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Zippo launches in-app virtual goods store

The Virtual Zippo Lighter application for the iPhone and iPod touch is offering users in-application purchasing of premium licensed skins in more than 72 countries worldwide.

Developed by skyrockit, Virtual Zippo Lighter has surpassed 10 million downloads during its year and half in the App Store. Initial skins available for download at $0.99 each include Bob Marley, Harley Davidson, Vans, The Who, Ozzy Ozbourne, Def Leopard, Kiss, Rihanna and Playboy.

“The strategy comes from listening to the fans,” said Jon Vlassopulos, CEO of skyrockit, San Francisco. “The app is already one of the most rated apps in the App Store, and a frequent request is more personalization options.

“One of the great things about Zippo’s physical lighter strategy is customization and badging,” he said. “Now they’re taking that same badging practice to the digital counterpart, with a range of amazing brands.

“We’ve developed an in-app store for purchasing skins, so users don’t even need to leave the app.”

Based in Bradford, PA, Zippo Manufacturing Co. manufactures an average of 10 million windproof pocket lighters each year, and 450 million since the first lighter was created in 1932.

Bellrock Media Co.’s skyrockit, formerly Moderati, is a mobile entertainment agency connecting brands with consumers via their handsets.

Monetizing a branded app
The Virtual Zippo Lighter has remained in the Top 10 Free Lifestyle applications ever since its launch in the App Store.

The Virtual Zippo Lighter, which brings the look and feel of Zippo’s iconic lighter to the iPhone, ranks in the Top 20 iPhone applications of all time, according to comScore. It opens with a flick of the wrist and lights with a turn of the flint wheel and the windproof flame sways as the device is moved back and forth.

New features include additional free lighter skins, improved animation, a lid-lock option to ensure continuous ignition and a Date My Zippo function to interpret unique date codes on Zippo lighters.

However, by far the most significant new feature is the in-application purchasing of premium skins, which will impact Zippo’s bottom line immediately.

The virtual store was part of Zippo’s roadmap all along: first building a global fanbase with the free lighter, and now creating a way to monetize that base through sales of virtual goods.

“We’re looking to help Zippo leverage mobile beyond apps, including SMS, so they can derive more value from their core sponsorships of concerts, etcetera,” Mr. Vlassopulos said. “Imagine being at a concert, seeing the overlay text on a screen ‘text now to get the app’ or ‘text now to get a chance to meet the band.’

“It also in turn helps them build their mobile database,” he said. “There’ a huge opportunity for virtual goods—we’ll continue listening to the community and looking at other benchmarks in the industry.

“Virtual goods are one of the hottest areas worldwide, and we’re sure there will be more virtual goods in Zippo’s future.”