The app, which targets moms, has been downloaded 81,000 times after a soft launch in May.
While the cows on Old McDonald's farm were limited to a moo moo here and a moo moo there, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) has launched Cali CowChat, or what it calls a "virtual California cow app," that allows users to send messages in a "California cow voice" while simultaneously pushing California dairy products to a national audience.
The Cali CowChat app gives consumers the ability to create a customized California cow avatar - which includes the ability to change its color, features and the shape of its spots, as well as to add accessories - and connect with friends "in an entertaining and original way" by sending personalized voice messages in the aforementioned voice to friends through Facebook Connect.
CMAB, which says it executes advertising, PR, research and retail and foodservice promotional programs on behalf of California dairy products, says consumers can connect with friends by sending voice messages to users in their Facebook contact list via "walkie-talkie-like functionality." When the message is opened, the sender's personalized California cow appears on the recipient's phone and delivers the message in its unique animated California cow voice.
Michael Freeman, vice president of advertising for CMAB, says voice modulation software creates the unique cow voice. It allows users to "voice text [their] friends in a way," he says.
"The sounds coming out of your voice are really funny and fun to play with," he adds. "We'll be monitoring how much people use the different features and think the sharing of voice messages will be one of the most popular."
Users can also interact with their cows by milking them, shaking them up to make them dizzy, tickling them and moving them around the screen.
CMAB has also produced a YouTube video to explain how the app works.
The Cali CowChat app is free to download and is available for iPhone users. After a soft launch in May, it has been downloaded 81,000 times.
Freeman says CMAB plans to watch how well the iOS version does before making a decision about releasing an Android app.
The idea for the app came from CMAB's strategy to expand beyond TV and traditional advertising and get into spaces where its target audience spends time.
CMAB's primary target is women between the ages of 25 and 54 who have children at home because they tend to make most of a household's dairy purchases, Freeman says.
"Moms are on a lot of screens during the day, so we have to be in the mobile space if we want to be where they spend a lot of time," Freeman says. "Apps are a way for us to create some extended engagements with moms, get them to play with our brand, our seals and our characters - in this case, the cow avatar - and, basically, at the end of the day, create a stronger emotional connection to California dairy products."
According to Freeman, California dairy products - mainly cheese, butter, ice cream and yogurt - are available across the U.S. and are expanding into Asia.
"California produces 21% of the nation's raw milk, but only has about 12% of the population, so we have to find a home for these products," Freeman says.
Real California Milk has 220,000 likes on Facebook; @RealCalifMilk has 2,100 followers.
Cali CowChat is the second mobile app from CMAB. The Real California Cheese Pair Savvy app launched in December 2010 and gives consumers ideas for paring California cheeses with wine, beer and chocolate.
CMAB says California is the nation's leading milk producer. It is an instrumentality of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and is funded by the state's more than 1,500 dairy families.
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In addition to ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, Lisa's work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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