The Rise and Fall of Flappy Bird–The Power of Word of Mouth

After 50 million mobile downloads, Dong Nguyen, the seemingly shy inventor of the Flappy Bird app said, “I cannot take this anymore.” After a Twitter announcement, he removed the game from app stores over the weekend. I have to admit I only heard of Flappy Bird two weeks ago and was thinking it had to be created by “Angry Bird” programmers. I mean how else could an application become so popular, so quickly? Simple, it’s the thing that every PR practitioner wishes would happen with their story, word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM).

The difficult mobile game was actually released in May of 2013, but did not become popular until the winter months. In the last 45 days downloads had skyrocketed and everyone was talking about the hardest and hottest game available. Nguyen and his team did not promote the app with any paid, earned, or owned media. Yet up until last weekend he was making $50,000 a day from advertiser revenue according to the Verge. He was lucky to have developed a great product that was addicting, engaging, retro, and yet still unique and fresh. In this daunting world of marketing and public relations, every product and brand is not going to be worthy of such buzz. But we still have to remember to leverage the power of WOMM, both organically through customers and online.

I know that WOMM is easier said than done. Finding natural brand evangelists is difficult. It can however be done. Here are a few ways to help push word-of-mouth for your story or brand online.

1. Build a Branded Forum

Building a forum or platform for people to discuss your product can be as easy as creating a Twitter hashtag or Facebook page. Give your customers a place for their voice to be heard and you will see them start to speak up more about positive experiences. People want to be part of a community and it’s better for you to build it and monitor it.

2. Share User-Generated Content

Consumers are telling stories about their brand experiences daily online through pictures, tweets, and Facebook posts. Repost these moments to encourage further sharing from other consumers. This will also help you find influencers in your target group.

3. Reward Brand Sharing & Loyalty

Consumers love to be acknowledged for their loyalty. Reward them in some small or large way every once in a while. Do this through random giveaways, discounts, or even a simple “thank you” message.

I never downloaded the Flappy Bird game and now that people are selling their phones on Ebay for up to $15,000 I wish I had. From user reports, part of the appeal of the game was its simple concept, but its extreme degree of difficulty. Nguyen was on to something here. Why does innovation and the next big thing always have to be complicated? In today’s cluttered market and unnecessary technological products, sometimes simple is the best route. When you’re going to the drawing board this year think of the once great Flappy Bird and apply their concept. Simple referral marketing and simple concepts might be just what you need to win over consumers. Dong Nguyen this post is to your greatness in game creation and driving consumers mad with addiction and then hilarious withdrawal.


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