Tech Profile: Kiip

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Tarah Benner
Tarah Benner



kiipWhat is Kiip, and how did you and your team get started in this field?

Kiip is the world’s first mobile rewards network that delivers serendipitous rewards for achievement moments in apps and games. Where mobile advertising was once obtrusive and ineffective, Kiip’s platform enables brands to reach consumers in the moments when they are happy with something reciprocal and meaningful. These rewards ultimately drive revenues and greater user allegiance for Kiip-enabled games and apps.

On a long flight to Asia in 2010, I was walking up and down the aisle and noticed that everyone was playing games on their touch-screen devices. I started dissecting games and noticed that there was one thing that was universal across every single game on the planet: achievements. I realized that in that moment of achievement (i.e. beating a high score, leveling up), people were in a moment of happiness. It hit me that the most effective way for brands to engage with people in mobile would be through some kind of reward that augmented this happiness. But this reward had to be serendipitous – almost a surprise and a delight. That way, we would be able to preserve the intrinsic motivation of wanting to play the game in the first place and not make it about the reward. Imagine leveling up and potentially getting a free latte. It was that simple.

What trends and changes in the market led you to realize that Kiip would fill a void?

It was actually a lack of change and innovation from which Kiip emerged. For too long, the solution on mobile has been to bring banner ads from the Web and shrink them. Advertising has gained quite a nasty reputation with the consumer — especially with its effect on user experience. The way we view it, the phone’s screen size may be small, but we shouldn’t forget that it is one of the most intimate devices we’ve ever owned as a human race. That means in many ways, brands now have one of the best opportunities to closely connect with their customers. There’s so much opportunity embedded in the ability to be conscious of the emotions of the end consumer.

We also decided to create our own category of rewards as a means to engage a consumer and to measure things not through just tonnage and volume metrics but through engagements and redemptions. We also wanted something that people could enjoy and love. You won’t hear someone saying that they are absolutely enamored with Admob, Greystripe or Millennial. It just isn’t the natural order of things. We wanted to create a new order.

We also built in the coveted win-win-win. Users receive rewards for their previously unreciprocated achievements in games and apps, developers monetize and offer another compelling reason to retain their audience and advertisers have a truly meaningful way for their brand to reach the coveted mobile audience.

How should the marketing/advertising industry utilize Kiip to create better “brand moments” for their clients’ audiences?

Our framework working with our brand clients is essentially through two words: “ownable moments.” This means understanding the moment in which your brand is the most relevant and understanding that you can “own” that moment through serendipitous rewards. Think Propel: They would want to own the POS — the “point of sweat.” Think Tropicana: They would want to own breakfast/morning moments. Think Campbell’s: They would want to own cooking moments. We can find these moments — finishing a workout and logging it in an app, game achievements in the morning right before work (people in transit) or bookmarking a favorite recipe in a recipe search app — across our network.

However, every moment needs to be respected. We don’t reward every single moment in our network because it would easily overwhelm the user. We make sure the reward is meaningful to the user, whether virtual or physical. Remember that moments are not necessarily measured by volume. Repeated exposure of a reward without redemption is actually not a good thing — thus we optimize for redemption.

What are the options for brands to interact with users within an app or game? Can you provide an example of a brand that has used Kiip in a particularly innovative and effective way?

There’s a variety of ways: branded content, integrations, gamification, even creating a brand’s own app or game. Kiip was able to take a scalable and creatively unique approach utilizing a brand new type of inventory we call the “moment.” These are moments that the developers are able to choose themselves. In this moment, the brand will manifest in the form of a message and a reward. This is something that users have the opportunity to choose to claim. The process involves sending the reward redemption information to their inboxes versus making them do something on the spot. Many users choose to view this email on their iPads and their desktop devices.

There are a few rewards that come to mind. One of our most successful campaigns to date is with Pepsi. We partnered to reward users who logged their fitness achievements in apps such as Nexercise with Propel Zero. The initiative increased brand awareness by 28 percent and purchase intent by 51 percent. Additionally, just over 72 percent of users said that they were going to consider Propel Zero the next time they were going to buy enhanced water. It was a huge success that showcased the true power of rewards on the brand level.

Skittles, Hershey’s, Hasbro and a bunch more brands have run retail activation campaigns where through mobile couponing users are able to take their reward to a nearby retail store to redeem directly from their phone. Campbell’s rewarded folks while they were bookmarking their recipes in our recipe/food channel.

We see moments everywhere. It’s exciting to see brands take part in a much more involved way. Just this week, we announced our $100,000 Build Fund for independent developers. Pepsi’s Propel brand is sponsoring the fitness portion of the fund, and we couldn’t be more excited about their involvement.

As users’ attention spans and tolerance toward traditional display advertising decreases, do you expect pop-ups and banner ads to become a thing of the past?

I’m not a banner fatalist. I don’t think banners or display will ever disappear as long as humans have eyeballs. There’s already a lot of discussion about what’s so bad about them. I was frustrated by how few are actually doing something to change it. They’re optimized for pricing and volume and not for quality. They give a bad rap to how ad dollars should be allocated to mobile. But ultimately, the user despises them. That’s what matters. It’s tough to see people paying money to get rid of banners. That’s people paying money to get rid of a product that people work hard on.

I think there’s salvation: It must come in the form of engineering a brand engagement mechanism from the user down. We decided it would come in the form of moments. Others are figuring out other ways.

How can this idea of capturing users’ attention at a moment of elation and rewarding them with something of value be applied to other advertising mediums?

At Kiip, our end goal is to forge new paths and extend these “moments” to every single achievement moment on the planet — whether that be hitting your energy savings goals with your Nest thermostat or meeting your mileage goals with your hybrid car. So there’s vertical expansion, but that’s still a ways away.

I will however point out that our choice to expand to verticals is one that we have had significant debate internally to ensure that we find the right meaningful “moments.” Too many “incentivized” models exist out there that like throwing around the word “reward” but forget that users aren’t doing something out of interest for the brand — they’re being bribed. Rewarding in moments must be executed carefully or the moment can be diluted.

We’ve been careful to ensure that users know when something is a Kiip reward. That’s the inherent value of a friendly brand — one that can be trusted. We only work with the world’s top brands. We care about what we serve.

How do you see mobile advertising evolving in the next three years?

Mobile advertising will evolve to removing the word “advertising” altogether. Lean-in media don’t naturally fit with the advertising model. It is worth remembering that the traditional definition of advertising was always about creating a connection between the brand and the consumer. It will become all about that.

However, if I were to play soothsayer, I would say that with smartphones fast becoming a transaction hub for consumers, online-to-offline engagements present a huge opportunity for advertisers. Technologies like NFC and advances in digital redemption are quickly bridging the gap between mobile and point of sale success. We have been experimenting with this as I mentioned above. I can’t wait to make it a lot more ubiquitous.

Brian-Wong-headshotBrian Wong is the co-founder and CEO of Kiip (pronounced “keep”), a category-creating mobile rewards network that delivers rewards for achievements in apps and games. Named one of the world’s 50 Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company, Kiip has raised $15.4 million in funding to date from Relay Ventures, Interpublic Group, Hummer Winblad, True Ventures, Digital Garage and others.

Called the youngest person to ever receive venture capital funding by CNBC and The Wall Street Journal, Brian received his Bachelor of Commerce from The University of British Columbia at age 18 after skipping four K-12 grades.

He has been recognized with many awards for his accomplishments and leadership, including Business Insider’s Top 25 Under 25 in Silicon Valley, 30 Under 30 in Advertising and 18 Most Important People in Mobile Advertising, Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2011 and 2012, Mashable’s Top 5 Entrepreneurs to Watch and AdAge’s Creativity Top 50.

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