14 Brands Using Mobile Apps Instead of Ads to Build Customer Loyalty


The most innovative companies in the world aren’t just connecting with their customers through advertising. They’re also offering helpful services and tools to win them over. Creative and unique mobile apps are helping brands connect with fans to convey brand messages, offer a useful service, keep them engaged and build customer loyalty in a crowded marketplace. Studies show that more than 50% of customers who regularly use a branded app are more interested in buying from that company.

But it’s not enough to just create and launch a branded app. There are plenty of those out there and very few of them gain long-term traction and repeat users. More than 90 of the top 100 global brands have already launched at least one app. According to a 2015 marketing survey, 34% of marketers plan on launching at least one mobile app this year. What’s more important for brands is to have a clear strategy on how they plan to drive app downloads, make the content compelling and increase long-term user engagement.

More than 150 million Americans spend on average an hour a day in their cars driving, and 75% of that time is spent alone in their cars. This explains why some of the best branded apps have been created by automobile companies trying to capture a slice of this driving time to build loyalty.


There are plenty of examples of engaging and helpful brand apps like Chipotle’s Scarecrow game app in which players can earn buy-one-get-one-free offers, Pop Secret’s Perfect Pop app that tells you the perfect time to take your popcorn out of the microwave, or Coca-Cola’s Freestyle app that lets users explore new drink flavors. But beyond just driving downloads, what questions should brands ask before they launch yet another app?

  • Is the app useful and does it have sticky content or experiences that are engaging and memorable?
  • Is the app designed to grow brand awareness and loyalty? Does it offer brand information, product discounts or some convenience to customers?
  • Is the app reliable, beautiful, simple, intuitive and easy-to-use? Is the app targeting the right audience?
  • Is there a clear correlation between the app and the brand? Is the app a true extension of the brand and what it stands for?
  • Do you have the marketing resources to promote and constantly refresh the app to keep users engaged?

Unfortunately, around 99.8% of apps fail. It is very hard to create a good app without building a following first. This is why digital marketing services are so important for app developers.

Here are 14 mobile apps that are engaging, popular and a great extension of the brands they represent:


The L’Oreal augmented reality Makeup Genius app uses advanced facial mapping technology to make your smartphone camera into a virtual mirror that lets you try on products in real time. The app scans your face and allows you to virtually apply makeup and try on specific products and looks specifically chosen by L’Oreal experts, all through your device’s viewfinder. Once the app knows where your mouth, cheeks, eyes etc. are, it’s easy and fun to try on makeup or complete looks. You can also share the results with family and friends on Facebook.

What makes this app special is that it registers 64 facial data points and 100 facial expressions allowing the app to identify the user’s lips, eyes and facial contours. This advanced technology allows the virtual makeup to move with the user if she turns her head to see how she looks from multiple angles, changes her facial expression etc.


BMW’s remote control app for cars lets users lock and unlock their car, locate where it’s parked, and control the interior temperature, all through their smartphones. The app also lets users find their car even if it’s within half a mile via the “Vehicle Finder” function, which displays a map on the user’s smartphone that highlights the vehicle’s location. The app also uses Google Local search so users can import local points of interest from smartphones into the car’s navigation system.


Audi’s latest MMI Connect App offers enhanced navigation, allows users to send geo-coded photos from smartphones to the car’s navigation system and provides access to over 7,000 internet radio stations from around the world as well as any music stored on the smartphone. With its Picture Destinations feature, a driver can select any geo-coded picture from the photos on their smartphone, or take a new picture of a place and send it to the car’s navigation. Drivers can then browse through these photos and choose the destination to navigate to without having to enter the address again.

The app’s Car finder feature also lets drivers see their vehicle’s location through the app. And if the smartphone is connected to the in-vehicle Wi-Fi, the app registers where the car is parked and lets users to take a photo of where they parked so they can find their cars more easily.


Audi also created the Start-Stop app which notifies users about which apps could be closed to save power on their smartphones. Start-Stop notifies you when it detects open apps that aren’t actively being used and once you tap the notification the app gives you a complete list of apps you can choose to close out of. The app promotes the company’s energy efficient outlook and doubles as a promotion for the company’s gas-saving technology.


ASICS is one of the world’s biggest sports equipment and apparel companies and has been designing technically advanced footwear and athletic products for over 60 years. Created as an extension of their brand, the MY ASICS app is a free, adaptive running app that creates customized training plans for athletes to match their running ability, fitness level and goals. It’s the only running app that builds a custom training plan powered by 7 years of runner research.

By making MY ASICS a favorite training app among fitness enthusiasts, and including the best content, advice and training plans, the brand wants to build a loyal community of fans. In turn, the company gets valuable insights on the fitness community to help design and sell better products. Umbel has helped ASICS drive thousands of MY ASICS app downloads at half the average cost per install, increase awareness of the brand among fitness enthusiasts, and collect and analyze customer data to find actionable insights in real-time.


Nike’s free fitness apps include a running app and a workout app (with a virtual personal trainer). Nike’s apps have been around since 2006, and have helped the company increase its brand reach and popularity among the running community. The brand’s newest app Nike+ Move turns a smartphone into an accelerometer.


Nike also collaborated with pro-riders to create unique digital skating experiences. The Nike SB app helps skaters improve their skills, connect with peers and pro riders, and share videos, challenges and personal skating histories. Users can also watch trick videos from multiple angles, compete with other users in virtual games and access live-streams of Nike Pro events.


The world’s most recognized jeweler De Beers launched its For You, Forever iPad app that lets customers create a truly customized engagement ring. The app is currently only available on iPads inside their stores and offers users a selection of more than 2,000 diamonds. The app allows the user to find the diamond they want based on budget, carat weight, color and clarity and then choose from their top designs for the ring settings.


Land Rover’s InControl Remote app was designed to help users stay connected with their car and make their life easier. The app allows smartphone users to check the fuel level and dashboard alerts, locate the vehicle on a map, get walking directions to it, check if any windows or doors were left open and request Optimized Land Rover Assistance if the vehicle breaks down. Some newer models also support premium features like locking and unlocking the vehicle, controlling the temperature and resetting the vehicle’s alarm if it’s triggered accidentally.


Volkswagen’s SmileDrive app records your drives, lets you earn “stickers” for extra-long drives and taking trips on busy holidays etc. The app gives each user a Smile Score that captures their driving history and also lets users save and share Smilecasts of trips (including photos and updates) with friends and family.


You’ll probably be surprised to know that 1 in 3 bags of popcorn made at home in a microwave get burnt. Pop Secret’s Perfect Pop app was designed to fix that. The app listens to the pops coming from your microwave to find the precise moment when your popcorn is ready to be taken out of the microwave.


Pop Secret also created Poptopia, the world’s first smellable mobile game app with a first-of-its-kind dongle. The game got more than 325 million impressions within the app in the first week alone. The Poptopia app and its pop dongle work together by rewarding players with spritzes of recognizable and popular food smells when they swipe the butter characters in the game.


Need a clean bathroom on the go? Find out whether to sit or squat with the Charmin’s SitORSquat app. The Charmin toilet paper company’s app helps you find the least-gross public restrooms around the country. The SitOrSquat app maps thousands of public restrooms and clean locations have a green “Sit” rating while dirtier ones have a red “Squat” rating. The app also lets users rate and review a bathroom, and share experiences and feedback with others making it possibly the biggest crowd sourced resource of public bathrooms ever.


Kraft’s iFood Assistant App offers hundreds of recipes of dishes that include their products (of course). The company says the app “brings simple, delicious food ideas, anytime and anywhere you go.” Content includes how-to videos, smart 1-2-3 recipes and built-in shopping lists that are great for saving time in grocery stores. Version 4.0 of the app also lets users use voice commands to search for recipes, add items to a shopping list and move to the next step in a recipe while cooking.


Beer brand Corona Extra created the Beach Break app to help fans transform the beach from a physical place to a state of mind. The app rewards fans for logging out, unwinding and unplugging from devices and programs. Users collect points in multiple ways including checking in at specific venues like stadiums, logging off Facebook or a uploading a photo of a Corona beer. Points can also be redeemed for cool branded gear and prizes like golf trips and spa appointments on the Corona website.


While the Beach Break app is no longer available in the app store, Corona recently launched a very similar Beach Volleyball app. Users can connect to Facebook via the app and play in a virtual tournament to be entered to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico. Plus users can play their Facebook friends for a spot on the “Friends Leaderboard.” The app includes 3 levels of increasing difficulty: Corona Island, Miami and Mexico, and comes with 1- and 2-player modes. The app also has a “Corona locator” that shows you the nearest location where Corona beer can be purchased.


Paint company Sherwin-Williams launched their ColorSnap Glass app to redefine how consumers discover, select and shop for their perfect wall colors. As part of the Google Explorer program, ColorSnap Glass allows Google Glass wearers to take a picture and share it with the app to generate a palette of Sherwin-Williams colors that are the closest match to the shades in the photo. Users can also create shopping lists and find the nearest store through the app. Advertising Age rated their app as one of the “Top 10 Branded Apps of the Decade” with over a million downloads.


Smirnoff Vodka’s Mixhibit App is designed to get users to turn photos, tweets and check-ins into unique videos. The app takes selected photos from a user’s various social feeds (incl. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram), creatively arranges them, lets the user select a custom music track from a library of 10,000+ songs, creates a video and makes it easy to share the final video with friends and family. The goal of the app is to help users tell more compelling stories by aggregating photos, tweets, and check-ins that users and their friends are posting on their social networks. Celebrities like DJ Paul van Dyk act as brand ambassadors by using Mixhibit videos to connect with millions of fans while touring. In the first 3 months alone, more than 80,000 fans downloaded the app and created more than 20,000 videos.