Turning The Sour Moment Sweet

Kiip’s CEO and co-founder Brian Wong weighs in on the company’s growth, goals, and how mobile is even more meaningful than we may realize.

Brian Wong, CEO and Founder, Kiip
Brian Wong, CEO and Founder, Kiip

GeoMarketing: What was the original concept behind Kiip?

Brian Wong: On a long flight to Asia, I was walking up and down the aisle and noticed that instead of working, everyone was playing games on their devices. As they beat a high score or leveled up, people were happy in these moments.

Where there are eyeballs, there is an advertising opportunity, and I began developing Kiip with my fellow co-founders, focusing on allowing brands to be a part of those moments of achievement in a meaningful, natural way. We took special care to make the rewards serendipitous so that they would always be a surprise and a delight, not something the user would expect. Imagine leveling up, and potentially getting a free latte – it was that simple.

How has Kiip evolved to meet the needs of mobile marketers?

About two years ago, we realized these moments also existed outside of gaming, and started bringing rewards to fitness/health, productivity, food/cooking and music apps. Now, Kiip rewards your morning workout (logging a 5K run), your productivity (completing a to-do list) and much more.

Today, our rewards layer is being leveraged by some of the biggest names out there, including the media conglomerate Meredith for its AllRecipes Dinner Spinner and Better Homes and Gardens’ Must-Have Recipes apps, and Cut the Rope, one of the most popular mobile games of all time. Our top customers are brands like Pepsi, McDonald’s, P&G, Unilever, Mars, Georgia Pacific, and more – all rewarding moments and adding value to consumers lives throughout their existing behavior patterns.

What are Kiip’s challenges at the national and local level? How do they differ and how is Kiip addressing them?

One of our main challenges is educating the marketplace of the true meaning of the “moment”. Too often, we see meaningless tasks like loading an app or watching a video ad labeled as meaningful moments. We believe mobile is a series of moments, and that what we consume on our phone is based on our needs (if I’m feeling bored, I’ll play a game; if I’m feeling productive, I’ll bring up my to-do list app; etc.). Helping the industry pinpoint those moments and to do something meaningful in those moments is something we’re continuing to work on.

What sort of ad categories work best with Kiip?

It depends on whom you are rewarding. If it’s in a fitness app, you want something relevant like a free bottle of Gatorade or MP3 credits for their next workout playlist. If it’s a women-targeted cooking app, a reward from one of our food brand partners (e.g. Campbell’s) makes sense. Kiip is integrated into a number of verticals (gaming, fitness, health, productivity, food/cooking and music) to help virtually any brand find their target audience within our network. We frequently work with QSR’s, CPG’s, and retailers.

What is Kiip’s business model — how does Kiip charge its clients?

The economics of the Kiip model are simple. Brand and agencies pay to be a part of these “moments” in our network via a CPE (Cost-Per-Engagement) – when someone claims a reward. We then share that revenue with the developer.

How has Kiip’s relationship with the major ad holding companies IPG (which invested in Kiip a year ago), Publicis, Omnicom, and WPP evolved?

Just revealing IPG as an investor alone has proven to be a major validation within the industry for us and opened lots of new doors with every player in the industry. The industry is always looking for validation amongst the noise and the race to understand mobile is very real and we’re happy to be there to help. IPG has been a great strategic partner, and we’re actually working on a comprehensive, groundbreaking study with them to scientifically reveal the effectiveness of serendipitous rewards for both users and brands. Look for that later this year.

How do you view the “state of creativity” in mobile marketing, particularly at the local level?

There is still an overreliance on the banner ad, but as evidenced by Yahoo abandoning them in their apps, you’re starting to see more creative approaches that are engineered from that the user down like native ads and rewards gain greater traction. I believe that there is also a need to move away from traditional buying metrics on reach and frequency and programmatic/automation models that simply suck the human-ness of marketing on mobile out of what is very much a special device that can unlock so much more if viewed differently.

As a creative, how are you pushing the mobile marketing/local space forward?

I am really proud of the work we have done to push this space forward and create truly innovative engagement on mobile. One of my favorite examples is our campaign with [consumer packaged good marketer] Mondelez International.

While Kiip typically rewards moments of achievement, we took a creative approach with this campaign by rewarding moments where users fell short. In a tie-in with its Sour Patch Kids brand, Mondelez International wanted to own these “sour” moments in our network by offering rewards for free samples of the candy. When users fell short of reaching a milestone, like failing to advance to a new level, a Kiip reward appeared offering the free sample and turning all “sour” moments “sweet.”

The best part is we are doing these executions at scale – owning moments and emotions at scale whilst serving the user. We are redefining reach and frequency models with a premium engagement model that scales with a metric that we chose that truly understands when engaging with mobile users is the most effective – through moments.

What obstacles remain?

Too often, we still see rewards looped in the same class as incentive-based ads. While “incentivized” models would have you believe accumulating points to redeem them for something of value is the same as a reward, it’s not. We are the anti-thesis to points and incentives.

Our rewards provide instant gratification by being delivered in the moment. We are determined to continue to innovate on the concept of the moment, the reward and delivering the triple-win for brands, developers and users. Traditionally rewards would define behavior – but for us, the behavior defines the rewards.