Apple this week announced upcoming software that will greatly facilitate the creation and use of widgets on the Apple platform. In what is especially good news for brand builders, the new software will
enable widgets to act as persistent, online brand pipelines from companies to their customers. This can amount to powerful new avenues for brand innovation.
Widgets enhanced with “Web Clip”
Widgets are small, interactive apps in the form of attractive buttons on your desktop. They feed you specialized information or perform timely tasks. I’ve written about their brand potential here and here. Apple deploys widgets in a spiffy desktop display called the Dashboard (see above). In the early 2007 “Leopard” upgrade of Apple’s OS X operating system, users will be able to create their own widgets using nifty drag and drop templates, but the real news (for brand builders) will be a user ability to create widgets from what Apple calls “Web Clip.”
To create a Web-Clip widget, a user simply selects a portion of a web page he or she wants as a desktop widget, then drags that “clip” to their Dashboard. The widget is now activated with live information from the site.
The widget-enabled brand pipeline
If you’re a brand builder, you will see this as a way to pipeline vital information to your customers. Think of how you can set up a “widget ready” area on your site that visitors can “Web Clip” and pull to their desktop as a widget. Maybe you will offer more than one.
Of course, the widget is not a billboard. It’s active and it’s intelligent, and it has to fill a customer need. Perhaps a direct one (if you’re selling ski’s, provide a widget with ski reports), or an indirect one (if you’re selling ski’s, provide a widget with jokes, games and tall tales for fun around the fireplace.) Context and content are up to you. Brands that are close to their customers will have a definite widget edge.
Widgets will test your brand imagination
Your widget will be a test of your most fertile and far-flung brand imagination—as it should be. It will clearly differentiate you from dull-witted competitors. Widgets, in fact, may be more effective than ads. If your ads are the voice of your brand, why not elevate your ads to widgets? Let them live on desktops. If your brand can walk the walk, let your widget talk the talk—directly to customers.
Expect Microsoft to have something similar in its forthcoming Windows Vista release also in early 2007.
Apple demo of new Dashboard software coming in Leopard.