How brand impacts mobile performance: Chatting with Apptopia and Digital Turbine about BRAG

By John Koetsier September 14, 2022
  • Are the companies at the top of the App Store and Google Play charts really winning mobile?
  • Is install volume a useful measurement for top apps?
  • What influence does brand have on mobile app install velocity and staying power?

We’ve had charts of the top apps for close to a decade now. And while marketing intelligence providers like Apptopia, Sensor Tower, SimilarWeb, and have contextualized those with modeled insights on revenue and engagement, it’s still been a partial glimpse into which apps are actually winning, and which brands are actually doing the best in mobile. Part of the challenge is that some apps have off-platform revenue. Part of the challenge is that, like any other marketing measurement challenge, seeing the data through a limited lens provides limited utility.

And another part of the challenge is understanding how higher-funnel squishy things like brand awareness and brand intent correlate with lower-funnel somewhat more measurable things like install numbers and in-app engagement.

Which is why Apptopia and Digital Turbine invented the BRAG index

Brand and mobile performance

It’s a way of combining hard data like install volume and install velocity with the “softer” data like brand recognition and install intent to find companies. The goal is finding companies that punch above their brand weight … and maybe giants that are not growing as fast as perhaps they could be.

“Everyone watching this will know what Peloton is,” says Digital Turbine SVP and CMO Gregory Wester in a Growth Masterminds interview. ”No one knows Greg’s spin bike app. So if we learned that Peloton had a million installs in a period of time, no one would really go: oh, OK, what? But if Greg’s spin bike app that has no brand, no awareness, no interest delivered a million installs … I’m clearly doing something really interesting.”

“If you understand the full funnel, you can really understand people that are executing exceptionally at the bottom of the funnel,” Wester adds.

What the BRAG index reveals is in some cases startling. 

In terms of how well apps translated their brand funnel (awareness and intent) into actual installs, Cash App is a leader in fintech. That doesn’t mean PayPal isn’t #1 in brand power, just that Cash App is doing a better job of harnessing its brand power and activating it via app installs. 

Engagement: DAU/MAU

In fact, what PayPal is doing a great job of, according to the BRAG index, is engagement, which Apptopia and Digital Turbine have defined as DAU/MAU, or daily average users divided by monthly average users. 80% on this score would mean that out of 10 people who use PayPal on a monthly basis, 8 of them use it daily. That would be insanely high, of course, but as the category leader, PayPal’s not far off: 62%.

In streaming video, YouTube, Amazon’s Prime Video, and Netflix are top three, but Tubi’s niche anime content delivers massive engagement.

“If you look at the top tier of providers and their overall brand strength … YouTube, Prime Video, Netflix were way above the other competitors,” Wester says. “[But] anime drives a lot of fandom … these are the guys that don’t necessarily have a household name, but … relative to their overall awareness, they drive massive adoption.”

Brand incrementality

The difference is something Wester calls “brand incrementality.”

Brand incrementality doesn’t just look at the bottom of the funnel to see what resulted from whatever you did. It looks at what incremental brand efforts — both awareness and intent — translate into growth.

This works for both mobile-first/mobile-only companies like today’s mobile games giants and older brands with both mobile, desktop, partner, and non-digital business. That’s because even if enterprise or consumer packaged goods have diverse businesses, mobile is so central to both business and personal life, it’s a good proxy for performance. (Something I studied in depth in 2017 by comparing stock market success for the Fortune 1000 to their mobile performance in what I called Unicorn Dinosaurs. TLDR: “mobile leaders in the F1000 grow market value 15% faster than mobile laggards, and are 1.9X more likely to be financially successful.”

“The main point to take home here is that mobile is a key sales and engagement channel, and it’s going to have this strong correlation with overall company performance,” Apptopia’s Tara Kirkpatrick says.

BRAG index leaders

In finance, the BRAG leaders include:

  • Cash App
  • Zelle
  • PayPal

In streaming video, the top BRAG apps are:

  • Netflix
  • HBO Max
  • YouTube
  • Disney+
  • Amazon Prime
  • Peacock TV

(Interestingly, 92% of YouTube users open the app every single day, for a massively high DAU/MAU ratio.)

In quick-service restaurants, the leaders are:

  • McDonald’s
  • Taco Bell
  • Dunkin’

In shopping, the leaders include:

  • Etsy
  • Walmart
  • Amazon

And in news, the leading BRAG apps are:

  • Yahoo News
  • Google News
  • Fox News
  • The New York Times
  • CNN

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