Even if you’re not one of the 400 million people who’ve downloaded it; 30 million who play it every day; 130 million who check it out each month; or someone who’s contributed any of their time to the 1.8 billion hours that it’s occupied in the lives of the global citizenry, chances are you’ve still heard of Angry Birds.
And why? Because of one of the most extensive and successful cross-marketing efforts the world has seen since Star Wars—to be precise, the marketing efforts of Peter Vesterbacka.
As the CMO of Rovio—the tiny Finnish gaming firm that created this quirky, easy-to-play, dangerously addictive mobile game in 2009—Vesterbacka was the one to recognize that a branding opportunity lurked beyond the millions of downloads. “As the game was gathering momentum, we started to see a whole phenomenon unfolding,” he says. “People were literally demanding merchandise, and everything started to evolve naturally.”
Vesterbacka (known at headquarters as the “Mighty Eagle”) is being modest. Thanks to him, Angry Birds is now, literally, everywhere. An abridged list: T-shirts, plush toys, Silly Bandz, puzzles, party kits, Halloween costumes, card games, key chains, flip-flops, lunch boxes, neckties, a board game, and a cake decorating kit. Oh, wait—Angry Birds is also now a TV show, a stadium-crowd game, and last month the birds were spotted at 35,000 feet. Finnair put them on the fuselage of one of its A340s for an in-flight gaming challenge during a trip to Singapore.
The wonder of it all is that Angry Birds’ popularity now enjoys near parity in the analog realm as the digital one, which is proof that the best marketing lay outside what is obvious. What’s more, Vesterbacka is merely in midflight. “We see a whole world of opportunity in bridging the gap between our digital services and the physical products,” he says. “Things will get very interesting in this area in the near future.”
Editor's Note: This is just one of ten Brand Genius winners being introduced by Adweek this week. Check back Wednesday through Thursday of this week for more!