What’s An API? Marketers…You Should Know.

While my career is really marketing, I spend much of my day in the world of technology, in part because some of my marketing clients operate in the tech sector, and partially in the development of new web and mobile applications that we build for our work. The second of those pursuits led me to a blog post by Will Lovegrove, CEO of Datownia, discussing the growth in web services, or APIs (application programming interfaces), that allow developers to leverage existing application functionality from a growing list of companies.

Cover of book on REST programming from O'Reilly

REST programming (a way to develop APIs) is keeping developers up late, and making life anything but restful for many companies.

Note to marketing clients….. read this article.

Yes, it is a technology article, not a marketing article. But in it, lies the undoing of many companies. The explosion in available APIs is rewriting the rules for application development by allowing developers to speed the creation of disruptive innovations through easy and convenient leveraging of other development teams work. Programmableweb.com sends out a weekly blog publicizing the latest additions to its API directory, now counting an astonishing 8,180 functional APIs. This is a big deal.

Why should marketers care? APIs make it easy to access Facebook functions and embed them in new application. They are how you can integrate Google geolocation functions into mobile apps.  They let you integrate social media tools or data resources into brand-specific campaigns. And this list goes on and on… Developers can take these tools and rapidly build new applications that can rewrite business strategies, open new doors for communicating with prospects and customers, and simply put… change the nature of your relationships with your customers.

One thing that strikes me during many marketing conversations is how unaware many marketing teams are regarding the pace of technology change around them. They continue to be comfortable with “marketing as we do it” instead of constantly seeking ways to inject testing of new ideas, new technologies and new techniques. I am forever dumbfounded how project teams still seem to have little idea how to use data effectively or how to best interpret data that we collect. I cannot believe that brand marketing teams still eschew the integration of logical measurement triggers in ads…if for no other reason than to accurately gauge effectiveness.

The foundation of great marketing continues to be compelling ideas, visuals and content. Just look at some Wieden + Kennedy or BBH ads and that is immediately obvious.  But great “marketing” is more than just the brilliant concept and its glossy advertising execution. It is integrated across media platforms to pervasively touch consumers with the brand message. It is deployed in interactive executions that create engaging, memorable experiences. And that increasingly takes technology….technology that is advancing rapidly every day thanks to things like those little APIs.

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