Cookie app a slam dunk for Wellington companies

Wellington companies have been tasting sweet success with an iPhone game made for American cookie brand Oreo.

Mobile app developer Carnival Labs and digital game creator PikPok collaborated to build a game based on the sandwich-style biscuit company's tagline "twist, lick, dunk" that quickly became the most rapidly downloaded game in PikPok's history.

The co-founder of Carnival Labs, Guy Horrocks, 28, said the project had been very successful for itself and PikPok which both earn royalties from the game. "The clients have basically been saying they can't believe how good the results are."

Since its launch, based on the Oreo game's rapid uptake, Carnival Labs had secured another deal for an app based on a similar product through a related company.

Oreo is owned by international snack foods giant Mondelez, which two months ago spun off its Kraft division that Carnival Labs had worked with previously.

PikPok previously had a game called Slam Dunk King based on slamming basketballs in to hoops. Horrocks thought a similar game with the cookies, which this year celebrated a century of being on the market, seemed like a natural fit.

"The idea was that you flick an Oreo up, twist it in half, lick out the middle and then dunk it into milk. For us to be able to propose something and get it signed off within a week or two was awesome. The sheer concept of selling virtual cookies is pretty radical for a cookie company."

The game was developed in seven weeks to get it available for Thanksgiving holidays, typically a time when a lot of Americans are downloading games and playing on their smart phones while travelling and on holiday.

PikPok managing director Mario Wynands said its seven-week development time frame for the game was intense compared to the typical four to eight months spent creating a game. Five of its 85 Wellington staff were dedicated to making it.

"Certainly the level of engagement and number of downloads we've had has been most surprising. You could approach it quite cynically and suggest it's actually an advertisement but we never approached it as an app advert for cookies. For us it was almost a digital product extension that builds on brand and engagement."

Using games and mobile applications to reach customers can create long-term engagement compared to a billboard people may walk past once, because a game will be played repeatedly. Horrocks said mobile apps were a lot like Facebook for companies because of their power to build a user base of fans who liked a brand. Companies could reward them for loyalty and interact with them in an engaging way. Oreo was able to promote the brand through its Facebook page, which had more than 30 million likes.

Carnival Labs' Core Push software which sends notifications to smart-phone users helped to promote competitions within the game such as its special at the weekend where users could be in to win $40,000 worth of prizes. "It is a great communication channel for these brands to contact their users."

Both companies have been seeing strong performance. Horrocks is now based in New York, where he is hiring sales and marketing staff to secure further jobs for Carnival Labs.

PikPok launched a new zombie apocalypse game last Thursday which by the weekend was the 8th most popular free game download on iTunes.