid reviewers.  It’s just best to have reviews and comments happen organically, and again the best way to do that is to generate buzz via a strategic and targeted promotional campaign.  The unprompted and genuine comments are the ones that resonate best with consumers.

7) What is your advice for developers that rush through the development process, just to get their App out there?

There’s an old Chinese proverb: “If you are in a hurry, you will never get there!”  Millions of people aren’t sitting around waiting for your app, unless it’s an app that helps you sit around and wait for apps.  Timing is everything, particularly in marketing, because that could determine the success/failure of your product.  Be thoughtful about how you’re going to introduce your app.  I like to say that I would never tell a developer how to code, but I can tell them how to promote that code!  It’s always best to engage an expert in the process, get your house in order, and spend a little time making sure that you have an effective launch strategy that will be more likely to generate a better end result, i.e. more measurable sales and downloads.


About John Casey

John has over 20 years of experience in public relations and marketing, having served in executive and consulting positions with  Toys “R” Us, Sears, Kmart and Macy’s. John’s employers and client’s have been featured in all major news and talk broadcast programs, as well as all major magazines, newspapers and online venues in the U.S. John is also the founder of freshfluff, a social media/PR agency in Manhattan.  He is quickly becoming an authority about promoting mobile apps, and has been featured in dozens and blogs and websites around the world, including “Luxury Daily”, a recent appearance on UNTETHER.tv, and an in-depth article last month in industry leading “Smashing Magazine”.