Brian Wong from Kiip shares his perspective on why mobile offers brands a unique opportunity for customer engagement
Brian Wong, co-founder and CEO of Kiip. 'The problem with a lot of mobile advertising is that it’s an interruptive solution.' Photograph: Kiip
Can you tell us a little bit about Kiip?
We're the world's first mobile rewards network that delivers rewards serendipitously for achievements in apps and games. Kiip rewards can be found in more than 700 games and apps.
Can you tell us the reasons for founding Kiip? Where did the idea come from?
The idea came to me while I was on a long flight and I noticed how many people were playing games on their phones and thought – what if we could reciprocate those achievements with rewards? Kiip came from that desire to re-design and re-imagine the way brands engage with mobile consumers.
Kiip is about connecting brands with users – in what ways do you do this?
The problem with a lot of mobile advertising is that it's an interruptive solution that is not welcome by the user – that banner ad just sits there, whether or not you actually want to tap it. We're a serendipitous solution – we only offer rewards during what we like to call "moments of achievement," which are these milestones where you've accomplished something meaningful. Our flow enables a brand to "own a moment" in a meaningful way, while being able to build a close connection with a consumer through a reward.
In your journey to build Kiip, what elements have surprised you?
I've actually been surprised at the appetite for innovation, and even more surprised by the fundamental lack of execution due to the seemingly high comfort level with the status quo. The statement "no one ever got fired for buying a TV ad" still applies. I think marketers need to realise that technology enables lower investment risk in doing innovative things: think not bleeding edge, but scalable initiatives that understand the modern consumer.
I also think mobile is fundamentally misunderstood. The perception right now stems from the way that display had essentially been extended to a smaller screen. As a result, everything was measured as smaller, cheaper, higher volume and impressions. But in reality, the mobile device holds attributes that are very unique to it. Everyone spends so much time moaning about how small the mobile screen is and how limiting it is – but as one of the most personal devices we've ever owned, it gives unprecedented opportunity to brands to create even closer relationships with their customers.
What factors do you think have contributed to the success of Kiip?
Success is relative. I think we are in the first inning of a ridiculously exciting ball game. There is so much more to do, but so far we've taken a very careful approach to preserving trust around the Kiip brand and also ensuring that we distance ourselves from rapidly commoditised advertising mechanisms. It's about showing that we care about the triple win: the brand wins by being able to engage with a consumer in a true emotionally meaningful moment; the developer is able to create additional revenue streams and retain; and the user wins with a reward that is meaningful to them.
Equally, what have the challenges been along the way, and how have you solved them?
In the beginning it was very tempting to try to sell into traditional brands with a traditional translation of what we do. But we ultimately realised that they were looking for something that was fresh; that called out the weaknesses of ported mobile display. Most of our challenges continue to be in educating the marketplace whilst properly differentiating ourselves. We've also seen challenges in exposing marketing tactics that are purely short-term driven (for example buying meaningless metrics around vanity versus utility) versus using a proper engagement to build brand love long-term. And that effort has translated well: we now have more than 45 premium brands in the Kiip rewards network.
What in the mobile sector is exciting you most at the moment?
As the idea of the digital wallet is starting to gain traction, from Apple's Passbook to near field communication (NFC), it's exciting to start seeing retailers adopt that technology and close that gap. It's about time that someone took that hunk of leather in my back pocket and made it all digital.
How do you see mobile advertising developing this year?
I think the answer is more about how mobile "engagement" in general evolves. I see a bigger focus away from "ads" in its negatively perceived form, towards genuinely engaging consumers that care and also are reciprocated by brands. I think more and more brands will notice that mobile isn't just a separate "media channel", but rather a hub: something that sees all digital activity within a consumer's life. There will be more respect to the consumer: how to engage properly and also a reality check around incentivisation that leads nowhere but empty metrics. More and more big brands are going to be looking for tactics that don't simply drive short-term metrics, but respect their brand equity and indicate an audience love that can be fostered over time.
Brian Wong is the co-founder and CEO of Kiip