API Brand – Stand out from the Crowd

A well-executed API brand strategy helps your API stand out from the crowd, encourages API adoption, and increases business growth.  Join us for an API Branding Webinar with Guest Speaker Kin Lane

Ubiquitous broadband access, affordable connectivity, and simple integration is driving a virtual cycle where people are choosing new interaction behavior, encouraging new societal trends, and reshaping business models.  In an always-on environment, instant message is preferred over email, just-in-time planning is preferred, and ad hoc collaboration is possible.

 

APIs drive real-time plan adjustments and enhance situational awareness without pre-planned database downloads and pre-loaded software. While outdoors, individuals can check not only the up-to-date weather forecast, but also weather alerts and real-time radar feeds.  When traveling to a new destination, directions, traffic conditions, and estimated time of arrival are instantly re-calculated.  When shopping, individuals can access comparable pricing and obtain accessory recommendations.

 

 

In the future, and in many cases today, APIs drive more than just your smartphone apps.  APIs help network everything and everybody into an interconnected society (see Figure 1).  For example, package carriers (e.g. Fedex, UPS) seamlessly sending package track status information to both shippers and receivers.  Connected vehicles will transmit performance information to owners, manufacturers, and repair specialists.

Internet of Things

Figure 1: Networked electronics, networked industries, and networked society

Source: http://www.ericsson.com/res/docs/whitepapers/wp-50-billions.pdf

People are shifting away from destination sites (e.g. Yahoo, Google Search, CNET, CNN) and social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) towards accessing information and interacting with businesses using Web APIs and local apps (see Figure 2).

Web Evolution

Figure 2: The Web Evolution

 

 

The transition from networked electronics, into networked industries, towards a networked society will require more APIs, API configuration, and API endpoints.  Today, the number of connected devices exceeds the world’s human population (see Figure 3). A growing number of connected device interactions will increasingly shift web activity from web sites to web APIs.

Connected Device Explosion Figure 3: The Growth of Connected Devices

Source: http://www.futuristspeaker.com/2012/09/empowering-things-for-our-internet-of-things/

 

The trends point to your API being just one of billions.  Think of every company, every individual, and every device offering a Web API.

 

How will your API stand out from the crowd?

 

Taking a page from the business world, API brands will distinguish online API resources, endpoints, and capabilities.  API brands enable you to build mindshare with your target audience. Mindshare increases API visibility; visibility encourages individuals (and devices) to discover and evaluate your API.  API evaluation triggers API adoption, and adoption realizes your goals (i.e. increased interaction and revenue growth).   Figure 4 illustrates the virtuous API branding cycle.

API Brand Cycle

Figure 4: API Branding Cycle

 

 

Building brands requires art, science, and execution. Brands are a blend of consumer perception and provider reputation.  Consumers associate brands with commodity, exclusivity, ease of use, and value.  A provider’s reputation is built by constantly delivering required capabilities and data, API quality and warranty, and delivering customer service through available support channels.

 

Build an API brand strategy by:

  • Defining the API brand message
  • Building API brand awareness
  • Nurture the API brand
  • Measure API brand value

 

When defining the API brand message, identify the target audience and specify key perception targets.  API brand awareness requires continual communication, promotion, and visible outreach actions.  API perception and reputation are nurtured through partnerships, community relations, and education.  Consider tasking a group to be API advocates.  Awareness and nurturing activities require significant time and effort, validate the strategy by comparing adoption, retention, and revenue growth with API alternatives.   Good brand success metrics can be obtained by tracking market interest and third-party coverage.

 

When estblishing your API brand, focus on value, perception, reputation, and retention building blocks.  For example, value is created by delivering the right message elements and attributes, aggregating API endpoints, orchestrating API interactions, and delivering service tiers at reasonable cost.  Quality delivery, ease of use, and proof influences consumer perception and provider reputation.  An API brand is impacted by service level agreements, Terms of Service (TOS), available case studies, number of partners, and available documentation (including client samples, SDK).  API brand activity increases retention by highlighting integration with other useful APIs and promoting the API through logo usage policies.

 

Continually promote the API brand identity by requiring attribution by consumer apps and websites.  Develop a powered by logo and embed scripts.  Make the API a subset of wider functionality that is available when the end-consumer establishes a direct relationship (see Zillow branding guidelines).  Retain API exclusivity, monetization potential, and brand control by requiring consumers to present authentication keys and establishing terms of use.  The terms of use should disallow message manipulation, modification, or edits. Authentication keys, rate limiting, and quotas enable you to adjust revenue with end-user value.

 

Because an API brand relies on consumer awareness and perception, nurture the community with a partner program to reinforce API value.  Use hackathons to build an ecosystem and gauge API usability.  When expanding the API’s reach, tailor the brand message to diverse communities.

 

Because perception and reputation are incrementally acquired and persistent, building a name brand requires significant foresight.  Before investing significant time and effort promoting your brand message, answer the following questions:

  • Who will own the customer relationship with the API end-user?
  • How will you increase brand awareness?
  • How will you prevent API commoditization?

 

Balance your desire to syndicate the API across third-party developers with API monetization power.  Place 3rd party attribution and reference guidelines in place before making your API available, and using a see more attributions to drive the end-user towards your brand property.  Prevent commoditization by executing a plan to aggregate and orchestrate multiple capabilities (i.e. deliver a solution instead of a building block) and tap your API into a broad ecosystem of complementary providers.

 

Look and feel strongly influences perception.  Build a developer and end-user portal that matches your intended audience and desired brand image. Choose an API brand platform where you can customize the portal.  Figure 5 and 6 demonstrate how the WSO2 API Store was customized.

StubHub API Portal

Figure 5: Developer Portal Look and Feel

apicultur portal

Figure 6: Developer Portal Look and Feel

 

When tailoring the brand presentation for the intended audience, different logos, words, fonts, and colors become your brand image and influence perception.  Choose an API brand platform where you can fully customize the feel, create multiple storefronts to reach multiple communities, enable multiple publisher groups, and deliver multiple service level tiers.  Identify a platform that can scale as you add brands targeting market niches.  Learn by watching how General Motors, Gap Inc, and University of Miami brand their distinct offerings.

brand-audience-2Figure 7: One Car Company, multiple brands serving diverse audiences

brand-audience-3Figure 8: One University, multiple schools serving diverse students

brand-audienceFigure 9: One Clothes Retail, multiple stores serving diverse fashionistas

 

 

Recommended Reading

 

Learn more about API, Branding, and Stores at

Creating an Enterprise App Store

API Branding Webinar with Guest Speaker Kin Lane

All things API at the homeport

 

 

 

 

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