The Breakfast of Champions is the well known slogan of Wheaties, or a Kurt Vonnegut novel, depending on the circles you swing in. Brand Thunder is laying its claim as “the Maker of Champions.” It’s an easy claim when you create your own moniker, and sounds better than reality – “the official new media, affinity marketing tool of the team that wins out.”
Last year, the Stanley Cup Finals pitted the toolbar offering Detroit Redwings with the browser theme supporting Pittsburgh Penguins — and the Penguins prevailed. One W for the browser theme contingent. This year, the technology drama has been left behind as both teams, the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers, are Brand Thunder clients and their fans are avid users of each team’s interactive browser theme. For two consecutive years, Brand Thunder will be a proud partner of the Stanley Cup Champions.
Sure, you can point and say, “well, you’ve not won it all in every sport.” True, but I like our odds. Just look at the past year in sports. One hundred percent of our clients from BCS schools wound up in a BCS Bowl Game (things are looking up for the Duke football team this season!). Brand Thunder clients made it to the NBA finals last year (Orlando Magic) and are contending again this year (Magic and Phoenix Suns). The Superbowl featured a Brand Thunder client (Indianapolis Colts) and the Major League Soccer Champions (Real Salt Lake) are clients as well.
I love pointing out how well our clients are doing. I think it’s great that we’re in such good company. Do I think there’s truth to the claim a Brand Thunder browser theme can make a sports team perform better? To borrow from Bull Durham: “A player on a streak has to respect the streak. If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you are!”
Help us respect the streak. If you want to see how Brand Thunder and an interactive browser theme can keep you at the top of your game, give us a shout.
I’m sure most of us with affinity marketing products look at the fantastic brands, the audience they’ve created and see the power in that connection. And I’m not going to dispute that connection, but intend to elaborate on it.
So much of business is metrics driven. You want to have the necessary reporting in place to run your business, make your daily decisions and adjust your product based on that key data. You’ll find good discussions on key businss metrics from Fred Wilson on Business Insider.
You’ll also have access to more data that may not be necessary on a daily basis, but is useful for a regular high-level look at your business. This gives you the benefit of looking at longer-term trends and correlations across product lines. As an example, I’ve talked about our core product leveraging brand affinity, and in my last post talked about the value of our product extension into topical themes. It’s been interesting looking at the data that compares those versions of our interactive browser themes.
I’ve heard that for the NFL credit cards where football fans can get a card with their favorite team emblazoned on the credit card – in the top 5 of all cards is the straight NFL card (and I think it’s actually in the top 3, but can’t find this data referenced anywhere). That means of the 32 teams in the NFL, the NFL credit card does better than at least 85% of the teams. I would have bet, and lost, that most fans would tend toward their favorite team over the general category of “football.” Instead, the odds are in favor of people choosing the general “NFL” as their preferred logo for their credit card.
We’ve witnessed similar phenomenon with our own product. The success of our more general Football, Baseball or Basketball themes are in line with our most successful sports teams. There are interesting differences, though. Adoption is faster with the teams, but more stable with the category. Stable means we’ll keep a larger percentage of the topical-theme users in the off-season and that base gets built upon with the coming of a new season. I don’t know if that implies fans of the support are more loyal. It could imply that people who align with the team will find their “new” team for the current in-season sport. It does mean that we need a mix of offerings if we want to balance the seasonality effect of our sports team browser themes.
That’s good data to have and one that comes with continuing to review and analyze the data. It’s also helpful because as we look at the product we produce, we can create a product line up that creates steady growth, and lessens volatility.
Are there unique affinity marketing insights you have? Are there business metrics that have shaped your business overtime? We look forward to hearing.
To get to the point about product extension, I have to set the groundwork, so bear with me a moment. Brand Thunder’s core business is helping brands talk to their online consumer through our interactive browser themes. It’s an affinity marketing tool where we leverage the powerful connection an audience has to a particular brand.
That connection was vital in helping us solve part of the distribution puzzle. Most online businesses need to drive an audience to your product. If you require the download and installation of software like we do, that’s an additional hurdle. Affinity to a brand can help overcome that.
For any business looking to grow, it considers natural extension to its product lines and for us that direction was to look beyond the brand affinity and see what else fit.
When to Extend
The idea originated when we were analyzing user adoption and the sales cycle. We were seeing great market response from end users with each product launch bringing a spike of new users. There was also great response from our business development efforts as well, but getting an executed agreement always seemed to take longer than a young company would like. Those two were the pain points we were trying to eliminate – shorten the time to market for new releases.
Solving for X
Brand affinity helped build our business, but affinity isn’t related to brands. Since our early success was with sports teams, it made sense to look to more broad offerings in the same category. Naturally, we went for the general fans of baseball, football and basketball. Then we branched into holidays. What both categories did was provide us with themes that had strong following plus a high rate of search and discovery. We knew these topic would be sought out and balance the distribution we were losing from not having a supporting brand.
This decision to create a product extension has been a good one for us, and we continue to build out the offering to this date. This week we just released the Pro Wrestling theme, Golf theme and the recently released Movie Premiere theme. All combine the solid visual elements of our product with the interactive components that keep them engaging over the long term. They are also evergreen in their popularity with their audiences, which gives each a great deal of promise.
These topical themes have been a big win for us. What product extensions have worked for you?
The growth chart is text book. Brand Thunder’s doubling its size in half the time. It took us 18 months to reach the 500,000 download mark. Nine months later, we reached the million download mark. Four and a half months after that, we’re over two million downloads. Nice momentum.
It’s easy to see the caliber of brand that we’re fortunate enough to work with, our client list is full of great names from around the globe. Leveraging the power of the brand and their consumer touch points is common practice for affinity products. We try to bring a little more.
The web has splintered audiences. Think about how a sports fan may follow their favorite team. A fan may go to the team’s site, or they may go to a leading sports site, or they may participate in a blog or community focused on a team or sport. Limiting distribution through team channels limits the reach of the product. (As an aside, if you really want to learn about how teams can keep up with their fans, follow Sports Networker.)
Brand Thunder leverages distribution opportunities beyond the client site. We interact with communities where fans are gathering (always in a respectful way). We go through download sites where users are already looking for ways to personalize their experience. We look for other means to message the availability of the browser theme and get it to fans. We’ve seen a material benefit to our partners with this approach.
We love our client list and helping our clients connect with their fans is our biggest priority. But that’s not are only product. We also build interactive browser themes for the generalist or people that like stuff not represented by our client list. In the world of affinity credit cards, the NFL card is in the top 3 (don’t quote me on the exact number). Data accuracy aside, the illustration holds – most fans choose the NFL over their favorite team.
That’s why we have a Basketball theme, in addition to the NBA teams we work with like the Cavaliers, Magic, Sixers and Suns.
These product extensions help us reach the broader audience and grow our business. We continue to look for ways to meet the end user where they are and where their interests lie. We’ll continue to strive for that while we work our way toward the four million download mark.
Close to a year ago Brand Thunder launched its first holiday experience for the browser. For a business focused on the personalization of the Internet browser, it would have been an unfortunate oversight.
Christmas kicked off what’s been a full year of capturing the major holidays in our Booms! and they’ve been exceptionally popular. If you’ve not seen the Thanksgiving Boom!, check out our Gallery and click the Holiday link. It’s festive and fun, and it’ll be a nice placeholder until you download our upcoming Christmas Boom!.
From a business growth standpoint, Christmas provided a whole new avenue to explore outside of our focus on branded browsers. Great brands have solid followings and a lot of affinity marketing products are built on those relationships. But if you’re that business in the middle providing a service to the brand and to their end user, it makes sense for you to look at other outlets for your creativity and potential markets that are under served.
Our holiday efforts got our custom browser experiences into a lot of new hands. It’s been an effective and simple method to expand our product and help our business. So, in a few weeks, I know one additional thing I’ll be thankful for.