Widgets: Tools for Branding and Beyond – Breakout Session from IAB’s Big Day

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The breakout session that I attended at the IAB’s Big Day in Montreal was called Widgets: Tools for Branding and Beyond.  Moderated by Mitch Joel of Twist Image, the panel included Carrie Lysenko from The Weather Network, Chantal Rossi from Google Canada, and Jerome Carron from Microsoft Canada.

Widgets (or as some call them, gadgets) have exploded in popularity over the last few years.  You may know them as the embedded type that are mini-web applications and appear on platforms like Google’s iGoogle custom home page or Facebook’s zombies.  Or there are the types that you download and sit on your desktop sending you details on the weather in your city or other custom data. Mobile widgets bring information to your portable devices, giving you information on the fly.

The panel did a great job discussing the business case for brands to enter the widget space.  With the cost of development being fairly low-cost, widgets drive traffic back to your web site, increasing revenue.  As marketers, widgets will allow you to push consumer-relevant information in real time and allow users to customize how they want the information displayed or accessed. Treating your little space like a mini-web site, you can give people the information that they want the most, releasing custom content that is only available to widget users, thereby creating demand for the application itself.

Chantal Rossi of Google advises that brands try to be the first in their market to deploy a widget, commenting that baby and pet care segments are growing quickly, as those consumers want quick and easy access to information.  However, Jerome Carron’s experience with Vista’s new side bar gadgets has shown that making the information too confusing or complex to access will not lead to widespread adoption. Carrie Lysenko has been responsible for the very successful gadgets at the Weather Network for 3 years, making her a veritable old timer in the industry.

If you are in the position of selling the idea of creating a widget as part of your marketing mix, she recommends having your clients and try out a variety of widgets in different segments to discover how they work and the value that they can bring.
Here’s more from Mitch Joel, Jerome Caron and Carrie Lysenko on whether marketers should enter the widget space and what the barriers to adoption might be:

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