iPhone Apps are becoming a very popular form of
brand utilities. Your brand in the hand of all those
iPhone users, that’s the ultimate dream of many
The first step is to have a good concept and have it
Before you submit it to the App Store, sit down and
think about how you will launch it. In this
presentation we present the case study of Merchant,
a top 10 App launched in March 2010.
We start with a short introduction of Merchant. We
then explain how we launched Merchant in different
markets and what we learned from it. We end with
Merchant is the first “location based multiplayer game”
for the iPhone.
Merchant takes players back in time to the Middle Ages.
You first step as a Merchant is to choose which Guild
you want to join. Then you can start to trade, produce,
steal and set off on a journey of discovery.
Your location in real life determines in each of these
cases what will happen and what your options are.
As a Merchant you can found settlements on locations
you visit often. On those settlements you produce
goods. You build a lumberjack cabin, a saw mill, a
stone quarry or a pigs sty, depending on the
suitability of the location.
To determine what is the best place to settle, you look
at the Merchant map. It’s a transparent layer that’s
spread out over the Google map.
You can see that there is an extinct Volcano on the
location of your office – an excellent location to dig
for iron ore.
Your iPhone is your caravan. When you are on the
location of your settlement in real life you can transfer
the goods to your caravan, and take them to other
settlements or sell them on the market.
Your caravan consists of different units. You start with
just a donkey and a cart to transport your goods, but
as you get richer you will buy new units like gold
diggers, thieves, saboteurs and spies who will help
you with their special abilities.
Counties and the market
The world is divided in different counties each with
their own specific terrain. They can be mountaineous
and rugged, or dry and arid or cold. The terrain
determines which crops will grow in a county.
In each county there is a market where the players in
that county offer the commodities for sales and
request commodities they need. You will find that in
each county the prices are different.
So when you travel in real live you check out the
markets in Merchant and you look for bargains. You
buy helmets in Malmö and sell them in Lund and on
your way back to Malmö you bring home chickpeas a
specialty of Lund.
The social dimension
In Merchant the social dimension is an important
aspect of the game. So you can connect with your
Facebook Account and befriend your Facebook
contacts who also play Merchant.
On the website www.merchantthegame.com you can
see exactly what your friends are up to and where
they’ve built their settlements.
And you can post your achievements and the titles
you have earned on your wall.
A free game with In App purchases
Merchant is a free game, but there is a business
In the application certain units can be bought for real
money through an in App purchases.
On March 29, we launched Merchant in 5 markets
that have about the same characteristics when it
comes to iPhone use and market penetration.
We went for two Scandinavian countries and two
Benelux countries. All relative small markets with high
wireless internet penetration, good English language
skills and a widespread love of the iPhone.
Our launch strategy in each of these countries was
Sweden just advertising
The Netherlands PR, then advertising
Belgium Just PR
Moreover, we tried different advertising options:
Google for mobile devices, Admob and Facebook.
Through this method we were able to see what really
Doing nothing is not an option
Just being in the App Store is not an option.
Sure, you show up in the “What’s new” list for your 15
minutes of fame but in a mid sized European market
it gets you just a handful of downloads. Not enough
to get the buzz out even if you have a great app (like
We have tested a few advertising possibilities. The
bottom line is: ads work.
With both AdMob and Google Adwords you can show
your ads on iPhones and that’s exactly where you
want to be. Pay per click rates differ from market to
market but are between 5 and 10 eurocents.
In our view AdMob offers the best solution to get your
Your ads lead directly to the App Store where people
can download your App.
Just ads? No!
We ran an ad campaign in Sweden without any form
of support – no Press Releases and no favorable
reviews in de App Store.
And we ran an ad campaign in the Netherlands after
we had a number of enthusiastic articles in important
iPhone blogs and a bunch of favorable reviews in the
App Store (real reviews of course, we don’t cheat).
So here it is: ads work better if your App has received
some attention here and there. People are 2 times
more likely to download an App that has positive
reviews in the App Store than an App that has none.
Get good reviews
When people de-install your App they are asked to
rate it. Most of these people give ratings that are
worse than you deserve, because it is just the people
who de-installed who do the rating.
So you need to activate your fan base and get them
to rate and review your app.
We had a strategy in place to do this, and guess
what: it worked.
Get high in the charts
Tell me something I don’t know. Of course we all
want to be high in the charts.
What we mean is a bit more subtle though: we mean
to say. It pays off to have an advertising budget that
gets you in the charts.
The numbers differ from App to App, but you can
count on 1 to 2 extra free downloads just for being in
the top 25 Apps for every App downloaded because
you advertised for it.
That means downloads from earned media can be
double those from owned media.
And be social
Apps spread socially. People talk about the Apps they
like, in real life, but also on Facebook and other social
In our game we asked people top Facebook connect.
Using the social power of Facebook we got many new
users from our fanbase’s network.
The final secret…
We’ve shared a few of our insights on how to launch
an App successfully. Even though we’ve kept some of
the details to ourselves, we think these insights are
useful to anyone who thinks about using an iPhone
App to promote his brand.
There is one real secret we haven’t shared yet:
It’s the App itself that is the most important factor.
Your app needs to rock.
Call or mail us to find out how we can make an App
that will hit the charts.