As the CEO and founder of Kiip, Brian Wong teaches big brands like Walt Disney, Pepsi and Best Buy about games, gamification and how to delight consumers in the mobile space. At just 22, Wong has already created a new model for mobile ads that rewards consumers for what they achieve in games and other apps rather than serving up tired old banner ads. Using Kiip’s model, brands reward consumers during “moments” of achievement, whether it’s a high score in a game, completing a to-do list or registering a jog in a fitness app.
• Read Brian Wong’s 30 Under Thirty profile
The Canadian wunderkind – who just opened Kiip’s first Canadian office in Vancouver – talked to Marketing about gamification hype, his strategy for bringing new brands on to Kiip and why there’s still lots of money to be made in games.
The hype about gamification seems to have died down from a year or two ago. What’s your take?
I agree. People are now using it as an ingredient without labeling it as “gamification,” much like how people are incorporating social media into their user experience without saying it’s a social media initiative. Our company was never really about gamification, nor was it how we wanted to describe what we were doing, primarily because anything that has “-ification” or something buzz-wordy typically will have a short shelf life.
How do the game principles you developed for mobile games apply to other apps?
We’re looking at activities that have loyalty prominently built into them. We started noticing this “moment pattern” in every app on the planet. We now have five verticals we’re in: games, fitness, food, productivity and music. In each one, you have very prominent moments. In fitness, it’s when you log your run. In productivity, it’s when you finish your to-do list. In food, it’s when you bookmark a recipe or submit a recipe and in music it’s when you favourite a song or add a song to a playlist. These are prominent moments we’ve begun to categorize and create extremely meaningful brand interactions out of.
Have the new categories outside the gaming world helped you strike partnerships with a broader base of brands?
One hundred percent. In the beginning, when we had games, there were really only a limited number of brands attracted to that. There are brands that go, “No, no, no. Our target market is not a gamer. They’re premium. They read the news, they exercise and fine dine.” You can tell them that even when they’re fine dining, while they’re waiting for the table they’re going to play games, but it doesn’t matter to them. With these new categories and looking at new moments throughout the day, it’s been an easier conversation to have to showcase the value of a mobile consumer throughout the day.
Do you still believe there’s big money to be made in games?
I’m bullish on gaming, but it’s not necessarily the single pitch. I’m not in the mindset to convert someone who isn’t a big fan of gaming. That said, games are extremely engaging—one of the most engaging types of content on a phone. Because of that, you can conclude if you’re a part of games, [a brand] can have impact and a very strong emotional connection with the consumer. It’s also a massive opportunity because it continues to grow. Of the top 100 apps that have been downloaded overall, the majority are still games. Everybody is saying that Zynga and EA are failing and the gaming industry is failing; I think that’s incorrect. The gaming industry is doing just fine. People don’t see companies that are making tons of money and aren’t public about what they’re doing.
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