When Finland’s Jongla re-booted to offer a multi platform mobile messaging app for modern-day smartphones, I questioned how it was going to distinguish itself in such a crowded market. In part, the plan was to focus on a very youth-oriented positioning of its app, with an emphasis on cartoon-y virtual stickers from the get-go. Another was to go far and wide in terms of device support, with the app now available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Firefox OS, the latter a sign Jongla has one eye on emerging markets. But sceptical, I remained.
Today, the company is rolling out its new ‘Channels’ feature that enables brands and celebrities to use the app as a way to ‘engage’ with customers and fans, by offering content and special offers to those that join the channel. Yes, folks, on the surface at least, it’s a me-too feature we’re already familiar with in other mobile messaging apps like BBM, Line, KaikaoTalk, and so on. And, of course, it’s yet another attempt at monetisation through ‘engagement marketing’. However, as derivative as the feature appears, it’s a sure sign Jongla feels it now has enough traction to get the interest of major brands. Microsoft is one of the first companies to have signed on.
The ‘Channels’ feature includes a web-based dashboard where brands can set up their channel and customise the look and feel. This includes adding a bio, cover image, avatar and homepage link. From there on in, they can set up auto-replies and welcome messages to new fans, as well as start engaging with existing ones through sending messages, images, ‘stickers’ and YouTube videos. The usual social media marketing affair.
In addition, brands can target users by country, platform or language, and set up timed messages to broadcast to all fans. There’s also — crucially — analytics of sorts to enable brands to get insights into their Jongla communities.
Meanwhile, Jongla tells me it’s seen 1 million downloads so far — that’s downloads, not active monthly unique users — and the most traction is in Asia, which accounts for 60 percent of its users. Most recently it’s growing 104 percent month on month, so I’d chalk this up as early days still.
To that end, the company is backed by Oy Ingman Finance, and private angel investors, and has raised a cool €3.9 million (circa $5.2m) to date.