Between them, the App and Play stores boast a total of 2.9 million available apps. This number is constantly growing; in 2013 it was closer to 1.4 million.
Within such a saturated environment it’s extremely difficult to get noticed, no matter how good your product is.
Having successfully negotiated their soft launch, this is the reality now facing Comb and its founders: Moeez Ali and Liam Doolan, as they prepare for the app’s official release.
Comb’s software is innovative, original and quite frankly brilliant. But the app world is fickle and brilliance doesn’t correlate to instant popularity.
Comb is a search app, using solely a photograph it will find matches from a database that includes ‘millions of products and thousands of brands.’
The photo can be taken in real life, straight off the page of a magazine or even from a website. Once uploaded, Comb works its magic to find a selection of items similar to the one pictured.
It has been hailed as ‘must-have’ and ‘revolutionary’ by various publications and it’s easy to see why. Because Comb isn’t solely a search app. It’s more of a social network of sorts; which is why it is referred to in the official copy, as a ‘discovery’ app.
Thanks to the ability to follow friends, celebrities and brands, just as you would on a social network, Comb facilitates fashionable discovery in an unprecedented way. It also allows you to message friends to swap opinions regarding products via the in-built chat messenger.
Based on functionality alone, it’s clear that Comb’s numerous and positive tributes are well-founded. But having created something so well-received, Comb’s founders now face the prospect of marketing an app within this ever-more saturated market; no mean feat, regardless of the app’s quality.
Whilst in beta, Doolan and Ali formulated a soft launch for Comb that included reaching out to bloggers and their personal, extended networks to test the app and obtain feedback.
Doolan has found such digital marketing techniques as the most effective way of publicising the app thus far. Something he attributes to digital appealing more to Comb’s target demographic; the savvy millennial generation.
This isn’t the sole reason the two favour the digital approach. Doolan highlights the ease of being able to ‘track almost everything’ as an intrinsic benefit too.
This demonstrates why the two champion the use of social media advertising in building the Comb brand. With the increasingly detailed targeting and measurement capability that networks such as Facebook and Twitter provide, it’s unsurprising that innovative start-ups such as Comb are starting to utilise them more and more.
This isn’t to say they have ignored the traditional approach to marketing. On the contrary, the interview that forms the basis of this article was set-up at Henley Regatta, where Comb were sponsoring the high-end club China White.
Once again, the choice of China White provides a deeper insight into the apps user-base: primarily fashion conscious and younger users; the type who would have enjoyed having their picture taken in-front of the Comb banner at Henley Regatta.
It is this balance, between digital and traditional marketing, coupled with ‘word of mouth’ testimonials that has allowed the Comb user base to quickly climb over the 5000 mark during its soft launch. National press has subsequently followed with the Financial Times, The Sun and The Metro all contributing to Comb’s growing acclaim.
Such successful marketing has placed Comb within the national limelight and this has, rightly, made Comb’s founders confident ahead of its forthcoming public release.
Doolan finds this initial success encouraging, but he’s not getting ahead of himself just yet. When asked what the future holds for Comb, his response is frank: “going forward involves a big spend on marketing both across traditional and digital as we look to reach our target audience of millennials, with a heavy focus on social media and emerging platforms.”
That suggests continued blogger outreach, more social media advertising and array of other digital and traditional techniques on top. It seems Doolan and Ali have succeeded in creating a balanced marketing strategy worthy of Comb.
Comb is undeniably a brilliant app, but this only affords a platform to success. The incredible effort and savviness of its founders in marketing the app is the catalyst that is propelling Comb forward; start-ups, entrepreneurs and big business alike should all take note.