The other night I came home to fast food boxes scattered across our kitchen table. Each was festooned with the image of a red, feathered face that I’d frequently seen on my iPhone and our children’s tablet. And the Xbox… And the laptop. On Television. T-shirts. I had seen it on graham crackers, for Pete’s sake. And now?
Now, Angry Birds had come to Happy Meals.
Yes, parent company Rovio is ratcheting up its Angry Birds marketing machine once again in anticipation of the May 20 release of “The Angry Birds Movie,” distributed by Sony and featuring an all-star cast of voices.
Despite some recent rough patches – last year, Rovio relinquished a CEO and endured a series of layoffs and nearly $15-million in operating losses – the juggernaut that tallied more than 3 billion downloads since 2009 seems poised to soar once again. And if you look close enough, the company’s latest marketing push strangely parallels the simplistic gameplay of their flagship title (just go with me on this one):
- Aim high. Just like launching a beaked projectile at a teetering tower of pig villainy, it’s important always to shoot for the stars. “Angry Birds Action,” a pinball-inspired smash-up released on April 28 to drum up anticipation for the feature film, may be one of Rovio’s most ambitious sequels yet. Available for iOS and Android devices, the app/game hybrid works in tandem with a series of QR-like BirdCodes, which when scanned unlock any number of “augmented reality” experiences, ranging from mini-games to power-ups to virtual photo ops with the movie’s main characters. Through vigilant merchandising, more than one billion BirdCodes will be found on PEZ candy, H&M clothing, LEGO, and, of course, Happy Meals. The catch? If you want to enjoy all of the special content, you’ll need to purchase the related products. These birds have always been known for using their heads, but that’s plain genius.
- Volley for dominance. Anyone who’s ever played Angry Birds for sixteen hours straight knows that winning requires the use of every single bird in your arsenal. Seven years ago, Rovio was on the brink of bankruptcy. But after their addictive opus hit big, they seized the opportunity for licensing deals that landed their high-flying heroes on everything from plush toys to bedroom slippers. This veritable onslaught of birds was unavoidable, and would ultimately lead to lucrative crossovers with pop-culture titans like Transformers and Star Wars, winning countless additional converts.
- When all else fails – bend the rules. Like the Mighty Eagle that lays waste to frustration and allows you to skip ahead in the game, sometimes you just have to sidestep societal norms and get wacky. This weekend, users activating the “Action!” app during “The Angry Birds Movie” end credits will be able to participate in a real-time interactive experience as they watch. An inaudible digital watermark embedded in the sequence makes it all possible. It’s an unprecedented technological feat, but it’s so much more than that. When no one was minding the store, the Angry Birds marketing machine gave society at large the greenlight to use our phones in a movie theater. That sort of gives the bird, so to speak, to corporate, theater management, the cutesy commercial that warns us against that sort of thing prior to the trailers, and that guy sitting behind you.
- No matter how high you fly, strive to stay grounded. Critics will undoubtedly say that the company is putting all of its eggs in one basket with this latest launch for big screen glory. But Angry Birds’ lasting appeal has always been that it’s a game that is easy to pick up, but almost impossible to put down. Assuming they don’t stray too far from that model, these Angry Birds should enjoy many happy returns.
In short, stay true to yourself and the sky’s the limit.
- Nathan Oravec, copywriter