Winning Fame and Fortune with Mobile App Awards

Mark Dabbs

28 Aug 2019 - 8 min read

Mobile app awards can put your mobile endeavors on the fast track to success. Fame, fortune, industry connections, t-shirts and coffee mugs are all up for grabs for businesses not afraid of a little extra competition. Complements are always nice, but they don’t compare to a panel of expert judges declaring, after reviewing hundreds of other apps, that you have the best app of them all. It’s worth taking a look at how win or lose, participating in mobile app awards can be a huge advantage for you.

But first…

Announcing the 2019 Mobile UX Awards

The Third Annual Mobile UX Awards begins accepting mobile app submissions starting September 9th, 2019. Founder and CEO, Alan Nowogrodski has guided the MUX Awards to be one of the premiere mobile award events bringing in VP’s from Netflix, Amazon and Google, and submissions from Microsoft, Warner Brothers and Mitsubishi last year.

So many applications were submitted in 2018 that each judge was given 20 apps to review.

Evaluation criteria included app usability, user experience, their on-boarding experience, overall look-n-feel, and innovative or unique design elements. This year’s judges panel already lives up to the standard’s set last year, bringing in some of the industry’s top creative minds and UX specialists, like:

  • Keith Daniels – Director of User Experience, Expedia
  • Eric Snowden – Senior Director of Design, Adobe
  • Jhilmil Jain – Head of UX Research, Google
  • Amanda Linden – Director of Product Design, Facebook
  • Marc Hernandez – Creative Director, Gameloft
  • Lindsay Miller – Director of Product Design, Pinterest
  • Many, many more.

Last year, iFlya380, an augmented reality app for the Airbus 380 developed by MilkInside won the “Best All-Around” category. Microsoft’s Seeing AI app merging AR with AI to help the vision impaired picked up wins in both the Social and Breakthrough Experience categories. An app for learning new skills, MasterClass by Fantasy Interactive, won the Creative Content award. These go to show that any developer, large or small, can win in the MUX Awards.

For transparency, our CEO, Artem Petrov, participated as a judge in 2017 and 2018. He also intends to participate this year, schedule permitting. There is no further connection between Reinvently and the MUX Awards. It’s a valuable event for the Mobile Industry. It also has phenomenally good timing as I was in the process of writing about mobile app awards when I received notice of its 2019 schedule.

Why participate in Mobile App Awards and Contests?

Each mobile app award or contest venue has its own prize package for winners. Before paying for your registration, investigate what’s included in their package. Also evaluate how valuable winning their top app award could be in its own right. Some typical app awards, expressly stated or not, include (from most to least valuable):

  • Introductions to investors.
  • Market and industry connections.
  • Feedback about your app from veteran industry professionals.
  • Flat monetary rewards.
  • Market exposure via press releases, articles and reviews.
  • Top app award badges to display next to your app in app stores.
  • Paraphernalia like t-shirts, coffee mugs, even iPads and smartphones.

Some awards may only offer industry connections, introductions to investors, and sometimes just press releases and/or award badges. Don’t underestimate the value of what these can do for your mobile app and business. Feedback from industry professionals can also help you improve your app and better live up to its full potential.

There’s a sort of “meh” attitude about press releases. When certain big brand names are involved as sponsors, the press release could be picked up by hundreds of websites and tech news channels. In turn that can prompt placement in independent top app lists, app reviews, interviews, and other opportunities. These all have a value in marketing dollars that’s far greater than the cost of registration fees.

Aren’t Most Awards and Contests “Pay to Win”?

Nearly all contests and awards require a registration fee. The fee can range from as little as $20 to over $2,000. In the majority of cases, the registration fee assures all registrants have an equal chance of winning and that the best app in each category will win. They are better described as “pay to play” similar in that you won’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

Large corporations and investment firms may run awards and contests for free with the idea that they’ll be able to sign participants and winners to their own services, or invest in contest winners. At least, this is one good way of finding and investing in unicorns still on the ground floor while everyone else has to wait for the IPO. IPO’s are not ground floor investments.

Contests, awards and similar events cost money, sometimes a lot of money. Someone has to pay for promoting the event, hosting it, the administrative support, plus the awards themselves. Smaller hosts depend on funding from corporate sponsors, vendor booths and yes, even participants, themselves.

Finding Mobile App Awards

How do you get involved with mobile app awards and contests? It starts by finding events that you want to participate in. This requires keeping your eyes and ears open as they are not always industry or tech company events. They can be sponsored by the government, educational institutions, non-government agencies, non-profit organizations, foundations, and investors.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing a list of events hosting awards or contests for mobile apps in at least one award category. We’ll be adding to it as we discover more, suffice that we welcome you to contact us if you have an app awards event that you’d like to promote.

App Award Participation Requirements

Awards and contest laws vary from state to state, so on that basis eligibility requirements may vary by venue. The following provide some “minimum” commitments that you should expect:

  • You will need to submit an application or complete a registration form for each event, to include your company details and point of contact information.
  • Payment for each app you are submitting and for each award to which you are applying – make sure to review their categories.
  • You must be the legal owner or an authorized representative of the app/s you submit.
  • Provide a copy of your app, or link with instructions and redemption code so the contest administrator can download it for free.
  • A short summary of your app – what it does and who it is for, plus a more detailed description about features, functions and capabilities.
  • Supporting media to include a short video and screenshots.
  • Some, but not all, events may require a representative of your business to be present during an awards ceremony.

Each contest has its own guidelines on the sizes of any supporting material. Make sure to customize everything in your presentation for each event. Nothing will remove your app from contention as submitting a presentation that references a totally different contest. Here are three more important tips:

  1. Deliver the highest quality presentation (video and supporting documents) you can of your app. Your app should speak for itself, but how you introduce it is likely to be the first impression you make.
  2. Make sure you provide the most recent version of your app. Most venues will accept updates of your app all the way up to the cutoff date when judges start their reviews.
  3. Some contests consider the amount of public and social support an app receives in its evaluation. Make sure to mobilize your social network when participating in events that allow this – to have your friends, family, co-workers, next door neighbors and anyone else you can get to like your app on their contest page.

Advice and Tips from Judges

Alan Nowogrodski – Founder and CEO of the MUX Awards, eloquently addressed the harsh reality of today’s expectations on what comprises an award-winning app, “A few years ago, companies used to strive for great mobile design. Today, “Great Design” is not just required, it is the baseline. Great design won’t help your app stand out, it won’t help retain customers and it certainly won’t lead to winning an award. Judges now expect apps to nail the UX, to be ruthlessly simple and offer unique touches of delight. The bar is now higher and the result is increasingly better products for consumers and businesses.”

Artem Petrov – Reinvently’s CEO, participated as a judge for the MUX Awards in 2017 and 2018. Design Advice from the 2nd Annual MUX Awards complies several of his own observations. Providing a better on-boarding experience topped Artem seven-point list. The best UI is one that requires no explanation, but a good on-boarding experience requires context. When one opens an app for the first time, they may receive short and simple hints about a specific tab or feature.

Artem’s advice on on-boarding:

  • Keep the flow short (2–3 steps).
  • It must be informative and valuable. If there’s no real value, remove the step.
  • Avoid long text and complicated language. Keep everything short and simple.
  • Explain features when the user first starts to use them (context hints).
  • Stay focused on your core features and values
  • Allow a user to skip an on-boarding flow.
  • Allows users to see the on-boarding flow another time.

A MUX 2018 Interview with Molly Stevens, Director of UX Research – Uber

A MUX 2018 Interview with Mitchell Geere, Head of Design – Instacart

Use the Event to Connect with Others

Many award venues have a live event, so even before you win (or lose), take the opportunity to meet with other participants and judges. Ask them about their app, or who they represent, their job – 99 times out of a 100, they won’t bite. These are opportunities to make connections, the door is wide open for you to do exactly that. Even if you don’t win, someone may take a special interest in your app.

What To Do IF You Win A Mobile App Award?

If you do win, setup a Google Alert, or several, with the name of your app and name of the awards. This will give you notice every time someone references the awards or your app as a winner of an award. Most contests will run press releases and public announcements. You’ll probably want to do a press release of your own, and set up more Google Alerts.

You can (and should) follow-up with anyone referencing your app or the awards event. Let them know you would be happy to provide them a free copy of your app for review, do an interview with them, or otherwise make it easy for them to write more about you and your app.

Win or lose – take a look at the other winning apps to see why they won. If you didn’t win, the judges may still offer you a short critique. Take heed of what they have to say.

After you’ve won an award, take a few minutes to update your app descriptions on the app store. If the awards venue provides app award badges, make sure to add yours. Maybe use this opportunity to add your app to independent app stores – and talk with them to see if they’d be willing to run any special promotions.

If you’ve won a mobile app award, make sure to support the awards event or content next year – and the year after that. Even if you don’t submit an app, you can get some extra mileage out of last year’s effort. If you didn’t win, don’t give up. This was a learning experience that you can use next year. Not winning is not an indication that you have a bad app, unless the judges say so. You may have a great app, but fierce competition.

Three Mobile App Award Winners from our Client Portfolio

Cameron Johnson, founder of Nickson, won $100,000 from Steve Case’s Revolution: Rise of the Rest tour and seed fund. Winners of the “Rise of the Rest” content also received ongoing PR assistance, executive connections, and the potential for additional investment funding. In some ways, investor-backed contests like this are like startup incubators and accelerators.

Nirinjan Yee of BreathResearch was one of the 19 “solvers” selected from hundreds of innovators at MIT’s “Solve at the United Nations” contest for her work with COPD and the MyBreath App. As defined in their press release, “Solve is a marketplace bringing together the people with great solutions and cross-sector leaders with the resources – financial, technical, organizational – to fund, pilot and scale those solutions.” Prestigious academic institutions, with a focus on tech, sponsor contests, too.

Swiftmile applied to Verizon’s Powerful Answers competition by presenting a business idea that would serve commuters by getting to work without having to drive – get cars off the road, reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Verizon’s competition involved over 1500 companies from 78 countries, and while Swiftmile didn’t take the top prize, it was one of the finalists to win $250,000.

A Final Note on “Publicity”

I’ve commented before about how Victor Shaburov used Kickstarter to launch Looksery. The publicity he generated from the campaign was arguably exponentially more valuable than the $46k received in pledges. It is the publicity that more than likely let him flip it over to SnapChat for $150 million. While this was not an award or contest-based event, the marketing and PR value of winning an award can factor in almost identically – and be of far greater value than any lump sum cash prize.

When people write about you and your app, engage them. This may start with their referencing a press release. Odds are, if a company’s publishing or using press releases as the basis for content, their writers would be happy for even more “easy to run stories.” Ask them if they’d like a free copy for a review of your app or if they’d be open for an interview. Even if you don’t hit a “home run” with your app, if you can use the event to hit a few singles and doubles, you’ll still be able to light up the scoreboard.

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