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Walmart bridges mobile, in-store divide with new Angry Birds marketing effort

Walmart is teaming up with mobile game phenomenon Angry Birds for an integrated marketing strategy that encourages in-store shoppers and the retailer’s Facebook fans to search for clues that unlock bonus levels in the new Angry Birds Space game.

The clues appear on a variety of Angry Birds licensed merchandise in Walmart stores, in effect making the items interactive as shoppers are encouraged to take the information and use it on their mobile devices to unlock game levels. The initiative appears to be unprecedented in the sense of a major retailer such as Walmart working up a marketing strategy with a mobile-first brand such as Angry Birds.

“It is a step towards bridging this digital to physical divide via mobile that I think is important and could be a milestone for the industry,” said Stephen Burke, vice president of the mobile practice at Resource Interactive, Columbus, OH.

“It is a brilliant merchandising initiative on the part of Angry Birds,” he said. “Whether it brings more customers in to Walmart or gets them to engage in more aisles for what is essentially a treasure hunt will be interesting to monitor.

“Basically, what they are doing is gamifying the physical retail experience.”

Walmart did not respond to a request for comment.

Angry Birds boost
Starting March 25, shoppers at over 3,000 Walmart stores in the United States can search for “Golden Eggsteroid” clues on Angry Birds Space-themed merchandise, including apparel, mobile phones, plush toys, snacks and more. The clues, which may be hidden on price tags, snack boxes and in the design of a T-shirt, unlock four bonus levels in the game.

Walmart’s over 13 million Facebook fans had the first chance to look for a clue on the retailer’s Facebook page beginning on March 21.
Angry Birds Space, which was released on March 22, is the latest installment in the Angry Birds franchise. Angry Birds was first introduced in 2009 and has had over 500 million downloads.

The Angry Birds brand is unique among mobile-first brands in that it has been able to leverage its significant mobile success in other channels via a large licensing program and entertainment tie-ins.

While the Walmart tie-in is likely to give the Angry Birds brand a boost by making it visible throughout the retailer’s many locations around the country, Walmart’s goals do not appear to extend beyond adding some fun to the shopping experience.

Mr. Burke says the strategy may be a precursor to Walmart and other retailers looking at mobile brands as a way to drive traffic, engagement and value for their customers.

For example, a mass market retailer could bring in licensed merchandise for a mobile game and offer promotions such as a percentage off the next in-store purchase for a player who reaches a certain level of a game using the in-store clues. Such a strategy could help retailers drive repeat in-store traffic.

“This brings them to the store and drives a value proposition that is broader,” Mr. Burke said.

Content connection
The Walmart, Angry Birds initiative is similar to what Starbucks has done by offering exclusive content to customers.

“Starbucks looked at their stores as engagement platforms for other people’s content and services,” Mr. Burke said. “On the one hand, you have the virtualization of the store and, on the other, you have a need to bring people into the establishment.

“What Walmart is doing with Angry Birds is an interesting test of that,” he said.

Walmart’s Angry Birds initiative also includes a promotion from T-Mobile giving customers who purchase a T-Mobile Android smarpthone and a data plan access to an Angry Birds Space portal in the T-Mobile Mall. Here, customers can download the game, find a hint to unlock a new level and download Angry Birds wallpaper and other content.

The Walmart, Angry Birds marketing strategy also suggests other content marketers may want to consider mobile as a jumping off point for their promotional activity.

“There are a lot of great content licensors out there who may look at this and say, how can we use mobile devices and engagement as the starting point for deepening engagement with our brand and characters,” Mr. Burke said.