Whilst in Russia last week, I was lucky enough to be there when good friend Daniel Gusev launched a new bank initiative for OJSC Promsvyazbank (PSB).
PSB is a privately-owned universal commercial bank. Founded in 1995, PSB currently ranks 10th by assets among Russian banks and Daniel is innovation advisor to the Board.
The concept Daniel sold to the board was a simple one: to launch a tie-in to the Angry Birds app.
Angry Birds, as surely everyone knows by now, is the massively successful gaming app on smartphones. Just in case you don’t know how successful this game has been:
- it has been downloaded by smartphone users over ONE BILLION times since launch;
- it has made its developer, Rovio, $106.3 million in revenues in 2011 which is ten times more than 2010 revenues – that’s pretty impressive for a game that costs just $0.99¢ to download; and
- the latest version of the game — Angry Birds Space — was downloaded 50 million times in the first 35 days of release.
This popularity is something that a bank has just been waiting to leverage. The question is how:
- an Angry Bank Manager app?
- an Angry Birds drop guano on a bank branch game?
- or just a brand tie-in?
The latter is the approach PSB took.
Nothing new in that but the reason for blogging about it is that I, and he, could not believe the global coverage the app tie-in gathered.
It not only got a bit of local press – a small mention in the Moscow Times – but got a lot more coverage globally from news services as diverse as CBS News, Newsday, the Denver Post and the Jakarta Post.
It even got a nod halfway through this news item from CNET news:
Obviously, it is the app that is getting the news focus but, through the brand tie-in, PSB has become a name the world has registered.
As Daniel said to me, “we have launched some of the most innovative products for investment and commercial markets that no-one mentions, not even our local media. One mention of Angry Birds and the world knows about us.”
So I asked him how they came up with the idea in the first place.
Here’s what he said:
We launched a new retail strategy in 2011 that demands a solid effort into what products are offered and how they are offered.
To a large degree, this all is dependent on how the products are explained and what qualities they possess and through what channels they are offered.
It requires a good effort of design thinking as well as understanding on what milestones the bank is ready to take itself through.
That's where the bank's Innovation Hub came in handy – a skunk-works fund created in the Bank a year ago, that was tasked to lead the charge to innovation in retail.
The prime objective was to change perceptions of the public for the bank and Angry Card is just but one in a selection of projects run by the Hub.
To raise awareness and create momentum (perceived public success is as important for customers, as it is for employees), we seek highly viral platforms and Angry Birds being popular in Russia made the match.
Getting Rovio’s attention was a challenge in itself – as their growing reliance on licensing deals made them selective about industries they work with [Ed: about 30% of Rovio's $106.3 million 2011 revenues came from merchandising and licensing deals] – but we succeeded and just love the cooperation that is to be developed further with a handful of additional initiatives.
The card we've designed reflect both the usual image of birds and pigs, and the Russian flavoured setup creates an instant collectible status.
For now cards are plain debit, with RUB 299 first-year fee (approx. $12) and RUB 499 ($19) after that, and it comes with perks such up to 15% discount on Angry Birds merchandise sold through Rovio's Russian based shops.
Within the two days after announcing the card we have received more than 10,000 retweets on Twitter all over the world and several thousand shares on Facebook, all pointing to a clever strategy we have taken with social.
1) look for platform products that easily carry the virus of positive emotion to all groups; and
2) experiment with having a fan club ready through your social media, so that they can carry and amplify the virus
Oh, and just in case you did not see it, here is the press release in its full glory:
A credit card issued by Russia's Promsvyazbank shows Angry Birds characters, in Moscow
MOSCOW – (AP) — Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Russia’s Promsvyazbank has become the first lender to offer their clients credit cards branded with Angry Birds characters. The sign in the top says Promsvyazbank.
Russian fans of the videogame Angry Birds will soon be able to get special debit cards — or "Angry Cards" — giving them discounts on the game's products.
Moscow-based Promsvyazbank said Tuesday it will start issuing the new MasterCards on June 4. They will be printed with images of the various characters and will give users a 10 percent discount on all Angry Birds-branded products.
Besides debit cards, the bank will also issue Angry Bird cash cards, which users top up with money. The bank will pay a 4 percent annual interest rate on the card's balance.
The maker of Angry Birds, Rovio Entertainment, has already launched toys and baby clothes lines featuring Angry Birds characters. But the Russian debit card is going to be the first Angry Birds branded financial product. The videogame has been downloaded more than 10 million times in Russia.
Ivan Pyatkov, director for retail sales and technology at Promsvyazbank, told the Associated Press that the bank is planning an initial printing of 50,000 cards but hopes to issue twice as much by the end of the year.
The bank expects the card to help attract urbanites between 25 and 35 years of age with a monthly income of at least $1,000.
Pyatkov said the bank is receiving a large number of requests for Angry Birds cards following early reports in the Russian press.
"Some clients are demanding their Angry Birds cards right now — before the official launch," Pyatkov said.
Promsvyazbank will be launching the card in partnership with Internet Retail Solutions, Rovio's agent in Russia.
Promsvyazbank, ranked as Russia's 11th largest by the Interfax research center, is 74 percent-owned by two Russian tycoons, the Ananyev brothers. Commerzbank holds 14 percent in the lender via a subsidiary while the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has a 12 percent stake.
The first cards are distributed this week.