Looking into 2009 and reflecting on the amazing success of the iPhone and the App Store, there’s a tremendous opportunity for brands to capitalize on this technology. As of December, there are over 10,000 applications available for this revolutionary device that have been downloaded over 300 million times. And the applications have only been available since this July. Who knows how many are in the works for next year? Entertainment, news and existing technology brands has dominated the field as over 93% of iPhone owners have used the App Store. The iPhone has become a medium onto itself.

Companies like Facebook & Bloomberg have created mobile applications of their brands that allow users to continually interact with their brand, from anywhere, anytime. However, tech companies and information portals aren’t the only brands with something to offer their consumers. Why haven’t more companies developed an application to engage their audience? It would be hard to find someone to argue that engaging consumers interactively enhances and grows the brand. With that said, why have major brands not recognized the opportunity that exists in creating mobile applications that can further consumer interaction? Creating applications that users want and need can further your brand story. Instead of pushing information toward the consumer, apps give consumers the ability to PULL information from a desired brand.

A recent Pew Center survey says mobile phones will be the primary Internet access point by 2020, with features such as voice recognition and touch sensitivity growing in use. Furthermore, measurements of iPhone now provide analytics software the ability to track page views, ad clicks, purchases, etc. With these tools available, advertisers are turning their attention toward the medium. Certainly more apps can’t be far behind.

Who’s doing it well? Well, of course, the big name internet-based players whose business exists primarily because of the internet: Ebay, Google, LinkedIn. These companies, and many more, have developed very user-friendly platforms to access their content.

Walt Disney Pictures’ Bolt movie debuted 11/21/08. Prior to that date, AvatarLabs released “RhinoBall” as a free iPhone download and simultaneous movie promotion. This silly little game gave viewers the option to watch the trailer for the movie, watch the TV ad, or just play the game. The game allows players to take control of Rhino (a hamster) who is trying to catch up with his friend Bolt by rolling his hamster ball through city streets. This moderately entertaining game begins with a 5 second clip from the movie at each level achieved. Smart. The next step would be to push an update to the game when the DVD is released. Brilliant.

Mobile applications offer brands of all kinds the ability to continually communicate with its consumers and automatically push updates to the end user. The cost to accomplish this is relatively inexpensive, yet the reach delivered is enormous and continually growing. This translates to low CPM for an interactive extension of your brand.

Many companies have embraced the iPhone and have created mobile versions of their websites: Fox News, Delta Airlines, and ESPN to name a few. While this is an adequate way for users to navigate and retrieve information, it leaves a lot of functionality and opportunity on the table. By creating an app specifically for the iPhone the brand has full control over the user experience and can use features that can’t be leveraged through a mobile website.

As a frequent traveler and Atlanta resident, Delta Air Lines’ delta.com is a frequently visited site on my iPhone. What if they took it one step further? Delta could develop an application that’s truly helpful to the consumer. Before leaving for the airport you could check wait times in real time. When you land in another city that’s a Delta hub, you could access a map of the airport and the built in GPS to find the closest bar or more importantly, ‘donde esta el bano?’ The opportunities to solidify the consumer-brand relationship are endless with iPhone applications. Let’s hope more companies realize this potential and engage, entertain and energize.

John Mitchell is a Partner at Fresh>Creative, a branding and design firm in Atlanta, Georgia. www.getfreshcreative.com