It’s a major feat for any brand to become a household name, but with a combination of luck and a whole lot of business acumen, Rovio Entertainment has done it with their Angry Birds video game series. The original title, released in 2009 for iOS, has spawned numerous sequels on a variety of platforms and expanded the brand into clothing, plushies, cartoons, and even a Star Wars tie-in.
It’s to the point now that each new Angry Birds announcement grabs the attention of the gaming world, with the news spreading quickly across websites big and small. To get an idea of how the Rovio marketing team has gathered this much momentum for the brand, I chatted over email with Saara Bergström, the company’s vice president of marketing and communications.
Bergström started at Rovio in early 2011 in a customer relations capacity, working on “social media, customer support, websites–essentially all consumer facing channels.” As the company has grown, she’s worked her way up to the top of the marketing department. Having a front-seat view during the company’s ascent, she says, has been great. But it also comes with its own set of challenges.
With the whole world looking, you always have to be on your game. She said that the marketing department gets in on each project very early in its development and works right alongside the developers. “Game developers and marketers work on the backstory, visuals, and really together craft the story for our fans. So everything starts from the story.”
This advice echoes what the marketing manager of ChAIR Entertainment also told me: The earlier you start thinking about how you’re going to market your product, the better. To push this idea even further, sometimes marketing decisions can influence the development of the game or app you’re working on.
Once Rovio has the message they want to convey for the game, they have to decide how to deliver it effectively. Bergström says, “How it’s being delivered to different audiences, channel selection, PR approach, etc. varies of course a lot depending on the audience itself and the product proposition at hand.” Since Angry Birds is a worldwide franchise, a single marketing approach won’t work to get the message out to everyone.
“However,” she says, “the fundamentals are still the same: We have build our approach on a conversational marketing strategy together with our fans.” In other words, they try to spark interest with fans, and let the fans spread their enthusiasm to other fans.
What’s been key to the continuing success of Angry Birds, she says, is “building a robust editorial calendar relying on the core brand story and values.” Once you know your brand and you come up with a system that works, you should stick with it.
Apple has made a lot of money off of the Angry Birds franchise, so I asked about what developers can do to get their apps featured on the App Store. Bergström says, “Here again it all starts from the product and honing it to the last detail, but like with any pitch the story needs to be great too. Your unique selling points will get you far for sure, if they really are unique.”
“Also,” she adds, “one thing worth considering is going through a publisher who already has a relationship with the app stores.” Not coincidentally, Rovio has started a game publishing program of their own, called Rovio Stars. Rovio Stars “enables the developers to concentrate on the game with Rovio helping with everything around it from QA to marketing, and press outreach.” It hasn’t been around long, but so far it has been very successful, with games like Icebreaker and Tiny Thief nabbing feature slots in the App Store.
However, when it comes to directing your message to the fans, Bergstöm says there’s no guaranteed solution. “I guess what you learn along the way that there’s no manual you can look at and science can only take you so far. In the end, especially when it comes to decisions regarding your brand, PR approach, tone of voice–any of the qualitative aspects, you need to trust your gut feeling.”