I’m no Angry Bird, just bemused by this web phenomenon

MaryLou Costa is a key member of the Marketing Week features team and her blog brings her unique Australian perspective to brands. She also oversees the Market Research Focus weekly bulletin.

I seriously questioned where my relationship was heading when my boyfriend of four years recently pulled out his iPhone while waiting for our restaurant bill one night to have a quick game of his latest addiction, Angry Birds.

My initial disgust turned into disbelief when I realised the exponential expansion of these little cartoon birds and their porcine friends. When I overheard two serious looking men in suits on the Tube discussing tips for how to complete the infuriating levels in the game. When I met an ad agency exec who confessed to playing it in bed before going to sleep. When it even scored a reference on the TV show Glee.

When it began to infiltrate stores in the form of fluffy merchandise, YouTube in the form of spoof videos, events like Halloween and Valentines day as special edition downloads; and even, as rumoured on the web, in cinemas as Angry Birds – the Movie (perhaps Danny De Vito could reprise his Penguin days?).

The list of Angry Birds incarnations goes on and on, and will continue to, if the fact that parent company Rovio has managed to raise £26 million in investment is anything to go by. Marketing Week reported in March that Rovio CEO Mikael Hed said the company planned to continue building its “franchises in gaming, merchandising and broadcast media”.

So that means we can expect to see more of these round red things, and I’ll be interested to see how they evolve the offering to keep it fresh and keep us (well most of us) interested in what is essentially a two-dimensional and repetitive affair.

Angry Birds
Angry Birds

But arguably these are the two elements that got people addicted in the first place, and has made it the Pacman/Tetris/Bejewelled of this era. I would stake a claim on the fact that Angry Birds’ popularity and scale eclipses these three phenomena combined, with the biggest single defining factor being that it is a native of the age of social media, apps and smartphones, enabling it to spread like the proverbial wildfire.

But while many have been sucked in by the novelty of Angry Birds, our short attention spans will be demanding more than just the next level or piece of branded paraphernalia.

New partnerships are clearly on the horizon, whether its Angry Birds on the Nintendo Wii platform or partnerships with FMCG or fast food brands in the form of giveaways. But the ones that will stop us from shielding our eyes from the sight of sky rocketing birds being thrown at gullible grinning pigs will be the ones that turn the game on its head in a fun, unexpected way.

Lady Gaga’s collaboration with the Facebook gaming favourite FarmVille is a great example of gaming reinventing itself for engagement marketing purposes that capitalises on the viral nature of social gaming.

FarmVille creator Zynga has created GagaVille, which will showcase icons from Lady Gaga’s new album Born This Way, such as crystals, unicorns and motorcycles. From May 17th to 19th, players will be able to complete tasks to be rewarded with a new unreleased song per day.

I’m sure the entrepeneurial minds in marketing have got some tricks up their sleeves to come up with some genius Angry Birds collaborations. Part of me hopes not, as it will give my boyfriend even more reasons to bring his iPhone to the dinner table.


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