JOYSTICK: Rewards come to gamers through achievementsPublished 5:00pm Saturday, May 7, 2011
This is the second in a two-part story featuring Brian Wong, CEO of Kiip who is looking to expand marketing in the world of mobile gaming.
It’s been almost four weeks, and Brian Wong’s Kiip is running silent after a grand reception. Kiip is the company putting ads in achievements in mobile phone games, using what Wong calls a “rewards network” to give players coupons for free stuff every time they beat a level, earn a high score, or earn some other benchmark.
Kiip came out to large fanfare last month as news outlets from Kotaku.com to Forbes and Time magazine lauded Kiip’s advertising strategy, headed up by the 20-year-old marketing wunderkind Wong.
Wong’s approach, which he refers to as “Inception,” is brilliant in its simplicity. Kiip won’t force its ad software on gamers, but once gamers give Kiip their e-mail addresses and answer a few questions about what products they like, they’ll be collecting rewards like mad.
“We’re designing this service to be addititve,” Wong told me. “The short of it is we care about the games and the users and the frequency of achievement, the types of achievement.”
Kiip is working the angles on this approach. Wong’s promised Kiip won’t hand over e-mails to brands or developers that use its software, which he considers a point of trust between Kiip and clients.
Wong hopes Kiip fosters that trust, as he thinks marketing’s gone off-course. In the Golden Age, brands would reach out to you, be personable, be a symbol of something grand, sort of like Mr. Clean or the Marlboro Man. To Wong, that personal connection’s been online with annoying pop-up ads, ad banners and spam. Wong wants to take marketing back to basics.
“People now are less loyal to brands, and they’re more loyal to loyalty,” Wong said. “Why can’t we bring marketing back to its good old days? (We want) to create a personal element. We can tie that to an ability to interact with a brand.”
To that end, Wong’s on the right track. Mobile gaming is steadily increasing in the U.S., a trend mirroring Japan’s big mobile boom during the last decade. The lines between casual and hardcore gamers are blurring, something Wong’s taken notice of.
“Most people don’t even identify themselves as gamers are playing just as many games, if not more, as people who do identify themselves,” Wong said.
Using the Nintendo approach, Kiip’s appealing to those who consider themselves casual gamers. Kiip may have hit the gaming blogs first, but Wong’s aspirations run beyond the traditional gaming industry. That’s why Kiip’s targeting mobile phones, and it’s also why Kiip probably won’t hit consoles. Wong’s all but said he’s got his sights set on social games like
Farmville and other Zynga properties.
“(Facebook gamers) don’t exactly sit and stare at the screen for hours on end,” Wong said. “It’s like they’re taking care of a pet, they’re always on.”
Kiip’s got its work cut out. These casual gaming zeniths are making big money, and there’s plenty of competition for Facebook gamers’ attention right now. Kiip’s also curiously silent after promising details on which games and brands they’re expanding to.
Kiip supposedly has 15 games and more brands than the first seven they’ve announced. Yet Kiip hasn’t disclosed any more details despite many outlets reporting Wong and crew would spill the beans at the end of the month. Though Wong wouldn’t tell me exactly who they’ve partnered with, Wong did say the brands Kiip’s secured are “going to raise even more eyebrows in a good way.”
Whenever Kiip finally reveals its secrets, it’s going to be big news. Wong’s created a narrative for himself and his brand, which means his marketing is more likely to succeed. He’s practicing what he preaches: it’s the connection
to people that makes the difference.
“What we’re saying is the word engagement is being completely misunderstood,” Wong said. “I think we’re the first to bring emotion back to advertising online.”