Rovio Entertainment’s Ville Heijari Talks Marketing for Mobile Games

1/30/13Follow @jpruth

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content, after the initial game purchase, to keep players coming back for more. That decision helped build critical mass for the title among consumers, but Heijari said it also raised questions about providing service to the growing audience.

“When you only have two people doing all the marketing and communications activities, you’re not going to have a lot of time for customer support,” he said. “It’s not easy to scale when your product costs 99 cents.”

The need to make more money drove Rovio to license products based on the Angry Birds brand. The company inked its first significant licensing deal—plush toys designed from “Angry Birds” characters—with Commonwealth Toy & Novelty Co. in New York. Other licensing deals followed, and they helped Rovio scale up.

“We’ve grown in two and a half years from 16 people to 540 people,” Heijari said. That includes some 220 game developers on staff in four studios within the company.

With the growth of the brand, Rovio bulked up its marketing efforts. But Heijari said the company is not trying to put its content on every social network. “You don’t need that whole row of 36 different social media sharing buttons on everything,” he said. “You need to know those [select] platforms inside-out, and create content that works for each those platforms.”

With all of exposure for the “Angry Birds” franchise, including a recent Star Wars tie-in game, Heijari said the company is trying to be careful about brand fatigue. The many different licensed products are scattered across different regions as well as online and bricks-and-mortar retail, which he said keeps the brand from seeming overexposed.

“Right now there are 25,000 different Angry Birds products, but you can’t go to an Angry Birds supermarket with those 25,000 products in it,” he said. “Hopefully one day you can.”

Rovio now plans to keep developing new Angry Birds games as well as other properties. Thanks to astute marketing and licensing strategies, the prospects for the company have changed significantly from the days when money was tight. “You can speculate whether Rovio would be here if Angry Birds hadn’t been successful,” Heijari said.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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