In a little over two years of existence, the smartphone game Angry Birds is now a household name. A lesson in horizontal brand extension, Rovio “Mighty Eagle” Peter Vesterbacka wore an Angry Birds sweater and carried around a bouquet of Angry Birds mylar ballons, on not just one, but all days of the TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing conference.
He is in China because the sprawling country is Rovio’s second biggest and fastest growing market, and Vesterbacka is attacking it full force; opening an office in Shanghai and Angry Birds retail stores in the country shortly. The game itself has had over 50 million downloads in China, and Vesterbacka hopes to hit 100 million by the end of the year. “We want to be the leading Chinese entertainment brand,” he says.
Vesterbacka describes Angry Birds as the “most copied” brand in China and plans on dealing with the piracy by making better copies than the pirates; “It would be even worse if nobody copied us, because it would me that nobody cares about the brand.”
Vesterbacka has extended that brand to stuffed animals, cookbooks and even a movie! “If you have a popular loved brand it will take physical form, ” he explains, “In our case books are happening as well. We’re doing animation … we’re making movies.”
Not surprisingly, Vesterbacka views Walt Disney as a role model, ” If Walt Disney was alive today, he would be making games for the iPhone … We’re just using the tools of the trade [available] today to build a brand. Back in the day you had animation and you had black and white cartoons.” Nowadays you have iOS.
So is Vesterbacka too ambitious? “Mickey Mouse is a tiny little mouse but a huge pop culture icon.” Enough said.