Mondelez International has teamed up with venture development firm Prehype to launch two beta platforms, Prankstr and Betabox, which have consumer and B2B angles, respectively.
People just can't seem to get enough of online pranks these days, with more than 50 million prank videos posted on YouTube alone. Now, Mondelez International, whose brands include Oreos, Cadbury, and Toblerone, is getting in on the act with the launch of Prankstr, a company that makes it easy for people to create and share pranks with one another.
The move is part of Mondelez's effort to encourage ideas from its own ranks to make innovative start-ups, in which it invests alongside New York-based venture investor Prehype. Thus far the ideas themselves are coming from brand managers within the company.
Some, such as Prankstr, are purely consumer-focused, while another start-up in the works, Betabox, has a business-to-business angle, allowing brands to target product samples at specific consumer groups using e-commerce partners. The company is not revealing, however, how much of a stake it is taking in these new ventures.
"This is a play to bring the culture of start-ups into a big company. It allows us to move faster, take more risks, and understand how consumers are leveraging technical products," says Lauren Fleischer, senior associate brand manager for Sour Patch Kids candy and Swedish Fish at Mondelez.
The inspiration for Prankstr, for whom Fleischer currently serves as entrepreneur-in-residence, was based on the idea that "we as brands are good storytellers and we wanted to give individuals the same tools," says Fleischer.
The Prankstr site is still only open to those invited and has been circulated among roughly 200 users in recent weeks. It allows any user who registers to choose from among seven different prank types designed to generate envy, fear, pity, or a mix of all three in those being pranked. They are: F*ck My Life, The Ultimate FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), I'm Pregnant, Off to the Beach, Asking for a Friend, The Proudest Moment (I Might Have an STD!), and The Cops Broke In.
Users choose the style of prank they would like, select one of the photos provided (which while Prankstr is in beta are pre-selected but later users will be allowed to upload one of their own), and post it on Facebook or Twitter.
For example, users of the F*ck My Life prank can chose a shot of a cracked cellphone or a keyboard smeared with Nutella; those who like The Ultimate FOMO might pick a shot of a foam party, dancing at the club, or hot chicks.
Then Prankstr makes a note of comments and reactions and delivers that back to the user in the form of a video which they can share with their duped friends.
Fleischer says there are no hard measurements thus far on user engagement, but that feedback has been positive so far. "One user posted an FML prank and said it was their top social post ever, with 20 comments and 85 likes," she notes anecdotally. Some pranks have a more limited audience, she notes, such as the "I'm Pregnant" prank, which is more popular among teenage girls.
The soon-to-be beta launched Betabox, with an e-commerce angle, has an entirely different audience than Prankstr. It is geared to helping brands get product samples to the right people via selected e-commerce partners, according to Hadley Schafer, senior associate brand manager for Trident, who helped develop the new company. "A lot of times sampling cannot be targeted specifically enough," notes Schafer.
The Betabox platform will allow companies to insert samples into the outgoing boxes of compatible e-commerce companies, along with marketing material that encourages users to go to a mobile site. There they can take advantage of the chance to win prizes or get more samples.
Mondelez itself could benefit from the app, says Schafer. For example, it is planning to use Betabox to send out samples of its newly launched Sourpatch Kids gum with orders from T-shirt company Busted Tees.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
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