The Bugg Report had the chance to speak to Jeffrey Conrad from Peeko about all things Animal Jam recently. A game which was introduced in 2010 has now grown to over 75 million users from all around the world and has now moved into licensing. We spoke to Jeffrey about many topics including the game’s growth, advertising, licensing and what the future holds accross many global markets.
As an introduction Jeffrey, can you tell us about the origins of Animal Jam and how it has grown to become what it is today in terms of registered users? I believe that the community element has been one of the reasons for the game’s success so far?
Animal Jam started back in 2010 and has grown to well over 75 million users worldwide. We bring in one to two million users every month, and that growth has been consistent and steady. It’s a place where kids can chat with friends, decorate their dens, play games and trade items they’ve acquired. The social environment allows kids to express themselves in a number of different ways and explore their own creativity. It’s also a place their caregivers can trust as we provide information about animals and their environments.
In Australia, WildWorks TV advertises the game as well as running digital advertising, which is very positive in terms of building the brand. What have been some of the key brand-building platforms for the game, not only in Australia, but globally to-date?
Our advertising strategy has evolved along with our audience’s media consumption. In the past our digital campaigns centered around Flash game portals. They now include a wide range of good, relevant content via gaming network partners like Ad2Games. We use a similar approach on mobile, advertising in games and apps that overlap with our audience. TV continues to be an effective medium to build the Animal Jam brand and to grow our global audience. We’ve run TV campaigns in Europe, Latin America and the US in addition to Australia.
Speaking of the game itself; what does the future hold for developments to gameplay and characters?
Growing slow and steady is what the Animal Jam team is working to do. In the coming year, we will be releasing updates to allow for more seamless play on both our web and mobile platforms. This will mean that when a Jammer buys a membership to one platform they gain access to membership on the other platform as well. We’re also working on an in-game narrative for the next two years that will include some exciting surprises. Animal Jam is different than most entertainment brands in that it is a living breathing production. This allows us to react to trends and current events and respond very topically to what kids are doing. Additionally, look for some developments with episodic entertainment that will play-out an even greater mythology to the world.
On the back of the success that Animal Jam has experienced, how did licensing become a natural progression to build on the Animal Jam brand?
The founders’ core focus was always creating an amazing virtual world for their players and not worrying too much about the real world space. They understood the need for their players to expand the Animal Jam universe into consumer products, but, if that was going to happen, they wanted the two worlds to connect. We accomplished this through unique codes that are included within the consumer product. The codes offer either in-game currency or a new unique in-game item that can only be had by purchasing the consumer goods. By example, if you were to purchase a pair of PJs, you input the code and now your animal avatar is wearing the same PJs. We’ve supplied our licensing partners with over thirty million codes to date, with a redemption rate of 25% (industry average is 2-3%) When our players can get real world products, they go crazy for them and support them in a big way.
From a licensing portfolio angle, can you provide a birds-eye view of the current Animal Jam licensing partners and the types of consumer products that are available and where?
We focused on the top 2 markets for the online game itself, the US and UK. This is where we found the most engaged users and believed the greatest success would be achieved. We were very careful to choose partners that we believed would build with us and treat the brand like their own. That really started with our amazing master toy partner, Jazwares. Many toycos showed interest in licensing the brand, and Jazwares had the passion, drive and key talent to make the program work. They very quickly developed a beautiful collectible line and secured major retail placement. From there, we looked for additional core partners in publishing, apparel, craft/activity, bedding and accessories. We are now very excited to have over 50 committed and enthusiastic licensing partners on board.
Are you able to provide an overall preview of what we can expect from Animal Jam in the future?
We continue to build our user base, which is the most important part of executing on our consumer products program. If our players are spending time in game, we’ve seen that they continue that engagement with our products. We spend a ton of time building-out the world and making sure it’s an amazing experience for our players. There will be even more focus connecting the real world with the in-game experience. As animals and the environment are a core part of our online world, we’re looking to mirror events and happenings from our natural world. We’ll be extending that experience with limited edition products available both online and at retail.