Mobile Rewards Network Kiip Looks to Asia Expansion

Hong Kong – Asia Pacific drives the bulk of mobile advertising globally at close to US$2 billion in 2011 alone (source: IAB stats), so it comes as no surprise that San Francisco-based entrepreneur Brian Wong was in town recently to meet with media agency execs to explore launching Kiip in the region.

Kiip is a mobile rewards network with 36 million monthly users worldwide. It has over 350 apps integrated within the network and an inventory of 80 million reward ‘moments’ per month.

According to Wong, Kiip’s rewards model is serendipitous or what marketers coin as “surprise and delight” – tapping consumers after they’ve done something and not trying to change their behavior through incentives.

For instance, you are playing Zombie Farm on your mobile phone and once you hit a certain level in the game, you’re notified through a pop-up screen to tap and redeem a voucher from Starbucks.

Wong’s mobile rewards network allows brands to access people in these games and its demographic is evenly distributed across age and gender, he said. They could be grandmothers, working professionals to teenagers and kids. He noted that many women play game apps but would not necessarily identify themselves as a gamer. Kiip has also recently enabled the ability to segment its audience in real time as well as geo-targeting capabilities.

In America, advertisers such as Pepsi, Sony, P&G, Best Buy, American Apparel, and Carl’s Junior are already using Kiip.

However, Kiip got the advertising community to sit up and look at its network more closely when marketers realized how it’s not just about game-centric achievements.

A few months ago, Kiip together with OMD, ran a test partnership with Pepsi’s sports beverage brand Propel to target sporty consumers using the Mapmyrun fitness app.

Propel reward

Since then, the billion dollar question brands were asking was how to deliver the right reward to the right person at the right time – beyond games to other categories from entertainment, fitness, education to content consumption, Wong said.

Kiip’s pricing model is performance oriented. A brand can either buy through CPC or CPE (cost per engagement) with engagement rates on average between 35 to 40 percent.

The rewards network has a sales team based out of New York that works directly with major media agencies to get advertisers on board but its inventory is currently not accessible for companies with small budgets.

Wong explained he wants to open up its network to publishers initially by allowing game developers to sign up directly. The initiative launched two months ago saw “massive success” with 500 apps in the pipeline.

From the beginning, Wong did not want to create his own games. At 19, he was reportedly the youngest entrepreneur to raise early venture capital and received US$30,000 funding in August 2010 by leveraging existing popular games.

It was in April 2011 that he received a second round of funding – US$4 million working with 10 brands and 10 games that his startup began to scale as he was able to hire a sales team to build up the network and to work directly with game developers to boost traffic.

At 21 years old, the Chinese-Canadian founder and CEO of Kiip now has 30 employees working in San Francisco and New York.

Born to native Hong Kong parents, Kiip was conceptualized when Wong visited Hong Kong in 2010. He developed a travel bug after being made redundant in his first full-time job at Digg as a junior business development exec selling buttons to publishers at 18, which he shrugs off as “the best decision [he] never made.”

“I remembered watching people on their tablets and phones playing a sh*tload of games,” he said. Because of his marketing background in college, Wong quickly recognized this as a rapidly growing phenomena, which meant a lot of engaged eyeballs that would eventually lead to ad dollars.

While the industry was paying attention to this behavior, he said the methods in which advertising was manifesting itself were abysmal; essentially taking a 70 year old advertising channel – the billboard – and making it really, really tiny on the mobile phone.

Wong decided to look more closely at how the most popular content – games all had one thing in common – achievements. And came to realize it was the “moment” of achievement that caused the dopamine rush to one’s head, which is when a consumer is most engaged.

To boost confidence in the mobile advertising ecosystem, recently acquired with the goal to become the trusted rewards network for publishers and advertisers. Wong is positioning Kiip as a rewards mobile network that connects with consumers through proactive loyalty with the notion of reciprocity as key.

He is bullish about Asia as many countries leapfrog to smartphone adoption and a mobile first culture is not frowned upon in this part of the world.

With 30 million users monthly worldwide and over half of them in this region, Wong knows the huge potential here and is on the lookout for a retail or FMCG brand to launch its rewards network in Asia.

In Hong Kong and Singapore last week, Wong managed to squeeze his lunchtime slot to speak with in between meeting with agency execs to find out how ad budgets are distributed to mobile in the region.

In this video interview, Wong asserts why Kiip as a mobile rewards network is key to closer consumer engagement and his reasons for doing the Asia tour.

His final appeal to marketers here: “Mobile is not an option anymore, it’s a necessity.”

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