Q&A: Michael Griffith, director of creative& strategy, Bottle Rocket Apps

Michael Griffith, director of creative and strategy at Bottle Rocket Apps in Dallas, on app strategy and the intersection between tech and design.

Q: “Work with cool people and build cool stuff.” Why is that your personal motto?

A: At my core I believe I’m a maker and I like to work with other people who are makers. Makers are unique people in the way [that] they create and collaborate together. They can produce some pretty amazing things that possibly smarter people or more experienced people can’t. Passion can go a long way.

Q: What three qualities should every brand app have and why?

A: First…apps [should be] unique and “ownable” from a brand perspective, which means they’re not like a million other apps out there and they’re something that gets recognized and extends the brand. The second thing is really exploring a brand’s existing qualities and taking them a step further in the app. For example, we just finished an app for the Kentucky Derby. When people think about the derby, their mind goes to horses and betting, but there’s so much more that it’s known for—the hats, the red carpet, the celebrities, the parties. We decided to extend the social side of the derby, so with our app you can take a picture of yourself on a horse in the winner’s circle or wearing a fancy hat. Third is making sure to build something focused that has a guided experience. It’s so easy to build a broad app that does a lot of things in a mediocre way rather than doing a few things really well.

Q: You taught new media as an adjunct professor for more than 10 years. What was the one lesson you most wanted your students to walk away with—if they didn’t walk away with anything else?

A: I want students to know that there’s no one right way to solve a problem. Approach every problem as a new thing and figure out your [strategy] to it. It’s too easy to get into a dogmatic process of always doing the same things to reach a solution.

Q: Is there still a place for traditional TV and print advertising in the marketing mix? You once said, “When not actively destroying traditional television and print advertising, I teach others how to do it.”

A: I say that a little tongue in cheek, to be extremist and kind of move the needle. I do believe some people get hung up on older media types. Digital has become the hub of brand experiences, but that opens up interesting opportunities for devices to interact with print or television or other traditional mediums in new ways. For example, we just built a sync app for Showtime that listens to your television and provides an additive experience outside of that second screen. There are neat things you can do that bind experiences together holistically.

Q: You’ve been a bit of a digital media maverick for more than two decades, but if you weren’t, what would you be doing?

A: I can’t even imagine not doing something in that space. It’s all I’ve done all my life. But in college I was a bicycle mechanic and there’s something I really liked about it, because it’s not just about being a mechanic—it’s about the weird connection between design and technology. Look how much technology has gone into bikes over the last 20 or 30 years, but overall it’s an incredibly simple machine.

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