Rovio CMO: “We're Only Just Getting Started”

Alex Spencer

Rovio's Peter VesterbackaWhen Rovio CMO and 'Mighty Eagle' Peter Vesterbacka told people back in 2010 that he thought Angry Birds could hit 100m downloads, “everyone thought it was insane”.

At that point, Tetris was the only mobile game that had broken the 100m milestone – a game that was building on decades of success, and which ran on both feature phones and smart devices.

“But today, 100m for a mobile game is no big deal,” said Vesterbacka, speaking today at the PG Connects event in London.

In the years since, Rovio's Angry Birds games have totalled over 2bn downloads, with 263m monthly active users – a bigger userbase than Twitter – but according to Vesterbacka, “we're only just getting started”.

“100 years, not 100 days”
Perhaps the most notable thing about Vesterbacka's keynote was the kind of companies he identified as Rovio's rivals and peers: not other app developers and publishers, but the likes of Disney and even Coca-Cola.

Leveraging its recognisable characters – Vesterbacka said its research has found that around 90 per cent of people in both the US and China are aware of the Angry Birds brand – the company is increasingly positioning itself outside of the app ecosystem.

We reported last year on Rovio's range of merchandise, which accounted for 45 per cent of its revenues in 2012 and, according to Vesterbacka, it's now one of the world's top 10 licensing brands.

While the growth of mobile users in emerging markets could add “a few billion more” onto its download total, Vesterbacka said, it's the wider franchise which will carry the company beyond that.

“We're building for the next 100 years,” he said, “not the next 100 days.”

Disney, Coke... Rovio?
Coca-Cola might seem like a strange comparison for an app publisher, but Rovio does sell Angry Birds-themed soft drinks, which are “giving Coke a good run for its money in some markets,” according to Vesterbacka. Most of all, though, it's Coca-Cola's global marketing strategy which he seems to have his eye on – only natural for the CMO of an emerging brand.

The comparison with Disney is much more obvious. The company, which consistently tops the aforementioned licensor lists, built its empire off the back of a single Mickey Mouse cartoon in 1928.

Today, cartoons are just one small part of Disney's offering, which ranges from toys to theme parks, as well as its own, very successful gaming apps. With Rovio already establishing its own theme parks, it's clearly a trajectory it would like to emulate.

“There's no reason you can't build a massive brand, starting with a little game,” Vesterbacka said. “We're off to a good start.”