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At OMMA Mobile, a panel is batting around the top issues and opportunities of using the mobile device as a branding medium. Specifically a good portion of the conversation is focusing on building mobile apps as brand engagement plays.

For two of the panelists, branded iPhone apps have paid clear branding dividends. Nick Harris from Benjamin Moore pointed out the company’s app that lets users point the phone at a wall and be able to decipher the Benjamin Moore color. This can be brought to the store for color matching.

“It gave users something that they were wishing they could do with their mobile device,” he said. But it’s also been a PR play — an accomplishment if you consider the challenge in making a paint company seem hip. This included a New York Times article that led to lots of new downloads and a bump in measurable brand lift.

Kodak likewise put out a “smile maker” iPhone app recently. It lets users take a picture and then superimpose different goofy faces and fake smiles (similar to the app showcased on the T-Mobile MyTouch 3g ad — the SNL one). It’s received a great deal of viral distribution and was well worth the investment in terms of brand engagement that resulted.

“We have hundreds of thousands of downloads, almost a million, in about two months and its in top 25 apps in the app store,” he says. “This is for something that cost us a few thousand dollars to put it together.”

These are just a few cases. The challenge of course, growing by the day, is rising above the noise in the quickly expanding mobile apps universe.

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