Next Summer’s Blockbuster Coming from an App Near You?

June 14, 2011

By Michael Stone, BrandChannel

It is safe to say that over the last two decades businesses and brands that had traditionally existed offline have scrambled to transition themselves online. Like the advent of the Internet in the ‘90s causing a frenzied rush from brands and consumer products attempting to migrate online, the vast adoption of mobile devices and subsequent mobile platforms have led to furious attempts by brands to become online apps — not particularly surprising. However, I’m more excited about apps becoming brands.

The reverse migration is just beginning with mobile entertainment and gaming applications — a category whose scalability depends on accessibility. Wildly popular applications like Talking Friends, Angry Birds and Moshi Monsters have already begun to leverage the strong social and emotional connections that they have established with hundreds of millions of users through product categories ranging from apparel to toys to developmental products for young children and cool products for tweens, teens and adults. From spawning thousands of YouTube videos, to cameos on prime time television sitcoms, mobile apps have become the first stage for these developing brands. Like their cousins in the video game industry, such as Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider and of course Super Mario Bros., these brands are making efforts to build full-fledged entertainment franchises through television, motion pictures and consumer products, betting that fans will follow them from their iPad to the TV and movie screen, as well as to every other platform and retail channel where they are present.

We should anticipate the next wave of online properties to extend themselves offline. We are only seeing the very beginnings of a major migration of mobile apps from the digital world into the physical world. Angry Birds was the first with a whole host of products at major retailers, including Walmart and JC Penney, among others, followed closely by Moshi Monsters, which just announced an exclusive line of plush toys and figurines with Toys 'R' Us.

For those properties born online that have amassed widespread brand awareness and established critical mass, the time is now for them to increase consumer touch points, revenue, engagement and adoption of their core offerings through brand licensing. The number of consumers using these properties and the number of eyeballs that these properties are attracting is equal to a blockbuster motion picture franchise. For example, the Talking Friends app has been downloaded by over 115 million users in less than 12 months! And that’s just the downloads. Then there is the continuous usage. This is truly the new frontier of licensing.

With Facebook accounting for 10% of every U.S. page view in 2010, awareness for Twitter among people above the age of 12 at an astounding 92% and YouTube, Foursquare, Farmville and Tumblr becoming everyday elements of people’s lives online, we don’t have to look far for the next batch of online properties most ripe for brand licensing. The heightened awareness and increased daily interactions by millions of users with these platforms has created real opportunities for them to cross (or build) that bridge and blur the lines between online and off, and establish a seamless link between the extension and their core brand.

The possibilities for sites like Facebook and Twitter in brand licensing are endless (you didn’t expect me to give the milk away for free, did you?) but both should proceed with caution. While generating revenue will likely be a primary goal for online and digital properties, their ability to connect online with off — and analog with digital — should remain the top priority.

Michael Stone in CEO and President of the Beanstalk Group.