I can see my house from here

On Friday last week, our friends at ustwo™ launched their latest in-house app – Whale Trail. By the afternoon, their casual gaming app was trending on Twitter UK, and over the weekend leapt into the App Store “Top Paid” chart ahead of Cut the Rope and Angry Birds Rio. Yesterday, The Guardian reported that Whale Trail, priced at 69p, had hit almost 40,000 downloads from the App Store in four days.

As well as taking a personal interest in the success of ustwo™‘s apps (we’ve worked with them on numerous projects), the teams here have also taken a professional interest in how best to create, launch and market a fully digital product and its brand. In our San Francisco studio, especially, we are talking every day with newly formed start-ups looking to build awareness of their technology through creativity and storytelling.

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In an internal correspondence about Whale Trail last night, The Creative Director of our Tokyo Studio (and ex-Apple Creative Director), Aki Shelton, commented on how “marketing, buzz and Apple power reflect to the App sales”. So, I’d like to take a moment and break those three elements down and look at them more closely.

Mills – co-founder and self-proclaimed Chief Wonka – is a notorious self-publicist. In the past year or so, Mills has cultivated a unique public persona and steadily grown his reputation and sphere of influence online. Through public speaking events, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, Mills has successfully positioned himself as one of the most distinct voices on apps and app development on Silicon Roundabout. As Whale Trail entered into the final stages of development, Mills turned to his loyal audience and leveraged them to beta test, feedback on and ultimately promote Whale Trail. Deciding against the ability to tweet directly from the app, Mills put his trust in the fun and beauty of the game when he relinquished control of the conversations taking place online about his product. And it paid off.

Analysing and understanding “buzz” is something we at Moving Brands have been focusing on recently as part of one of our own self-initiated projects. Without giving anything away yet, we’ve crunched Whale Trail’s numbers on our in-development non-static, sentiment sentient, iPhone 4S compatible platform (ahem). And we’ve found some interesting insights. Unsurprisingly, both @ustwo and @millsutwo saw a significant rise in Twitter followers this past week, with 44 tweets winning them 1,511 mentions across the network. 77% of their tweets were re-tweeted, indicating that their loyal followers were engaging with the content and doing their job properly. Leading keywords associated with Whale Trail include “game”, “app”, and “love” – proving that the message of the brand was clear and that people were responding positively. Interestingly, “trending” also appears on the most used keywords list, suggesting that Twitter felt pleased to have got Whale Trail trending. The data set showing ustwo’s biggest success is in the links most associated with Whale Trail; the link to the App Store coming out on top, and showing that the goal of the campaign did not get lost in the chatter.

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Apple power
Having first got past the hurdle of App Store sign off – a process that make Shoreditch House membership look like a free for all – the next is getting noticed. Our Twitter follower @andrewdotcom tweeted us to say “it’s a well known problem that the app store is totally broken in terms of app discovery”, and this is true. Unless an app gets promoted into the Featured section, or earns its place on the Top 25, there are few ways to win eye balls within the App Store. Having worked closely on the launch of other app brands Showyou and Ness, we know only too well how important a big splash across the tech press and social media is in the first few days of an app’s life. And, as with missing children and strokes, the first 24 hours are the most critical. After that it’s down to user-to-user word-of-mouth.

This is by no means an in-depth look at what I only assume went on at The Studio of Dreams this past week, but it’s still fascinating to observe another app launch into our crazy, fast moving world. Good luck Willow!