A Pittsburgh startup with a funny name is engaging customers from brands across multiple touch points. SongWhale specializes in taking customer engagement to a new level using the web, text, pay and direct solutions.
The unique company offers multiple products to drive engagement and even a pay product of their own called PayWhale which offers the ability to text a payment. Paying via text is very popular in emerging countries but no one in the US has really embraced the technology. It’s actually one of the easiest ways to pay.
While interactive engagement may not seem sexy some of the things SongWhale is doing are. Not only that but the story about how Songwhale came about is one of the most interesting ones we’ve heard.
Songwhale’s four core business areas, Web, Text, Pay and Direct can be summarized like this:
Web: Songwhale can get a companies brand or message through the web on any screen; smartphone, tablet, or computer all optimized for each size.
Text: Songwhale offers engaging SMS campaigns including games, and interactives.
Pay: Songwhale’s Paywhale product offers a text payment solution that is possibly the easiest form of mobile commerce and one wildly adopted in emerging countries.
Direct: Songwhale offers direct branding and engagement campaigns that encompass web, text and pay solutions.
Nibletz got a chance to interview Songwhale. Check out the interview here.
Direct response TV marketers are starting to include a text-to-buy option on short- and long-form infomercials as a way to drive sales.
Sootherz and NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop are among the first DRTV brands to take advantage of new text-to-buy platform Paywhale. The solution makes it easy for TV viewers to purchase the products they see on screen by texting a keyword to a short code.
“It is a natural that marketers deploy text to purchase options in light of the ubiquity and frequent use of the mobile device,” Tony Besasie, president of direct response media agency Cannella Response Television.
“The primary goal of any marketer is first and foremost to generate transactions,” he said. “Mobile provides them with another tool to make that happen.”
Cannella has entered into a strategic partnership with Pittsburgh, PA-based Songwhale – which offers the Paywhale platform – to provide text-to-buy services to its DRTV clients.
The first deployment of Songwhale’s text-to-buy Paywhale platform can be seen in a short-form spot for Sootherz and a long-form campaign for the NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop.
In the short-form infomercial for Sootherz, a natural relief tablet for heartburn, the screen includes copy encouraging viewers to text “Relief” to a short code to order in addition to the traditional “Call Now” call to action.
The Paywhale program also enables marketers to text customers for additional sales opportunities.
“Between 20 percent and 40 percent of all orders from a show are emanating from a cell user, thus text ordering provides this large group of consumers an additional ordering option, thereby increasing conversion rates,” said Chris Rebholz, president of DRTV fulfillment company Christopher Morgan Fulfillment.
“Marketers’ goals with respect to any ordering method are simple: the more options you provide a potential client to quickly and conveniently act on a marketing offer, the better response and higher revenue you achieve,” he said.
Another benefit of text-to-order for DRTV marketers includes making it easy for those who place an order to forward their purchase experience to a friend, per Mr. Rebholz. Additionally, consumers tend to keep their mobile phone numbers for longer periods of time than a physical address, meaning marketers can reach out to text-to-order purchasers over a long period of time.
Paywhale is free to use for consumers.
DRTV viewers who have already signed up for a Paywhale text-to-buy account simply text the DRTV spot’s key word to a short code to place an order.
DRTV viewers who have not already signed up for the Paywhale text-to-buy account can also order by text. Their texts lead to a mobile Web site where they can place the order and be entered into Paywhale’s database for future purchases.
Viewers can also sign up online on DRTV marketers’ ecommerce Web sites.
Many consumers are already engaging with their mobile devices while they are watching TV, so providing a mobile call-to-action on the screen makes sense for DRTV marketers.
Additionally, by offering a text-based solution, this insures marketers reach the widest possible mobile audience since all mobile phones have this capability.
“DRTV is based on a direct action by the consumer,” said Wendi Cooper, president of DRTV production house C Spot Run Productions. “More and more people now sit and watch TV with their mobile phone.
“Texting is easier, accessible, quick, and easy,” she said. “Most of all it’s not IVR (interactive voice recognition), live obnoxious agents or the battle to rank on search or losing the consumer to competitors online.”
Almost a year after starting its beta tests for a new text-to-buy platform, Lawrenceville-based Songwhale is launching its technology on a larger scale with a strategic partnership with Cannella Response Television and its direct response television clients.
Called Paywhale, the platform allows consumers to text key words, that are given during specific commercials, to 94253 to order a product. If a consumer already has a text-to-buy account the order is placed, if they do not have an account it sends the consumer to a mobile website to submit an order and also sign up for an account, the company said in a statement.
Consumers can also sign up for an account by texting “Paywhale” to 94253. “More than 2 billion text messages are sent every day in the U.S. alone,” said Songwhale CEO Ty Morse in a written statement. “It is critical for the DRTV industry to tap into this incredibly popular method of communications by enabling viewers to easily text-to-buy the product they are viewing on their television screens.”
Commercials for Sootherz, which bills itself as a natural heartburn relief product, and the NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop are slated to be the first to air with Paywhale.
Leave it to the people at "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" to devise a way for children to learn while they are waiting for a bus.
The Fred Rogers Co. is field-testing a game that uses phone text messages to promote interaction between parents and preschoolers and develop children's literacy skills during what otherwise would be down time.
"When people are sitting in the bus shelters, there's nothing to do," said Margy Whitmer, a media producer for the company. She got the idea for Word Play while waiting at a traffic light in Oakland.
The parent sends a text message to a number shown on a poster at the bus shelter. Back comes a text message asking a question that the child can answer by studying the poster.
"Welcome! 1st clue: Look at the picture and count the words starting with S. Reply FOUR (text message) to guess 4 or FIVE to guess 5," reads the first message in one game. The next clue invites the child to find the lake on the poster and identify the first letter in the word.
The goal is as much to get parents and children talking as it is to hone literacy skills, Ms. Whitmer said. "Literacy research ... has shown that children who were talked to and read to from the start have incredible vocabularies."
"It's a project we're doing to carry on Fred's legacy," said David Newell, the company's public relations director who plays the Mr. McFeely character from the TV show.
Ms. Whitmer said the pilot project, which will continue for three months with three sets of posters at select bus shelters in the East End, was financed with a $10,000 grant from the Sprout Fund. Other partners are the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, which designed the posters, Songwhale, a Lawrenceville mobile technology company, and Lamar Advertising, owner of the shelters.
Olivia Hill, 5, of Squirrel Hill, a preschooler, tried the game one afternoon last week with her father, James Hill.
"I think it's great," said her mom, Theresa Hill. "She is at the age where they absorb all of that. Anything to trigger connections with letters and words. And they always want to play games on our phones."
Asked if she liked the game, Olivia shyly said yes. But asking if it was better than Chutes and Ladders brought a smile and a polite "no."
The game currently is available at bus shelters at these intersections: Frankstown Avenue and Bennett Street; Frankstown Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard; Hamilton Avenue and North Dallas Avenue; Hamilton Avenue and Fifth Avenue; and Penn Avenue's intersections with Highland, Brushton and East End avenues.
My business partner Jon Greenlee and I would strap ourselves to the wing to save money. When we travel, we rarely sleep because we have to book these bizarre trips. It’s crazy.
Our first international business trip was pretty terrible. We needed to get to Asia and our first thought was that we couldn’t afford it. But then we got online and found a way to get there without going completely broke.
We drove from our headquarters in Pittsburgh to Washington, where we caught a morning flight to South Korea. From there, we went to China, Japan and Indonesia. The entire trip was five days long, and we got maybe five hours of sleep the whole time.
In China, we had translators, but we were still used to conducting business American style, where you can get a deal done in two hours and everybody leaves happy. But in Asia, every meeting was about 10 hours long and everyone wanted to serve us food. We were so stuffed and jet-lagged, it was ridiculous.
When we got to Jakarta, we went through complete culture shock. The traffic was crazy and our hotel was on high alert because of a bomb scare. But we managed to do some business. The plan was to fly out of Jakarta at midnight, land in Korea and then fly home.
By this time, both of us were completely exhausted, but my partner was having the worst of it. When we landed in Washington, he bolted off the plane, so we wound up going through customs separately.
Finally, he showed up and when he realized we still had to spend several hours in a car to get home, he threw his bag against a wall. Security immediately came over to question him. He started mumbling about how tired he was and I think they felt sorry for him so they let him go.
Our chief financial officer picked us up and we motioned for Jon to get in the back of the car. He slept the whole way home.
The trip was actually worth it since we eventually opened two offices in China and one in Indonesia.
But sometimes you don’t get the deal.
We had a meeting in England, and we had to get there and then back to Pittsburgh all within one day. We flew out early in the morning and right after landing, we went to our meeting in this beautiful older building. We had a nice presentation lined up. Since we’re a tech company, everything is supposed to go smoothly.
We had a converter and Jon plugged in the computer. The electricity immediately went out. We stood there looking at each other, with the clients looking at us, with that “who are these losers?” expression on their faces. We didn’t even know if it was our fault.
I tried to salvage the meeting by just talking about our technology, and told them to imagine what it would be like. They looked at me like I was insane. I think a few yawned. Of course, we didn’t get the deal.
Our friend who lined up the meeting for us felt so bad about everything that he bought us two first-class tickets home. I would love to tell you we enjoyed first class, but I can’t. All we did was sleep.
Pittsburgh-based digital media company Songwhale LLC is expanding of its operations in Milwaukee after forming a partnership with Christopher Morgan Fulfillment Services and its owners.
Songwhale LLC, a digital media company headquartered in Pittsburgh, is moving its direct-response department to Christopher Morgan’s New Berlin office, and co-founder Ty Morse will split his time between Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.
Though the company is growing its presence in Milwaukee its Pittsburgh office is remaining unchanged, said Morse. In fact, he said the company is continuing to add people in Pittsburgh. The growth in Milwaukee comes more than a year after the company launched its Television direct response business.
The company creates mobile content to help clients interact with customers. Direct response is its fastest-growing area, offering payment processing by Internet, mobile phone, tablet or text messaging, Morse said. Customers include Pizza Hut Inc., Panera Bread, the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston College.
“In terms of our direct-response business, which is a huge part of our business, Milwaukee is going to be the main location for our growth,” he said.
The company plans to open its New Berlin, Wisc., office Jan. 1 with six employees, but the office could grow to 20 employees in the next year, he said.
Because of the company’s technology focus, it can grow quickly without adding a lot of employees, he said. It has at least doubled in size every year since its founding in 2007 and employs more than 100 at offices in Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, China and Indonesia. Morse declined to name specific revenue figures.
Christopher Morgan, a New Berlin company offering logistics and distribution services, has been working with Songwhale for several years, said Chris Rebholz, Christopher Morgan president and co-owner. It makes sense to work together as Songwhale processes orders and Christopher Morgan ships them. In 2010, Rebholz and his business partner, Eric Nelson, bought a minority stake in Songwhale.
The move gives Christopher Morgan better technology offerings and Songwhale better infrastructure and an expanded client base, Rebholz said.
“The collaboration possibilities are great,” he said.
Milwaukee is becoming an attractive place for small business, said Morse, a Fox Point native. It’s centrally located with a wealth of young talent from local schools such as Marquette University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and University of Wisconsin-Madison. It offers cultural amenities such as sports teams and hip neighborhoods like the 3rd Ward yet has a low cost of living.
“It’s really neat for Milwaukee that it’s become very attractive for us to continue to grow a fast-growing start-up,” he said.
The company is taking advantage of state tax credits that offer a 10 percent rebate for wages of qualified new employees. The credit wasn’t the only factor in opening the New Berlin office, but it was important, Rebholz said.
“(The credit) is a huge incentive obviously,” he said. “These aren’t minimum-wage jobs.”
In today's print edition we spoke with Ty Morse, CEO of Lawrenceville-based mobile marketing firm Songwhale, about the company's launch of a new payment processing platform. Called Paywhale, the platform ties a person's cell phone to their credit card and allows payments through text message.
With such a big new business venture we started talking jobs and it turns out the company is taking this as an opportunity to refocus. As a result, Songwhale's Pittsburgh employee numbers has remained flat at about 20 to 25 with about six people hired directly for the Paywhale project. These new jobs took the place of some other positions that were doing ad agency "creative" work.
Though this refocus Songwhale is consciously shedding some of its more traditional advertising agency work. The company was growing in this area with creative projects but that meant a lot of hiring which complicated scaling the business and squeezed margins, Morse said. "That is not the kind of business I want to build," he added, so he scaled back and worked on Paywhale which is easier to scale and fits into the technology company that he wants to build.
In the coming weeks, Lawrenceville-based Songwhale LLC is set to launch a mobile payment processing platform that builds off the company’s core mobile marketing business.
Dubbed Paywhale, the platform ties a user’s cell phone to their credit card and allows for easy purchasing of products or donations to a nonprofit through SMS, or text messaging. The company decided to use SMS for the platform as opposed to an app format because SMS is universal to all cell phones no matter the brand and regardless of whether it’s a smartphone, said CEO Ty Morse.
“The only thing everyone has is text,” he said.
Because Songwhale already is in the SMS marketing space, the company has a huge database of cell phone information and users receiving text messages from the company’s more than 250 clients.
Using text for payments isn’t a new idea, said Aaron McPherson, practice director for IDC Financial Insights, but with all the focus on apps for payments, near field communication payments and quick response codes for payments, SMS may seem passe. (Near field communications is technology that allows for one touch payments by tapping a device or a card on a reader.)
“There is a certain amount of prejudice to apps,” he said. “A certain amount of tech folks (are) living in a bubble; they all have iPhones, iPads and Droids, and not really living in the same world as the regular folks. To them, having an app on the iPhone is all you need, and there is no reason to do SMS.”
But, he said, that is not the case in countries outside the U.S. and particularly in developing countries. However, even in the U.S., where Songwhale’s initial rollout will occur and 83 percent of adults own cell phones, only 42 percent of them own a smartphone, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Paywhale is headed into three months of beta testing with one client in each of Songwhale’s customer segments — academia, nonprofit, direct response and retail, quick-service restaurants and sports teams.
The company generates revenue on the platform by taking a 2 percent cut of the purchase price or donation. Existing text-to-donate programs run through cell phone carriers take a larger percentage and take longer to process, Morse said.
“We wanted to provide a better, more cost-effective solution out of the gate,” he said.
One of the beta testers is California University of Pennsylvania, which is planning to use Paywhale as part of the school’s Senior Gift Drive program this year and allow students to text in donations for endowed scholarships.
“People do this already for donations, but when you do that, the split between the funds and the carrier is 50-50, but, with Paywhale, it’s 98 percent to the charity and the 2 percent to the university and Songwhale,” said Charles Mance, vice president for university technology services.
“It’s a better model for us; it works real nice for small donations.”
The school has been working with Songwhale for about a year on various mobile projects and this one seemed like a good fit, Mance said.
Once the platform, which is compliant with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, rolls out into a wider launch, Morse estimates that payment processing could become as much as 20 percent of his business by the end of the year. The remaining business would continue to be the standard marketing alerts and messages that the company pushes for clients.
The company’s Pittsburgh employment has remained flat at about 20 to 25, with about six people hired directly for the Paywhale project.
Morse understands that building out this product will take time, “but I do think with the resources we have, two years from now, we will have a significant amount of users nationwide.”
Working in the non-profit industry? There's a new app for that.
Among the first apps to address the needs of the non-profit world, the platform gives non-profits the ability to connect with constituents immediately and creatively, boosting the rates of event registrants, volunteer participation and giving, says TowerCare.
Another key feature is that non-profits are able to segment their customers and send specific alerts to energize volunteers, incite them to action as well as learn more about their customers, says Katie Vojtko of TowerCare.
The app was developed by Songwhale, a rising star in the emerging area of mobile digital content. Songwhale has been pushing the boundaries of mobile app development with popular tools for professional sports teams, universities, real estate companies, restaurants and, now, non-profits.
TowerCare Technologies works directly with non-profits. Its flagship product, DonorPro, a software platform with online fundraising tools for all types of non-profits, is perfectly suited for the addition of a digital application tool.
"What we love about this technology is it's fast, affordable and easily obtainable for non-profits of all sizes," adds Vojtko. "The key is how affordable our option is. We're way ahead of the game."
TowerCare Technologies, makers of DonorPro fundraising software has partnered with Songwhale, the leading mobile solutions provider to offer an integrated mobile marketing platform called DonorPro Connect for non-profits around the country.
"The mobile marketing capabilities created from this partnership will provide non-profits with the ability to reach constituents immediately and creatively - with a greater rate of event registrants, volunteer participation, and overall giving," says Donna Myers, President of TowerCare Technologies. "As more of the donating public communicates with smart phones, the opportunity for non-profits to capture attention and awareness has increased. We are happy to offer our current and future clients these new marketing capabilities."
Ty Morse, Songwhale CEO explains, "We are extremely excited to launch this cutting edge platform with DonorPro, as it expands upon the amazing offering DonorPro has already created for their clients. Songwhale’s proprietary technology has been tailored and integrated into the DonorPro platform to provide a unique solution that offers an unmatched feature set combined with unprecedented message delivery speed."
DonorPro Connect Overview
DonorPro Connect will provide non-profits with the ability to use low-cost text messaging (SMS) services to increase awareness of constituents and ultimately raise more money. Messages will link to a mobile website as well as donation and registration pages, request participation in a survey, announce events, and enlist supporters to action. DonorPro Connect is attractively priced and is an affordable direct marketing option for non-profits of all sizes. This Mobile Marketing Platform will release on September 15, 2011.
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker needed some advice. Walker wanted to enjoy his off day fishing in late May after the Pirates took two of three from the Tigers, including a victory on his bobblehead night. He was trying to find a good spot to cast his line.
Instead of calling a friend or using Google, he did what is becoming a popular choice for athletes: He tweeted.
Walker's plea on Twitter was instantly shared with more than 10,000 people, and although he ended up going to one of his own fishing holes, he saved a few spots for another off day on the water. The tweets that Walker appreciates most, however, have to do with his contribution to the newly competitive Pirates, who are in the hunt for the NL Central title.
"People are saying, 'Thanks for helping me be a Pirates fan again' and things like that. And that's been cool," Walker said.
As active as Walker and many other Pirates are on Twitter, the Pirates as an organization are equally, if not more, involved with social media. There's a buzz surrounding the Pirates this summer that simply hasn't been felt in more than a decade, and although the feeling is quite intangible, social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, are valuable tools that quantify the team's rise in popularity.
As the Pirates march toward perhaps their first winning season -- and maybe even a playoff berth -- in 18 years, they are steadily building an Internet presence and increasing a fan base that hasn't gone to a meaningful late summer ball game in nearly two decades.
Since spring training began in March, the Pirates have more than doubled their Twitter following and seen a 30 percent increase in Facebook "likes" since they started in Bradenton, Fla. Matt Nordby, the Pirates' manager of business communications (and one of the people who tweet from @BucsInsider, their Twitter account), said social media is an ideal way to target younger fans. That's important, considering many in the 18-25 demographic don't remember -- and some weren't even alive -- the last time the Pirates had a winning record.
"Social media outlets have been a great platform to give us the opportunity to directly interact with our younger fans and help grow their excitement in the Pirates," he said. "Since the demographics using social media tend to trend towards the younger fan base, they are great avenues for re-establishing that direct connection with fans that may not have had as much interest in the Pirates in the past."
And how much do younger people use social media? One Pew Research study found that 90 percent of adults age 18-29 in the study used the Internet regularly, and out of that group, 82 percent use social media.
While the front office has worked to put a better team on the field, other parts of the organization made moves to ensure that the club capitalizes in the long term from this season's success. They weren't exactly sure when the club would turn things around, but they wanted to make sure they got the maximum benefit from the team's success when it came.
"The Pirates have been laying the groundwork for when this buzz would actually happen," said Ty Morse, CEO of Songwhale, a company that has been working with the Pirates to improve mobile fan engagement for the past few years. "They've done a great job of preparing the fan base for engaging with the team. The reason why [their amount of followers] has gone up is because [social media] is not new, but fans are just more excited to use it."
A strong social media presence does more than attract fans.
More importantly, it helps keep loyal followers because once people get used to checking up on something, they are unlikely to remove it from their feed in the future, Morse said.
John Laboon, CEO of Eyeflow, a social media and search engine optimization company in the South Side, believes the fast-paced nature of the Internet makes social media impact even stronger.
"Now that they're doing better and building a following, the chances of that decreasing are very slim," he said. "They can reach out to their network, and the bigger your footprint in the Internet, the more people you connect to. It's this viral thing that can take off because of interactivity."
Although both are classified as social media, Twitter and Facebook serve different functions, and the Pirates know it. Facebook has 500 million users and Twitter has 106 million, according to a study by digitalsurgeons.com, which specializes in new media strategies.
Facebook is used as a more comprehensive approach that focuses on immersing fans in the brand with links, videos, photos and stories that can be viewed within the site. The official page for the Pirates has more than 236,000 "likes" and is regularly updated with new content. Those updates go directly into the news feed of users, wedged in between status updates, wall posts and changes in relationship status.
Twitter is used to deliver quick snippets of information (fewer than 140 characters) that usually direct traffic elsewhere, such as the Pirates' official website. But what Twitter lacks in breadth, it makes up for in focus and timeliness. Ideally, Facebook draws the market, and Twitter keeps them hooked. For example, a fan can learn about the roster and player statistics through Facebook and then focus his interest by interacting with his favorite players directly by following them on Twitter. Paul Maholm (@Maholm28), Walker (@NeilWalker18) and Joel Hanrahan (@Hanrahan52) are the most popular Pirates, and recent bullpen acquisition Jason Grilli (@GrillCheese49) has the most creative handle name on the squad.
Twitter also provides a real time forum for game commentary, which can be organized through the use of a hashtag, the most popular of which is #LetsGoBucs. The popularity of Twitter was on display during last week's 19-inning affair that ended on a botched call at home plate, as the game became a trending topic in the country in a matter of minutes.
Nordby's communications team gets in on the discussion during games, which is when they tweet the most. The Pirates official account, @BucsInsider, has more than 18,000 followers and the majority of its 3,900-plus tweets have come between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., or the most common game time.
All of this online activity this season is being done in an attempt to both cultivate and maintain a fan base that wants a different experience, especially at the park. Fan involvement has always been a focus for baseball teams, otherwise there wouldn't be mascots, pierogi races, hot dog launches or a Cannonball Crew. To further enhance the experience, technology has facilitated a truly interactive environment. Gone are the days of the applause meter to determine an inning break song; now the winner is chosen by the most votes via text. Fans no longer have to hope the camera man at the game puts them on the big screen now that they can tweet pictures from their phones directly to the Pirates.
For the players, social media is able to dissolve some of the barriers between them and their fans.
"I don't do a whole lot of tweets about baseball. I like to keep it different from that," said closer Joel Hanrahan, who gained more than 10,000 followers following the All-Star Game. "Anybody can say, 'oh, great game today,' but really it's just something I like to have fun with."
The Pittsburgh Technology Council recognized 50 of the area's most creative emerging tech businesses this morning as it announced its 2011 Tech 50 finalists.
Finalists will compete in seven categories, in addition to a separate category for CEO of the year. Winners will be announced during an awards ceremony at Consol Energy Center on Sept. 20.
Advanced Manufacturer of the Year: Industrial Scientific Corp., Kennametal, RE2., US Liner Co.
Information Technology Company of the Year: Confluence, Eyeflow LLC., M*Modal, Vivisimo
Innovator of the Year: Allpoint Systems LLC., Body Media, Bossa Nova Robotics, Dynamics, Ex One, Modcloth, Omnyx, Thorley Industries dba 4moms, Voci Technologies
Life Sciences Company of the Year: CardiacAssist, Cohera Medical, Complexa, Foundation Radiology Group, invivodata, McKesson Automation, Net Health Systems, Precision Therapeutics
Startup of the Year: Aquion Energy, Carmell Therapeutics Corp., C-leveled, Deeplocal, Evil Genius Designs, Intimate Bridge to Conception, Metis Secure Solutions, SnapRetail, Songwhale, Thermal Therapeutics Systems, Wombat Security Technologies
Tech Titan of the Year: Ansaldo STS USA, ANSYS, Concurrent Technologies Corp., FedEx Ground, TeleTracking Technologies
Technology Accelerator of the Year: AEC Group, Data Science Automation, SDLC Partners, Sierra w/o Wires, Summa Technologies
CEO of the Year: Patrick Daly of Cohera Medical; Jeff Kendall of Liberty Tire Recycling; Justin McElhattan of Industrial Scientific Corp.; Chris Robbins of Body Media
Funny thing started happening in the last several weeks. Google searches for terms such as "Pittsburgh Pirates tickets" and "Pirates schedule 2011" began spiking. "PNC Park hotels" searches were up 40 percent in June compared to the same time last year.
In part, that's due to interleague series that have tempted fans from pricier cities like Boston and Philadelphia to come to value-priced Pittsburgh to see their teams play.
It also doesn't hurt that the home team is having some success on the field.
ThePittsburghFan.com, for one, is all over this. Search for "Pirates shirt" and one of the top paid results is for the Chicago-based sports retailer company that has a store across from PNC Park on the North Shore. Ditto for searches for "Pittsburgh Pirates hats," although fansedge.com and fastballfanatics.com are right up there, too.
The company that runs Pittsburgh Fan has long used the systems that allow advertisers to buy terms to get in front of search engine users as they are trolling the Web. ThePittsburghFan.com is listed as paying for more than 400 search terms at the moment, according to spyfu.com, an online ad tracking tool.
The company's most popular terms in the past several months -- really for the past few years -- have to do with the Steelers or the Penguins. But the Pirates terms have been surging, said Eric Castellucci, online marketing manager. "Everything is up twice as much," he said.
Riding the marketing wave along with a successful sports team -- or a hot concert or a big festival or any other here-today, gone-tomorrow happening -- can be powerful, but it can also be difficult, even in this age of speedy delivery via digital devices such as smartphones and laptops.
The marketing team for Cambria Suites has some familiarity with the opportunities and the challenges. A Google search for "Consol Energy Center hotel" brings up a paid ad for "Hotel At CONSOL Energy -- Cambria Suites(R) Pittsburgh, PA."
In addition, for the past year or so, the chain has been reaching out to those who use the location tool Foursquare to check in with their cell phones when they are at the new Uptown arena, offering them a drink special at the nearby hotel.
Shifting promotions to target particular concerts or even a successful run by the Penguins might be tricky, said Rebecca Mervis, project manager, brand management of Cambria Suites. The branch of the hotel company that handles buying key words and setting up local search marketing is dealing with all 5,000 hotels under the Choice brands. "To monitor and market these kinds of changes regularly is a lot," she said.
Actually, large companies tend to have a harder time jumping on such opportunities, said Phil Laboon, founder of the search engine optimization and social media firm Eyeflow Internet Marketing on the South Side. "The bigger they are, the harder it is to get them to go wacky and less corporate," he said. But creating off-beat events or fresh blog entries tied to things going on is a great way to get consumers to handle the online marketing, he said. "I like to get free traffic."
As an example of how that works, it didn't take Steeler Nation long to figure out that Hines Ward and his "Dancing With The Stars" partner were going to be in town for a rally recently, because as soon as the official news hit, people were emailing it to friends, tweeting about it, commenting on blogs.
Businesses try to be part of timely conversations like that by using social media such as blogs or Facebook pages to comment.
Mt. Lebanon running store Fleet Feet Sports talked on its Facebook page about the Pittsburgh marathon during that event, and Station Square retailer Hometown Sports recently tried to drum up some conversation about hockey player Jaromir Jagr.
Buying keywords on search engines can be effective, Mr. Laboon said, but it can also get expensive.
Rick Gardinier, chief digital officer at the Brunner ad agency, Downtown, agreed that such costs could be prohibitive, especially in competitive markets. In the case of the Pirates' unexpected run at respectability and the possibilities of catching the attention of a reinvigorated fan base, "There are not a lot of people outside of the ticket brokers trying to tackle this," he said.
He suggested the area's museums and Cultural District theaters might get some traction by adding pertinent content to their Web offerings, such as suggestions on other things to do in Pittsburgh -- including going to a Pirates game. That might help their sites turn up in a search that out-of-towners do around the baseball team.
When the Boston Red Sox were in town, Mr. Gardinier noted that all the Sox fans wandering around Downtown provided opportunities for businesses advertising through mobile search vehicles. "They're smack in the middle of Downtown Pittsburgh, and they don't know where to go."
This is where tools that are increasingly able to target specific locations could come in handy, not just for a good Pirates season but Steelers games and the annual arts festival and the regatta. "It could be a repeatable model," said Mr. Gardinier.
Before businesses start chasing special events, he said, they should get their basic online marketing programs in place so they lay the groundwork to be ready when the fun starts.
That's what the Pirates organization has done, according to Ty Morse, CEO of Songwhale, an interactive media company in Lawrenceville. "As much flack as the management has taken over the years, they have done a tremendous job of building its mobile and social space," he said.
Songwhale works with the Pirates on programs such as having fans text messages that may be shown on LED boards during the game as well as sending photos from their cell phones that may make the huge scoreboard over the outfield. (The company also does some work with the Post-Gazette.)
The team has been focused on getting fans involved and making things fun even when the Pirates are losing, rather than trying to collect data and phone numbers to pitch ticket sales, Mr. Morse said.
"They know how powerful mobile is. They know everyone walks in there with a cell phone in their pocket."
When the Pirates are winning and drawing larger crowds, even more sponsors may be interested in participating in the Text To Win contests.
And if the team's fortunes go south -- nobody wins all the time -- fans can still have fun sending their goofy pictures to the Jumbotron.
But is it better for business when the Pirates win?
At ThePittsburghFan.com, that's an easy question, said Mr. Castellucci. "Definitely, yes."
The region’s tech innovators took center stage on the evening of June 20th when journalists from The Daily Beast, Popular Science, Federal Times, iPad news source TheDaily.com and NBC’s Atlanta affiliate traveled to Pittsburgh to learn firsthand about some of the city’s unique IT and digital technology companies. Held at the headquarters of Net Health Systems in the Strip District, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance’s Information Technology & Digital Innovation Mixer provided these national journalists — in town for Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) annual InfoTech Media Fellowship — with an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the enormous tech talent in our region.
Sometimes called the “Silicon Valley of the East,” Pittsburgh increasingly is turning heads with its innovation in digital information and communications technology – and its commercialization of those advances. Fueled in significant ways by our world-class universities, Pittsburgh’s tech-based innovations have the potential to change daily interactions around the world. The region has become home to such globally established IT companies as Google and Smith Micro Software, as well as to numerous start-up firms. These entrepreneurs say they find a friendly, robust economic development infrastructure — and ample IT talent emerging from our regional universities — to help them prosper.
Mixer host Net Health Systems created the “WoundExpert” software, which allows healthcare providers to more simply and effectively manage wound care. The heads of other start-up companies also made informal presentations. Among them was Ty Morse, co-founder of Songwhale, an interactive media firm that helps companies reach consumers with information and advertising via cell phone and other hand-held mobile devices. The former Manhattan-based entrepreneur explained why he opted to move to Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville in order to better grow his business.
I think it’s fair to say that me and Ty got on very well in this interview – Ty is not only an intelligent and fascinating young marketer and entrepreneur, but he is also a comical guy with a great sense of humour. There is no doubt that when it comes down to business, Ty Morse is as focused and determined as the next guy, approaching his company with all seriousness, but from reading between the lines he has a great social life playing music etc.
At the end of the day, it’s Ty’s successful company Songwhale, which has allowed him to enjoy the fruits of life so freely. Songwhale is an interactive media company that enables brands/companies to reach consumers across multiple touch points, with their core competency being mobile content and advertising, including SMS marketing and WAP (mobile websites).
Amongst many reasons, ask yourself this – how many people do you know who own a mobile phone? (everyone, right?) And how many times will you delete a text message (SMS) before you have even read it… never! This is the kind of forward-thinking that has allowed Songwhale to grow a client base including giants such as McDonalds, Nike, AT&T, EA Sports, EMI, Fox and KFC to name a few.
I know for certain that you will absolutely love this interview with TY – he is a really likable guy who clearly knows his stuff when it comes to SMS, and marketing in general. Ty knows exactly how to reach customers which is why he has helped so many large companies interact with their target audience, and more importantly, turn it viral (leveraging the effectiveness of SMS marketing by rewarding those who forward texts to a friend).
I had a great time conducting the interview and I am certain you will love listening to it!
All the best,
“The Interview Guy” at Blogtrepreneur.com
Ty Morse Interview (Audio Transcription)
Luke Etheridge: Hi guys, it’s Luke Etheridge here from Blogtrepreneur.com bringing you yet another one of our inspirational audio interviews as part of our popular interview series.
Our next guest goes by the name of Ty Morse who was referred to me by a previous guest of ours called Phil Laboon. Many of you might remember Phil, he’s a great guy and he’s a great inspiration but it turns out that Ty is also set for big things with Songwhale.com and various other projects so without further ado I’d like to welcome Ty Morse to Blogtrepreneur. Welcome along, Ty.
Ty Morse: Thanks Luke, I appreciate it. I’m glad we finally figured out the time zones to make it work.
Luke: It’s always quite tough getting people from across the globe to get on Skype and work it all out. The worst one’s Australia.
Ty: Yeah, I’m confused often. I spend a lot of my life right now on a plane and so twelve-hour difference between here and Indonesia and also China so you know you kind of get flip-flopped. You wake up some mornings, you can’t remember where you are and what time everything is happening.
Luke: So in your own time zones all over the place it just doesn’t make it easy.
Luke: So first off, before I get something wrong or misrepresent you in anyway at all, could you please tell our readers about what you do about Songwhale and also inform us of any other projects which you have gone on at the moment.
Ty: Yeah, sure. We started Songwhale in 2007. My original partner who’s our CTO, John Greenlee, he and I have done a lot of projects together and we had started a record label and from there I had been working at Virgin Records and we realized that the record labels really had less of idea how to make money on music than we did.
So John kind of came up with the concept of targeting hand-helds, the iPhone had just come out and there was a lot of growth and so we launched Songwhale in 2007 with [inaudible 02:09] standard compliant technology, WiFi, Bluetooth, SMS, WAP, to deliver free music to fans and add advertising and sponsoring that music. So you know, we sold sponsorships [inaudible 02:23] VISA, couple of different brands and surprised it worked.
We had over half the people download content so we very quickly launched the business around the music-side but then figured out that there was a lot of content that could be monetized in the mobile space and in the sports arena as well, so we started working with NFL teams, Major League Baseball teams, NHL, in the US, the large universities and colleges generate a lot of revenue, through sponsorship and advertising.
So we started kind of doing the same thing we’re doing in the music space and the sports space and that is taking videos, taking interviews, providing score alerts and updates, breaking news, doing live stream video on hand-helds, basically any type of content you can put on a mobile phone, we were doing, we were monetizing and then that quickly expanded into working with brands that we’re actually sponsoring the sports initiative.
So we started handling mobile marketing in general for brands like Pizza Hut, Panera, AT&T, Dunkin’ Donuts and that’s basically creating initiatives in the mobile medium for the brands that drive a conversation between the brands and the consumers and allow consumers to have access to discounts and breaking news about new products, things like that on their hand-held.
So that grew very quickly and then we got into real estate and created a real estate platform and then we started working overseas and handling mobile marketing initiatives in Indonesia and China and so yeah, that’s the quick version.
We’re a mobile marketing business, we’ve now expanded into social media and we also handle digital in general, so there are a lot of web initiatives now that we do.
Basically there were three of us who started, John, myself and then Jay, who I told you about Luke, who is a footballer over in the UK for six or seven years, the three of us started the company and now we’re over a hundred, have the two offices in China, one in Jakarta, Indonesia, our headquarters are in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the US, and then have offices in the Twin Cities, Madison, Wisconsin, and San Francisco. So, been a wild ride.
Luke: So it’s been quite a quick success really in a way. What, four years? So what do you think the key was?
Ty: About three and a half years, I think I mentioned to you before, one of the things as a CEO of the company I know that there are a lot of things that I am not good at and so I spent a lot of time hiring people that are good at things that I’m not good at and we have a really amazing team and I think that there’s a couple of things that contribute to that success.
I think our team and bringing on people, extremely talented people which we’re very fortunate to have and then I also think that we ended up…on a space its very sexy and cool mobile but we were also tied to very large brands. We got in right away with music artists and sports teams and then that led to the big brands like Pizza Hut and AT&T, and Panera and so I think that gave us a lot of exposure.
The other side of that is we had created more of an eco-system so you can go find a ton of companies out there that do text messaging and that’s a “dime a dozen” or a ton of companies that build mobile websites “dime a dozen” or a ton of companies that build apps.
That’s easy to do but it’s hard to find a company that creates a single eco-system where you have all these mediums, you have SMS, MobileWeb, Web, Applications, Social Media, all tied into one and then you can do the data-mining behind it.
So I remember when McDonald’s first came to us and said “Hey, we have a third-party doing our text messaging, we have a third-party doing our mobile websites, we have a third-party doing our applications, we have a third-party doing our social media”.
It was too many third-parties for them to coordinate and the consumer experience was all mixed because you couldn’t coordinate that many people and so I think Songwhale’s grown because we’re the big attractive pieces is that we have all of it within a single eco-system and that gives you a lot of power and flexibility and it’s also more cost-effective.
And then when you talk about data-mining and being able to understand the…kind of the user’s profile and behavior it’s much easier to do when you have each of the platforms and your cross-pollinating them. So I think that’s really contributed to the success of the company.
Luke: So you’ve actually brought all these things and put it under one roof and made it easier for the companies that are looking for this kind of service?
Ty: Exactly. It’s more of a one-stop shop which allows them to coordinate much easier.
Luke: Sorry there Ty. I think the…
Ty: Luke, are you still there?
Luke: Yeah, the cord broke up a bit there a second. I don’t know if you could answer just that last question again.
Ty: Yeah, not only is it more cost-effective but it’s more efficient. I mean the most important thing is because we can pull and have the same customer experience and pull all the data on the back-end into one place for analysis.
So with all the great social media tools popping up left and right, we have Facebook and Twitter and Foursquare and Scavenger. There’s a lot of great tools out there but I think companies are looking for people that can aggregate them into a single eco-system and do it in a efficient and clean way and we’ve been good at that and that’s helped us grow very quickly.
Luke: Yeah, so basically the messages don’t get mixed like you said, so you haven’t got two different companies doing you’re social media and your twitter messages and then you’ve got some text guy now and if those two companies don’t communicate then there could be big problems but if it’s under one roof then things should go a bit more smoother and the message should be clearer.
Ty: Exactly, and I think the other thing is even though we have our own platforms, not only do we create the platforms, we also consult on them. So we’ve been fortunate enough to build the most successful quick-service restaurant campaign in the US with Pizza Hut and we’ve built the largest mobile database in the NHL with the Black Hawks and built the largest database in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So I think that when there’s a lot of consulting that goes along with it too. We know how to build successful mobile marketing programs, we know what the foundations need to be and we know how to build a roadmap to create success and basically move the needle and drive our life for our partners.
[inaudible 09:16] a service site to move, which has helped as well because there’s a lot of people that are looking to learn how to navigate the space, even brands that have been around for years, they’re looking for a little bit more hand-holding in the space.
Luke: Yeah, yeah. So I’m pretty sure that when you actually first started it wasn’t all plain sailing. I mean people set, tend to see the final product of any business and they always assume that it doesn’t take that long to get there or that it’s an overnight success.
I’m sure that with every other company out there, there’s been some downtime and some negative times where you thought that it was never gonna happen. Could you tell us about any kind of struggles that you went through?
Ty: There’s plenty of those and I think in any growing company when you’re still growing, they happen everyday. So it’s still not plain sailing because you go from three people to a hundred people in three-and-a-half years. First of all I don’t recommend it.
Luke: Yeah, yeah.
Ty: It’s been wild. Yeah, it’s been wonderful to be successful but to grow that quickly there’s a lot of culture that needs to be built, a lot of management. So we’ve definitely struggled. On the outset some of the products we’re building, live stream to handheld for example, live stream video to handhelds; we completely abandoned that a year-and-a-half in.
We spent a lot of time on that but the reality is it doesn’t monetize in the way that it needs to for our partners. So there’s been a lot of products that we’ve launched that hadn’t worked.
There’s a lot of figuring out along the way, so let me just give you an example, I mean my wife says to me all the time “Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” and I say “No, I have no idea what I’m doing but it’s going pretty well” and I studied literature, marine biology, and Jon, co-founder, he’s a computer programmer.
So Jon was focusing on technology, I had to learn the business side so having a background on literature and marine biology didn’t help too much. I mean in the beginning, I remember invoicing one of our first clients and going into our account at the time and saying “Hey, where’s that money we invoiced last week?” and he said “Oh, it’s net thirty on the invoice” and I said “What does that mean?”
It’s something called cash flow, you have to learn about when you’re gonna be paid and all that, so I think it was definitely a hard-learning process, and I’m still learning but it’s been kind of trial-by-error, so the way that I’ve learned usually is getting punched in the face and then you say “Whoa, I don’t want that to happen again.”
Luke: I think we’re gonna get along great Ty, ‘cuz that’s exactly how I’ve been sort of doing business ever since I’ve started out and every error that comes, you try and build on it and work from that.
Ty: Yeah, I think I’ve certainly made plenty of mistakes and there’s still a lot more for me to learn, but I think the important piece is knowing when you’ve made a mistake and then working on making better decisions in the future and working on correcting it.
So I think I’ve been very fortunate I’ve been surrounded by some really bright people who’ve helped out this company and like wonderful [inaudible 12:23] I think we’ve certainly had plenty of dark moments in Songwhale’s history where planning that I’ve done or decisions that I’ve made have come back to haunt us or products have failed or there’ve been rough periods where maybe there’s a lot of [inaudible 12:54] from a particular product or the other problem that we have is when you grow real fast, you have to manage cash flow.
But then the other pieces, now that we’re bigger we have a lot of demands so when you have a lot of business coming in, you have to be able to facilitate that business in a way that leaves the clients happy and still feeling great and still feeling special and when you start getting bigger that gets more difficult to do unless you keep hiring more and more people, and so I think that’s definitely a challenge.
I think we’re at a point right now where we really have more work coming at this point, so we’re spending time focusing on kind of a leaning down the types of verticals that we wanna focus on. We’re very spread out and that’s wonderful but we’re also gaining, instead of continuing to be spread out, we’re gaining more focus within the verticals that we’re in.
Luke: Yes, so expanding in order to keep up with the demand which you’ll see isn’t a bad problem to have at all.
Ty: No, but you do always want to work on scalability. So I think we’re expanding to keep up with the demand, but at the same time there are other areas we could expand into that we’re choosing not to at this point because we want to spend, we want to have a greater focus on the areas that we’re in. Instead of, we want deeper penetration in the areas we’re in instead of always adding on to the different verticals that we’re working in.
Luke: Yeah, yeah. So anyway, I’m a huge fan of SMS messaging to promote a product or service and from what I’ve seen and from what you’ve just said, that sort of see where Songwhale that’s where your expertise lies and from first hand experience as well.
When I’ve worked for various companies, I’ve actually ended up being in charge of SMS messaging of certain companies because I’ve believed in it so much, whereas, I think others haven’t believed in it so much but I’ve had this kind of real belief that that’s the way you need to be going with your business ‘cuz like people say, there are so many people out there with their mobile, that you need to cash in on it. What do you personally think is so good about SMS messaging for businesses?
Ty: Well there’s a lot of things. Again we do a lot more, here we have a lot of different ways that we engage consumers and how brands engage in mobile marketing but you’re a hundred percent right. The foundation to all of our programs is SMS and the reason that is, is because it’s the gateway [inaudible 15:23] ubiquitous.
It’s the only standard compliant technology that’s on every cell phone out there. Every cell phone does SMS. So apps are sexy, apps are cool but now you have to support the Blackberry platform, the Android platform, the iPhone platform and that’s wonderful and they’ll continue to grow, but the reality is when you look at mobile marketing and engage it with a brand, you start with the biggest door, OK, the biggest door is a hundred percent wide and that is SMS.
The next biggest door is mobile web browsing, OK, so maybe you’re about seventy percent there, then you get down to the apps which are smaller percentages but a lot of brands make the mistake if they create an app and they spend all this time on the app but then they don’t have a way to create awareness.
Well if you create a mobile database for SMS first, now you can push a message out to that database to say “Hey, download our new app” or “Hey, check out our new mobile website”, so we usually take that approach of going to the widest door first which is SMS and then we’re tearing it down. I think SMS has been really successful too because you know…when you think about email, email is free.
I can go sign up for a Gmail account and search spamming people like crazy right now. With SMS, there’s always a charge to the carriers, meaning there is a cost associated with it which keeps the media more clean, and then when you think about the psychological connotation to an email.
OK, we’re both sitting here right now on this Skype call, we both are getting emails, OK, there’ll be more emails in our inbox when we end this and we will go back and say “Oh, answer that at the end of the day, I might answer that tomorrow, I might answer that in a week”, because with email, that’s our behavior, that’s our natural behavior with the medium. With SMS, you don’t get a text from somebody, and say “Oh, I’ll answer that next week”.
There’s an impulse or there’s immediacy and that connection, that immediacy is what brands are looking for with consumers and in the opposite side, the consumers are also looking for that immediate type of information from the brand.
So the reality is, is that SMS isn’t going anywhere. Yeah, it’s very simple, yeah, it seems like that’s still SMS but there are ways that we continue to innovate on top of this SMS platform to make it an integral part of how we communicate and that’s why the numbers continue to grow and grow and grow.
So SMS is growing faster this year than it was last year and faster last year than the year before. And again it has a one hundred and sixty character set just like Twitter and the Facebook status update. So that’s part of the ADD culture that we live in now, and I think that there’s no question that with all these wonderful things we have, app-based mobile websites, Bluetooth.
There’s no question that these can be really creative ways to engage with the consumer but they’re not as effective if you don’t have the foundation which is an SMS platform to build from.
Luke: I like this idea ‘cuz I hear a lot of companies saying “Oh, you must, you must have an app, that’s what you must have, you must have.” And they talk about apps a lot and they also talk about having mobile versions of your websites, they say, “You must have that, you must have that.”
But like you say, if you haven’t got that database to actually advertise to, like you say, SMS is on absolutely every phone and an app, not everybody has an iPhone, not everybody has a Smartphone. So…
Ty: And the other thing is push. So if I’m the owner of the mobile website, I have to wait for the user to come to my mobile website. Now if I have a mobile website and combination with SMS, I can push them an SMS that says “Hey, breaking news, check this out.”
And then have a link to my mobile website where they can consume the content. But the key is to push the mobile website, it hasn’t been effective. So you push an SMS and say “Here’s what’s going on,” then you click the link to the mobile website or say “Hey, you’ve been a part of our database for score alerts for Chelsea.”
Now we pitched them on a big blast and say “Hey, check it out, we have an app, you can download our app.” And that’s how you get the consumers; you again start with the largest database and then you can make offerings with more rich media than they can select based on their device and capability.
Luke: Yeah, yeah. I mean what you mentioned earlier is the fact that you need a database to obviously, to text, to send SMS to. But how do you actually go about collecting a database? Is their clever ways that you can do that? Is their a way that you can do it from zero and do it quickly as well?
Ty: Yeah, so we’ve built out ways to grow databases virally. And one of the main things we built out that’s been incredibly successful, is called Friend Forwarder.
And what we do is, let me give you an example with Pizza Hut. We’ll run a TV spot with Pizza Hut that says “Text to win pizza for a year”. You text in and the bounce-back says “Thanks for participating. Winner will be [indecipherable 20:19] in two weeks. Here’s free breadsticks for participating.
Forward these free breadsticks to five of your friends and we’ll give you a free soda. Forward these free breadsticks to ten of your friends; we’ll give you a free pizza.”
Well everybody wants the free pizza. So everybody forwards it to ten of their friends and then the ten friends that got forwarded get the same text message. Here’s breadsticks, forward this to five friends, we’ll give you a soda, forward it to ten, we’ll give you a free pizza.
So you actually have your patrons growing the database for you. And why, cuz you’re giving them a great offer. And so they want to forward it because they want to have that great offer.
So it’s important to have a great user experience that’s giving a valuable prize and then that allows us to use that incentive to virally grow the database very quickly and we call those acquisition campaigns.
So you have a kind of a high-end prize which would be a large pizza and everybody wants to have that high-end prize and so they’re forwarding the message. It virally grows, that’s the acquisition campaign.
Then you start once you have a large enough database, you have retention campaigns. Now we’ve been very fortunate, we’ve developed a formula where an average of over ninety percent retention rate. Meaning yeah, you get a little bit degradation of people opting out every month but we always get people opting in as well.
So we retain over ninety percent of the members of our database. It’s a cross all of our, whether it’s Pizza Hut or sports teams or whatever it is. And so then you use your retention campaign, that keeps them interested.
The offer might be not as rich but it’s good enough to allow the messaging in the pocket. What we don’t allow our partners to do is say “Hey, come to Pizza Hut.” Well, I don’t want a text message in my pocket that genuinely says “Come to Pizza Hut.” I want some value there.
So we’ve used methods like the Friend Forwarder. We really grow mobile databases. Now we also have our own television platform, so we’re an exclusive mobile provider for several channel positions in the US, whether it’s on satellite TV or whether it’s on local or regionalized TV that goes through cable.
We actually control channel positions where we can show and say there’s a cooking show on, so it’s food. Well, we’ll put “contextual” at the bottom, we’ll say, we’ll put a banner at the bottom while the show is running and we’ll say “Hungry? Text Pizza Hut to nine-four-two-five-three”.
Well, Pizza Hut knows that the mobile user has a higher average order and a higher frequency. So what we’re doing is, we’re driving people to become part of Pizza Hut’s mobile program and we’re using our own television space to do that. So these are some very effective methods to grow databases quickly.
Luke: This is very, very fascinating. The Friend Forwarder is something that just seems so easy. So why hasn’t anyone else thought of this? It sounds perfect…
Ty: We thought the same thing. I’m sure they will. We thought the same thing.
Luke: Yeah, you must have…
Ty: And the thing is. Even with the [inaudible 23:23] and it’s your friends signing you up so it’s your friends sending out your number. Obviously we couldn’t do it, because mobile marketing association says we can’t just send somebody a message without having them opt in, while their friend sends them the message and then they choose whether they want to opt in or not.
Luke: Yeah, yeah exactly. And they have more trust with their friends so they’re gonna trust their friend’s recommendations.
Luke: And also you give somebody something for free, it all goes back to that. You give somebody something for free and they gonna jump at the opportunity, aren’t they?
Ty: Exactly. And Pizza Hut knows that they’re trying to create a great experience for their consumers which they’re doing by offering something free. And on top of that they’re bringing high value to the table when they send out their messaging. So they’re playing nice with the consumer too and trying a great experience. So it’s one of those rare win- win’s for everybody.
Luke: Yeah, yeah. It sounds fascinating and you know and everybody knows that once you have the people in your store, we call it over here, I don’t know if you call it in the US, but we call it a “Loss Leader”; where you get them into the place and you know that they’re gonna spend a hell of a lot more money.
You know that the salad that you give them that’s free or whatever, is not enough for them so they’re gonna have to buy some more.
Ty: Exactly, that’s exactly what it is.
Luke: So, getting back to the actual SMS themselves. How often do you message, let’s say you have a database, how often would you message it? How can you avoid seeming like a spammer? Are their specific ways that you can actually write the message? Would you put specific words at the beginning of the message for example?
Ty: Well, we also have best practices. We know how to routine our databases so we know if you message somebody everyday about pizza, it’s not gonna work. You’re gonna opt out [inaudible 25:14] because they don’t want to have [inaudible 25:17] messaging about pizza.
So we’ll take something like pizza and recommend “Hey, the maximum we should do is weekly messaging, we recommend by monthly so two messages a month.” And we know based on history that we have a high retention rate with two messages a month, so not only do you have a lower frequency of messaging but you also have to have value with message and that’s how that formula, those two variables are how you maintain a healthy database.
You don’t annoy people with messaging, at the same time whenever you do pop-up in their pockets, you’re just plain value and so it can depend, there are like score alerts for example that we do where people want messaging all the time. They wanna know when the score changes.
They’re getting text messages every thirty seconds in a basketball game. That’s up to them though, they set that preference and they say “Hey, I want a text every score or I want a text every quarter, I want a text every minute”, and that when the user can set it, when it comes to the marketing, where we’re pushing it and it’s just offers…you know…and lest we’re pushing it on a specific event, we typically space out the messaging to make sure that we don’t fatigue the consumer.
Luke: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s really important to bear in mind because everybody hates, and like you just said, SMS is not like email, you don’t want to get that into people’s minds.
You want it to still feel special, so when they receive their text, you want them to feel happy to open it. You don’t want them to think “Oh, it’s Pizza Hut again, oh just delete it.”
Luke: Yeah, so I noticed on your site that your clients are generally, really, really big. They’re Fortune five hundred companies some of them. Which is obviously great but how did you actually manage to build that clientele? Is there something that you did specifically, did you head into that area? Did you always aim to get Fortune five hundred companies on your clientele list?
Ty: I think because we’re in the music and sports space, where a lot of high-profile brands spend money, we started creating relationships. So for example, when we’re working with NFL teams, the NFL being as big as it is in the US; has a lot of premier sponsors and large sponsors and so they saw our brand and they saw that we’re doing a good job driving value and that opened up the doors for us to have conversations with them about how we can provide platform services for them.
So I think it kind of started by being in these high-profile industries and then if you add value, and your service actually works, well then everybody in those large brand Fortune five hundred industries they talk and if you can position yourself to be a solutions provider for those types of large brands then the word gets spread very quickly and fortunately in our case that’s what’s happened and we’ve been able to provide such a great platform and at the same time, great service.
And I think that’s helped these larger brands. The larger brands are looking for not only the best platform out there but also something they can help them navigate the [inaudible 28:27] space. They’re looking for information and consultation and we provided both with the technology and the information and consultative side and I think that attracted a lot of these big brands to us.
Luke: Yeah, so you’ve not only got the software that can do it but you have the brains behind it. So you guys can actually analyze what you’re doing and understand it.
Ty: Yup, and we can help them ‘cuz they’re gonna say “Well I don’t know what to do with Twitter, I don’t know what to do with SMS, I don’t know what to do with Facebook.” Well we do, and we can help walk them to that.
Luke: So are there any companies and specific niches out there that won’t benefit from SMS marketing just as a heads-up? Are there any that you find it very, very difficult to monetize that kind of SMS marketing?
Ty: Yeah, I think if you can’t build a really big database in terms of monetizing through advertising, you need a big database. But for any company, even a mom and pop, SMS is useful because it’s creating again a conversation with the consumer, wherein keeping the brand top-of-mind.
So SMS is cheap enough now that if you’re a one-man taco stand, it’s worth it to use SMS because you can remind, at 7PM at night when people are out on the streets and you need to drive traffic to your taco stand, with a push of a button you can pop-up in their pockets and if you’re sending it to a hundred people and you drive ten, well you just made money because SMS is so cheap and so I really think that we’re gonna see SMS permeate into every single industry.
We’re working in theater now, we work with the movies and the cinemas, we work in real estate, we work in sports, we work in entertainment, we work in education. I think we’re gonna see it in every facet of life because it’s so basic and important.
It’s like the telephone or it’s like a computer, now we have a little computer in our hands and more people use and they use SMS to…it’s great for the promotional side of things because it’s short, it’s simple, it’s clean and everybody has it.
So I really think it’ll permeate in every set of business. We’re doing health care now, we’re doing automotive, it’s fascinating. We’re doing safety, it’s really one of those unique platforms that is helpful anywhere even down to a mom and pop who might only have fifty people on the database.
Luke: I completely agree with you there because it’s something like I said earlier, I’ve personally always wanted to push for any company that I’ve been working for in marketing.
I’ve always said “No, SMS you cannot beat it, it really is that great”, and the first thing that I think the first major sort of text campaign that I noticed over here, I dunno if you’ve got it over there or whether you’ve heard of it is Orange Wednesdays?
Luke: You haven’t heard of it, well the following company Orange, I don’t know if you have Orange…
Ty: Yeah, I know Orange Wall…
Luke: Yeah, Orange, what they do is they do a thing on every Wednesdays, called Orange Wednesdays, you text them if you have an Orange mobile phone. Now you don’t even need an Orange mobile phone ‘cuz they realize that anybody…they might as well just go for anybody.
But you text, you can basically download an app which if you haven’t got an Orange mobile but if you have got an Orange mobile, you text a number, you text something like food to a number and they give you a product, they give you a coupon code and you walk into the cinema and you get half-priced tickets in the cinema and also you get a half-price meal at Pizza Express. So it’s that kind of thing that have just driven so much business to every single Pizza Express now; it’s full every Wednesday.
Ty: That’s awesome, it’s a little bit of like a reverse coupon.
Ty: It’s kind of interesting.
Luke: Very interesting.
Ty: That’s cool. Are you guys seeing over there in the UK, have you seen any text-to-purchase platforms where people are buying thru text?
Luke: No, no, well I personally haven’t known and I always keep a wide eye with advertising always. I love to see new, innovative ways of reaching customers and I haven’t personally seen it, no. What’s that about?
Ty: OK, just basically using text messaging to make purchases. So “Hey, I like those pair of shoes”, there’s a keyword on them, I text a keyword, my phone number is tied to my credit card, done.
Luke: Really? That’s fascinating. We’ll probably get that in a few years’ time.
Ty: Well hopefully it’s coming from us. We’re launching the platform pretty soon.
Luke: That’s good. Another thing I want you to talk about is have you ever gone near Bluetooth advertising? We have a few companies over here that when you’re driving past a place, say you’re driving past a car warehouse that sells cars, you might get a text saying “BMWs: ten percent off this weekend”, which will be sent to you through Bluetooth as you drive past. Do you do that?
Ty: Yeah, we actually did that when we first started, so we did a lot of that about three-and-a-half years ago…three years ago. We did a lot with Bluetooth but in the US, it’s just not as big as it is in Europe.
The phones, Bluetooth has mainly been for headsets in the US and it didn’t have the ubiquity and the critical mass of SMS so we decided to move away from Bluetooth and more towards SMS because again everybody has SMS so we get them to opt in, we can interact with everybody instead of just the people who have their Bluetooth turned on at the time that they’re driving by.
I like it, but I think it’s a space where there can only be a few players because again Bluetooth is not something that every single person has and so we kind of just made the decision to focus more on text than Bluetooth.
Luke: Yeah, I mean it’s probably quite wise as well in the US. I’m just thinking, this maybe quite a good point to make is that a lot of these places are in small, very, very small, intricate little villages where everything is really close together and the actual span on these transmitters that send the messages is only like…it could be thirty to ninety meters.
So I think in America where everything is quite spread out. [laughter] So it might not work so well…
Ty: Exactly, exactly. Yeah and the other thing is with patent laws and everything, the cell phone technology in Europe has just been ahead of the US.
I mean there’s iPhone and a lot of Android stuff now and Blackberries out of Canada but I mean the reality is its taking us a little bit in our culture to catch up. Cell phones and Bluetooth is something that other than headsets just really hasn’t caught on here.
Luke: Yeah, yeah.
Ty: And it could be the proximity.
Luke: Yeah, definitely. Of course it could be. So going slightly off-topic a little bit, to a more personal side of things. I did actually manage to read an old interview with you and you mentioned that you’d written two rock operas which I was quite surprised. But is this true and if so, what was your inspiration behind this and why did you do it and did it work out for you?
Ty: Yeah. You know it’s pretty funny, the story of Songwhale starts when I was eighteen years old, I was sitting in an English class and Jon is seven years older than me. So my business partner is seven years older than me.
I’m sitting in this English class, we’re reading Beowulf the rock opera and the teacher plays the first half of Beowulf the rock opera written by students seven years before and I listened to this thing and I said “My gosh! I was listening to Pink Floyd, the Wall and Tommy by The Who”, and I was kind of into that rock opera thing and I’m like “Wow!” and I’m like “That’s pretty funny”
I mean it certainly makes reading Beowulf a lot more interesting to think about it musically and I asked the teacher, who wrote it and he said “John Greenlee and Zach London”.
Well I knew Jon’s name ‘cuz he was a family friend, my parents were friends with his parents. So I went home and I said to my mom “Hey, do you have Jon Greenlee’s contact info?” He only did the first half of the Beowulf thing and the teacher said he’d give me credit if I do the second half.
So I called John up and Jon was a programmer in Minneapolis and it’s funny how the story comes full circle cuz now we own Songwhale together, but he was a programmer in Minneapolis, he was 25 years old and I said “Hey, I’d like to do the second half of this rock opera.” And he said “What instrument do you play?”, and I said “Nothing”.
And I forgot. So he said “Alright, well figure out how to play an instrument and then call me back.” So that day I went out and I bought a guitar and mowed lawns that summer and I bought a guitar and I taught myself how to play and started writing tunes and I sent them over to Jon and he said “Well these aren’t very good but it takes a lot to do this so I’ll help you out”.
So I spent my winter break and as much time as I could going up to his studio in Minneapolis where we recorded Beowulf the rock opera and at that point nobody much cared except maybe my mom who thought it was cool and everyone else thought it was crazy and then I went off to school and one of the professors heard Beowulf the rock opera and she said “If you wanna make a rock opera in another piece of literature, I’ll give you credit.”
So I said “Sure, I’ll make another rock opera in a piece of literature.” Again as usual, I worked on the songwriting but Jon is the producer and the technical side of all the things that we do. So I asked if he’d help again and he said “Yeah”, so we kept going back and forth in his studio and then over the next four years we recorded Frankenstein the rock opera based on Mary Shelley’s novel.
Spent all my breaks doing that and working with Jon and writing tunes and then Jon would record them and mix them and then we ended up starting our first company out of that.
We got investors and did a little tour, and went to New York and did the whole thing and it was a blast and then what happened is I had gone over to Europe to work on another album, just a solo album, and John Hendricks who owns the Discovery Channel I guess had seen or heard our musical and said “Hey, would you like to come write music for Discovery Channel?”.
And so I did that and again working with Jon, so I went to D.C. and worked on that and fly back and forth and Jon was a part of a lot of the music that was done on Discovery Channel and then after writing a song for Animal Planet and picking out music for TLC and things like that and was enough of that. We started a record label and then after that record label I was at Virgin and then we started Songwhale and here we are.
Luke: So really in a weird way that little passion for rock operas was the best of your business and maybe if you never actually pursued it you wouldn’t have gotten in touch with Jon and things wouldn’t have been the same.
Ty: Well, I think it totally was. I mean the reality is, is that to this day, what Jon and I love to do most is make music. That’s what we love to do together, that’s what we have fun doing. Actually for Wofford with Jay we did a track called “Soccer rocks” as and sold CDs at the stadium as part of a fund-raiser and then Jon and I record in our office all the time.
We have a little recording studio in our office here in Pittsburgh and we recorded maybe forty tracks last year and really we built this business because as we were doing music in the record label we couldn’t get…we couldn’t make enough money off of music. So we said “My gosh!
We got to start another company and make a bunch of money so we don’t have to worry about the money piece so we can just play music”, and that’s kind of how we started Songwhale.
Luke: There’s me thinking that you were serious businessmen but you’re not, you’re just running this business so that you can actually just have fun all day. I’m really jealous of you.
Ty: That’s the real truth. We’re actually running it so we can make more music ‘cuz nobody will pass for our music.
Luke: Yeah. Your music is that bad that you need a business to help it succeed.
Ty: That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right.
Luke: So how’s that going for you, do you see yourself ever getting anywhere with your music or is it purely just hobby now?
Ty: Oh, it’s hobby. We make music cuz it’s fun to make music. I don’t even necessarily make music for other people to hear and a lot of the time it’s more just fun to do.
It’s kinda like hey if there are people who build model planes, they don’t necessarily need to invite hundreds of people over to see ‘em, they just like the process. I really enjoy the process in making music and then I like to be able to listen to it myself.
I think Jon and I have probably have a couple more rock operas in us that we’ll write but I think the beauty is I don’t know that the goal is fame and fortune from the music as much as it is to be able to just do it all the time because it’s fun.
Yeah, it’s a beautiful hobby and one that I just personally enjoy. It’s my favorite thing to do. So if I can support just making tunes it doesn’t necessarily really matter to me at all if anybody ever hears it or cares, it’s just a process.
Luke: Yeah, exactly and actually I completely agree with you there because I’m a music lover myself and I learned the guitar probably three years ago now and.
I did it all my self and I always said to my girlfriend “I never, ever want to play this in front of a crowd”, I just purely do it because when I sit there and I get the chords to a certain song, it is the most satisfying feeling ever. And just to hear it back played when you record it is awesome.
Ty: Exactly. There’s a group of us that does recording and we share solace with each other. We got a couple of friends, we have offices in the Twin Cities, in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Minnesota and we have a couple of friends there that we make music with.
There’s just a small group of us and we share tunes with each other and there are things that a lot of people will never even hear but it’s part of the experience. I enjoy creating so whether it’s music or companies, I like creating.
Luke: Cool, cool. It’s good to hear anyway from one music lover to another, I think it’s really good to hear that you’ve got this really, really successful business. It’s probably quite a dream of mine to be honest, have this successful business that you kind of do run and you take very seriously but in the same time you get the chance to goof around with your music. [laughter]
Ty: Yeah, exactly. Jon and I work really hard, we work late nights but I’ll tell you what, if the office winds down and people go home at nine o’clock on a Friday night, we’re gonna turn on the electric guitars and we’re gonna play music.
Luke: I want to be a part of that, I’m really jealous of you now.
Ty: Well you guys [inaudible 44:04] much of my favorite music comes from over there so I’m jealous as well.
Luke: Yeah, well we do seem to have quite a good repertoire for music actually, I do agree there but one of my favorite bands…one of them comes from over there is Kings of Leon. They were huge over here for years and then I never really made it over there at all and I think they’ve just started to get a bit bigger now.
Ty: Oh, they’re huge over here now and it’s funny when I was at, Virgin’s under EMI and Kings of Leon were on Capital, and I was in the collegiate marketing and promotions, so I got to work with them and help promote that record.
Luke: Wow! Which record?
Ty: Oh, man. It was the one before this last one. I can’t…
Luke: Probably one of the best albums for me, if only we can remember it, is it “Only by the night”? Is that the one?
Ty: Yeah, I think that’s the one.
Luke: With “Sex on Fire” on it? Let’s have a look.
Ty: No, it’s the one before that.
Luke: The one before that? So let’s have a look…
Luke: “Because of the Times”?
Ty: That’s it.
Luke: The one with “Charmer” and “Knocked Up”. Anyways, moving off the music slightly, I think we’re going off-topic; this is the music lovers in us coming out here.
Ty: Yeah, you’re gonna give me off easily. I’ll talk about music forever.
Luke: Me too. This is a real bit danger here. I hope everyone’s got a really long time and a really good music brain.
Luke: Do you have any other projects on the horizon, Ty? Any businesses? You mentioned you’re gonna be doing something with Phil Laboon, if you could tell us about that at all?
Ty: Yeah, Phil and I are working on a really cool project. He’s the one who really understands SEO. To be honest just like business, there’s a lot of people that I sit down with everyday that have a lot of better ideas than I do and Phil really understands the SEO world and is super creative and for a long time I’ve admired his business here.
I think it’s just an amazing business Iflow, and I suppose the thing that I like to do is [inaudible 46:22] so we create synergy and then I’m able to go out and champion it and help build excitement around it and create strategic relationships and really work on business development synergies and so Phil and I have been wanting to work on a project together and he came up with a really neat idea.
Basically it’s going to make SEO incredibly accessible and easy and I’m trying not to unveil too much because it’s gonna be a really neat product that we’re gonna launch with a big bang.
But it’s gonna really change the way people could interact with SEO and it’s gonna make it much more accessible to mom-and-pops and the platform that we’re building allows people from a business that has ten thousand employees to a business that has ten, really utilizes platform to help them in their Search Engine Optimization.
I think the couple key pieces of platform are the ease of use; I think it’s the kind of the accountability, and the track ability, the metrics and I also think that it’s extremely cost-effective. So it’s kind of a new niche for Search Engine Optimization.
We’re gonna be able to…with the software that we’ve created; we really engaged and move the needle in very quick and cost-effective way for a broad spectrum of clients. So I wish I could get into more detail at this point, but I’m sure you’ll see it, when you see the tool you’ll know understand exactly what I’m talking about and why it’s really going to change the way people look at SEO.
We’re looking to make a big splash with this one. We’re very, very, very, very excited about it. It’s a platform and that’s something Songwhale’s done really well, is build upon platforms and I think now we’re just taking Bill’s built, Phil not Bill, Phil, his brother’s name is Bill.
Phil’s built an amazing company with Iflow and I think what we’re doing with this new business is we’re catering to a different type of a client and so Iflow will continue to have the clients that they have but we’re catering to a different type of client and we’re building out a platform which is something that I’ve been fortunate enough to have experience expanding around the country and using strategic partnerships to grow.
So I think we’re both able to pool our strengths together here on this project and I haven’t been this excited in a really long time so I’m very fired up about it.
Luke: Well, that’s good. That’s good to hear and I’m sure it’s going to be really good and I think reading between the lines I can tell what it’s gonna be, the kind of thing that you’re getting at and obviously you don’t want to give too much away but I think the SEO is one thing that is just so hard to conquer on your own unless you do so much research or you do a course in it or anything like that.
I think to actually conquer it properly, I think there are small things that you can do as a website owner to better your SEO but you can’t conquer SEO. You won’t necessarily be number one from just the small little tweaks that you can do. I personally would be very, very up for having a look at these products and maybe mentioning it on Blogtrepreneur in the future.
Ty: Yeah, I think it’s gonna be really neat and when you see it, it’s so easy to use, it’s gonna be beautiful. You know the other thing I’m working on is a…it’s a social media shopping network.
I can’t say too much about that either but it combines social media, and e-commerce in a really unique way. It’s very, very, very exciting so I got a couple side projects but I think it’s the beauty of creation and so getting to do something with friends and building new businesses is always a blast. There’s still a lot to do with Songwhale.
There’s still a lot going on here, a lot of growth, a lot of changes, it’s a fun environment, but to be able to work on this couple of opportunities especially with a friend and another who owns another business I admire is pretty fun and exciting.
Luke: Cool, I mean it’s good to hear that you’re putting in the efforts to take things forward ‘cuz it’s like anything really. It’s a bit like a Steve Jobs and Apple, they take things forward.
They’re always, always doing something bigger and better next time and things that people haven’t heard of. So it’s good to hear that you’re…you may be on a slightly smaller scale than Apple but it sounds really exciting. So happy for you there, buddy.
Ty: Thanks, I appreciate it, man.
Luke: So moving on to my last question which I seem to ask everybody ‘cuz it seems to sometimes create a really good response. If you ever had to start again from scratch, if you ever lost everything, so if you lost Songwhale or Songwhale just seemed to go down, which I’m sure it won’t. [laughter]
I don’t want to bring out those kind of feelings in you, but if ever you had to start again basically and you realized that you may have to go and get a nine-to-five job and work for somebody, what would you do, what would be the next thing that you would do, say if you lost your job, say if you lost everything today. What would you do tomorrow to get you back on the track to success?
Ty: Hmm… I think… Oooohh… I’d have to figure out something quick. I’ve never been very good at working for anybody else so I don’t know who would take me or how long I’d last. I think…
Luke: You’d work in a music shop and a record shop…
Ty: Yeah…you know it really depends I think I’m one of those people where hey, if Songwhale blew up today I’d rebuild the next Songwhale tomorrow and pool together my resources and this is what I like to do.
I’d say “Alright”, I mean I’ve blown up plenty of companies before we got it as good as we gotten Songwhale. I failed plenty of times so I think for me it’s something like OK this is what happens and you pick up and you learn from it. I’d pool together some of the people that I’ve admired and come up with a new concept and start again from scratch just like what we did with Songwhale.
But if I had to get a day job for a little awhile, I don’t know, maybe I would become a member of a renaissance festival. That would be fun. And maybe be a part of a jousting competition of a renaissance festival. I don’t know what they pay for that kind of thing; I’d be in to it.
Luke: It’s a very different road. It sounds like you’re in to all sorts of things.
Luke: But anyway, thanks so much for the interview Ty. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you personally because obviously your love for music, that obviously we share.
Obviously sharing a few similarities, with you coming over here, not that I’ve been over to America at all. I’ve never been able get over there. I’ve hardly ever been to Florida which is in America at its best. I know I’ve to go over there one day and do some touring.
Ty: Phil has a place in Florida so make sure he let you stay if you go there.
Luke: I will. I’ll pop him an email and see what he says.
Luke: But thank you anyway. To the readers please comment below and let us know what you think of Ty and if you’ve got any experience at all with SMS messaging, let us know. If you don’t agree with it, or you think it’s bad, let us know that as well and I’m sure Ty will do his very best to put you down on your comments.
Luke: So yeah, let us know anyway. Ty, I’ll come back to you after this recording but thanks so much for today.
Ty: All right. No problem. Thank you. It’s a pleasure.
How does an upstart with no money become a giant in the mobile space.
The short answer is persistence. For the longer, more meaningful answer, listen to this interview. You’ll hear the story of how Ty Morse’s persistence helped him make Songwhale into a company that turns users with mobile phones into viral marketing machines. It’s the reason clients like Pizza Hut, Pittsburgh Steelers and Coldwell Banker hire his company.
(By the way, if you listen to nothing else, make sure to hear him describe the viral campaign he built for Pizza Hut. It’s in the answer to one of my first 3 questions.)
PITTSBURGH, PA (September 12, 2011) - TowerCare Technologies, makers of DonorPro fundraising software has partnered with Songwhale, the leading mobile solutions provider to offer an integrated mobile marketing platform called DonorPro Connect for non-profits around the country.
"The mobile marketing capabilities created from this partnership will provide non-profits with the ability to reach constituents immediately and creatively – with a greater rate of event registrants, volunteer participation, and overall giving," says Donna Myers, President of TowerCare Technologies. "As more of the donating public communicates with smart phones, the opportunity for non-profits to capture attention and awareness has increased. We are happy to offer our current and future clients these new marketing capabilities."
Ty Morse, Songwhale CEO explains, "We are extremely excited to launch this cutting edge platform with DonorPro, as it expands upon the amazing offering DonorPro has already created for their clients. Songwhale's proprietary technology has been tailored and integrated into the DonorPro platform to provide a unique solution that offers an unmatched feature set combined with unprecedented message delivery speed."
DonorPro Connect Overview
DonorPro Connect will provide non-profits with the ability to use low-cost text messaging (SMS) services to increase awareness of constituents and ultimately raise more money. Messages will link to a mobile website as well as donation and registration pages, request participation in a survey, announce events, and enlist supporters to action. DonorPro Connect is attractively priced and is an affordable direct marketing option for non-profits of all sizes. This Mobile Marketing Platform will release on September 15, 2011.
About TowerCare Technologies
TowerCare Technologies, Inc. is the company behind DonorPro, an affordable and easy to use CRM and donor management system with online fundraising tools for all types of non-profits. Founded in 2002, TowerCare Technologies is a privately-held company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. DonorPro increases donations, streamlines workflow, increases staff productivity, and enhances personal communications with prospects and donors. Learn more at www.towercare.com.
Songwhale is the leading Mobile Solutions Provider, supplying its partners with emerging technology and services that facilitate sponsorship, advertising, distribution, and monetization of digital content to mobile devices. Established in 2007, Songwhale runs successful operations in North America and overseas. Visit www.songwhale.com for more information.
Lawrenceville-based Songwhale LLC is building out the applications side of its business through partnerships with universities that are designed to bring in new business and establish a training ground for new employees.
The company is partnering with California University of Pennsylvania and has helped the school launch its CalUFusion program, which has created four apps that run on the Apple mobile operating system within the past six months. The free apps are geared at student life and include tools for campus navigation, food ordering and emergency notification.
“We had done apps (before), but the apps side of the business grew for us when we saw Cal U, so we hired on that basis,” said Songwhale CEO Ty Morse.
The move complements the company’s existing business, which includes mobile marketing based on text messaging and mobile Internet platforms.
Songwhale hired five people to start the Cal U project, has recently brought on two more app developers and expects to hire five more people in the next two months, Morse said. The company is in talks with 10 other universities, including other state universities, that are interested in starting similar programs. Morse declined to get into specifics.
Songwhale traditionally has worked with consumer brands, sports teams and university athletic programs on mobile marketing. The company employs more than 100 people across offices in the U.S., China and Indonesia, with about 30 people in Pittsburgh. Apps make up roughly 20 percent of the business, and Morse expects that to grow over the next three years. “Cal U was a catalyst” for pursuing more apps business, he said.
California University initially launched the apps for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users, but they are moving into the Android operating system and, eventually, to a mobile website accessible to all devices.
The university doesn’t have a smart phone requirement for its 9,400 students, but it found that more than 90 percent of students have cell phones, about one-third use smart phones and roughly one-quarter use an iPod Touch. According to The Nielsen Co., there are 228 million mobile phone users nationwide over the age of 13, and 31 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers have smart phones.
CalUFusion is part of the university’s strategic plan and is designed to use the mobile technology that students use every day and infuse it into classroom learning, said Craig Butzine, interim vice president of marketing and university relations. Students would not only benefit from more engaging learning, but also become more familiar with the technology, he said.
Songwhale works with students who want to build on top of what already is designed, and this has led to internship and job opportunities, Morse said.
As the demand for app developers has grown, it has become more difficult to find those employees, and such a partnership can benefit not only the students but also Songwhale.
“It’s true there is a smaller supply of these people,” Morse said. “App (developers) have been the hardest thing to find.”
PITTSBURGH – Duquesne Light customers now can receive a variety of useful information via text message through the new Duquesne Light Mobile Network. By texting DUQLIGHT to 94253, customers will receive storm updates, energy saving tips from the company's Watt Choices program, and other relevant messages.
"Text messaging is one of the most commonly used communication vehicles today, so this is the next logical step in communicating with our customers" said Joseph Vallarian, Duquesne Light's Manager of Customer and Media Relations. "This free service will be especially useful during major storms, as many times, a customer's cell phone is the only device not dependent on a constant source of power. We'll be able to provide Duquesne Light Mobile Network members the same restoration updates we make available via the media, our interactive voice response system, and on our website."
Duquesne Light's Mobile Network, which is administered by Pittsburgh-based Songwhale, also will offer a variety of energy- and money-saving tips from the company's Watt Choices program. By partnering with Songwhale, Duquesne Light will expand their overall digital presence in the market.
"The network will enable us to help link customers to a number of beneficial options, from major CFL bulb discounts and free refrigerator recycling to an extensive list of rebates and free online energy audits," Vallarian added.
Duquesne Light also recently added a live chat feature on its website for customers who need to start, stop or transfer their service.
About Duquesne Light Company
Duquesne Light Company is a leader in the transmission and distribution of electric energy, offering superior customer service and reliability to more than half a million customers throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.
Songwhale is the leading interactive digital media company that enables companies to reach consumers across multiple touch points, providing flexible access and content across Web, WAP and SMS technologies.
What’s your background as it relates to Minnesota? Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Milwaukee Wisconsin, but I currently own a record label in the the Twin Cities and still record music there in my free time. My business partner Jon Greenlee went to the U of M and settled down in the Twin Cities after school. I’m 7 years younger than him so when we first started working together on projects 10 years ago it was natural for us to use Twin Cities as a staging area since Jon had developed a talented network there of artists, programmers, and friends
What prompted the departure from Minnesota?
Jon and I had built Royalty, Etc. Records in the Twin Cities. We were new to the record business and had found success putting out records, booking tours, getting publicity, etc…but we hadn’t found financial success. I had an opportunity to head to NYC to work for Virgin Records in collegiate marketing and promotion — Jon and I thought it would be a good idea of I got inside the belly of the beast so we built Songwhale while I was in NYC and he was in Minnesota (it’s still technically incorporated there).
What has been your startup experience to date? What are you currently pursuing?
Action packed! Currently building Songwhale.
How do you and others in your current tech community perceive Minnesota in terms of tech talent and startups in general?
When I think of Minnesota I think of some of my favorite rock bands and an awesome music scene. Of course Medtronic, Best Buy, Target and a bunch of huge companies are there…but I don’t think of a startup community.
What’s are some of the cultural differences you’ve seen between the two markets (as it relates to early stage tech)?
Carnegie Mellon university has prompted tons of startups and VC capitol in the Pittsburgh area. It’s a budding little Silicon Valley with low cost of living and tons of talent. The region has done an amazing job incubating cool startups and creating collaboration and synergy in a small big city.
What is your opinion on the value of incubators/seed capital?
Of course it’s invaluable. You need money to start/grow and if you have a good idea, are organized, and are willing to work harder than everyone else money will find you, I believe.
What would be one thing MN could do, right now, to foster a better startup culture and to retain talent?
Create more accessible networking for startups. The minute I got to Pittsburgh the tech council reached out — they held our hand and made us feel welcome from the start. To this day we network with them and they are great friends!
When will all the accomplished (former) Minnesota geeks get together and start a fund to invest in local startups?
I’m in. Let’s start it.
Anything else you would like to add?
When is the lightrail going to start running down University Ave? And go to Turf Club for good tunes!
- 100 43rd St., Suite 115, Pittsburgh, PA 15201
- (412) 973-1065 / www.thefuturewhale.com
- Multimedia employees: 23
- Web designers: 3
- Local employees: 23
- Total employees: 100
- Percent from multimedia operations: 100
- Top officer(s): Ty Morse
- Other services offered: Digital marketing, mobile marketing, application development, social media, lead generation, digital advertising platform, onsite digital activation
Armed with a new $1.2 million strategic investment, Lawrenceville-based Songwhale LLC is taking its mobile marketing message into American living rooms with a plan to push its service for mobile devices onto television.
Call it advertising within advertising.
The deal, which closed in June, already has spawned a pilot program in Los Angeles, where Songwhale’s message, crafted for a Pizza Hut franchise, is embedded within an infomercial calling television watchers to action by texting in for the chance to win a contest and opt in to a mobile database being built for Pizza Hut. By opting in, consumers receive coupons and promotions.
“It’s a huge platform, and our partners have owned the space,” said Songwhale CEO Ty Morse.
He declined to name the strategic partner other than to say they have ad space across 3,000 channels nationwide.
“The TV platform was really important to us,” Morse said. “Mobile doesn’t stand alone; you need calls to action — Web, print, TV, radio — it’s how you opt in to a mobile platform, and the most powerful platform is TV.”
Songwhale, founded by Morse and Chief Technology Officer John Greenlee in 2007, started with calls to action at sporting events with teams as clients and other associated brands. Fans could receive coupons and other special offers by texting to the Songwhale number during the event.
The company has since signed clients such as Coldwell Banker and uses its mobile platform to help the real estate firm get information about homes for sale to people through mobile websites. The number to text in appears on Coldwell Banker signs throughout western Pennsylvania.
Locally, Songwhale on TV is expected in the next three to six months and possibly in markets including Atlanta, Minneapolis and Seattle.
The pilot in Los Angeles is set to run through the end of the month, and the company will look at the benchmarks it has set to compare the success. So far, the new program appears to be working, Morse said, though he declined to give specific numbers since it is still early.
“We’ve looked at initial results and said, ‘OK, if this goes well, we are talking tens of millions of dollars in growth right off the bat,’” Morse said of the TV opportunity.
Other clients being tested in the TV market include Coldwell Banker and home improvement retailer Lowe’s.
Already, as a result of the new partnership, the company is bringing on four new people this month: an account manager, a sales person and two new programmers. In March, the company hired Mateen Aini as chief operating officer so Morse could focus on more long-term plans.
Michael Buss, chief operating officer of a 148-store Pizza Hut franchise that includes 55 restaurants in the Pittsburgh region, was an early Songwhale client. Buss said the franchise has been able to reach the 18- to 24-year-old demographic the restaurant was seeking.
“(Younger consumers) turn to us as a loyal brand that they identify with as hip or trendy,” he said. “That has been a positive for us.”
Over the past year, Songwhale also has been growing internationally, opening offices in China and Indonesia. Worldwide, the company has a staff of 100, with about 25 in Pittsburgh.
The company also is involved with the region’s technology community, offering help where it can to start-ups looking to get into markets where Songwhale already operates. For the overall tech community, the company offers an infectious enthusiasm, said Audrey Russo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council.
“What I love about them, not only are they willing to experiment, they collaborate,” she said. “They are not afraid to try new things, and that is contagious.”
June 23, 2010
CLEVELAND – The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) is proud to announce its partnership with Songwhale LLC, a mobile marketing company based in Pittsburgh, Pa.
NACDA and Songwhale will work together to develop a unique mobile strategy for the association to better engage and serve its members. With mobile opportunities coming more into focus in collegiate athletics, it is the right time for NACDA to develop this partnership, which will launch with text-based services during the Convention in Anaheim, Calif.
NACDA and Songwhale are extremely excited about this new partnership and the potential for its development and expansion with other technologies. This partnership gives the association the opportunity for another vehicle to interact with its members. With the increased use of smartphones on a day-to-day basis, mobile technology has emerged as an effective way to reach members quickly and efficiently. The Songwhale platform allows individuals to connect with NACDA and receive information and alerts on a device that most people have with them at all times.
At the NACDA Convention, Songwhale will be exhibiting and showcasing its texting capabilities that will be utilized to enhance the overall experience. Convention attendees may opt-in to receive text alerts, free of charge, directly on their mobile devices at their exhibit booth.
As an additional part of this new relationship, Songwhale is offering discounted rates to NACDA member colleges and universities. For more information check out songwhale.com!
Songwhale is a full service mobile company that provides a full suite of services beyond SMS to partners and clients. Some of these technologies used to develop these partnerships include, the development of web and WAP (mobile) sites; recruiting sites for athletic departments; texting services including voting, trivia, text-2-screen, and text-2-win; and additional in-stadium services including WiFi with live streaming video and many ways for fans to download venue specific content and win prizes. Some of Songwhale’s current partners include the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Indians, University of Pittsburgh, The Ohio State University, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Lowe’s.
NACDA, now in its 45th year, is the professional and educational association for more than 6,500 college athletics administrators at more than 1,600 institutions throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. More than 2,300 athletics administrators annually attend the NACDA Convention. Additionally, NACDA administers 11 professional associations for the separate business units that report directly to the athletics directors.
Ty Morse has devised a service that can help sell you a house, provide updated news on the Pittsburgh Steelers and market everything from deodorant to donuts. All on a cell phone.
With the potential to reach such a broad host of clients, it’s no wonder that his Lawrenceville-based Songwhale has seen dramatic growth.
After Morse and partner John Greenlee started the company in 2007, largely to help fund their interest in music, Songwhale now has more than 100 employees, with more than a half-dozen offices here and throughout the world, serving such major corporate and institutional clients as AT&T, Pizza Hut, Gatorade and EA Sports, among many others.
A native of Minnesota who launched Songwhale with Greenlee when they worked together at a record company in Manhattan, Morse and his partner brought their fledgling company to Pittsburgh a few years ago after establishing the Pittsburgh Steelers as a client.
The California University of Pennsylvania athletic department is proud to announce its new partnership with Songwhale, a mobile-marketing company based in Pittsburgh.
Text the word VULCANS to WHALE (94253) to sign up for score updates, alerts and prize giveaways all via text message to your mobile phone. Individuals who previously received text alerts from firstname.lastname@example.org have automatically been enrolled into the new mobile database.
“Songwhale opens up a great avenue to relay information to our alumni, parent and fans,” said Associate Vice President for Athletic Development Frank Bauer. “We are fortunate at Cal U to be able to offer this technology to our proud supporters as we continue to maintain our goal of becoming one of the premier programs in NCAA Division II.”
Cal U has partnered with Songwhale on several of its latest technologies, including texting, WAP and WiFi
The texting feature will allow fans to receive in-game score updates and alerts on the latest Vulcan news. The in-game score feature will be available for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball this upcoming season with additional scores possibly becoming available in the future.
The WAP website allows fans to access Cal U exclusives on the Internet whether on a computer or phone. The WAP site will allow individuals to download ringtones, wallpapers, content and more.
Songwhale stadium provides fans a feature when attending events at Adamson Stadium and the Convocation Center. While at games, individuals will be able to access a live view from the unique Wavecam installed at the venues.
Initially formed in 2007, Songwhale is an interactive media company with partners ranging from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pizza Hut, Penn State Nittany Lions, Nike, the Cleveland Indians and Gatorade.
Growing up is hard to do. Just ask Ty Morse, CEO and co-founder of leading mobile solutions provider Songwhale LLC. Songwhale evolved from a three-person startup to a global technology company with more than 100 employees in the last three years.
"2010 was a huge year of growth for Songwhale," Morse explained. "We launched several new technology platforms, entered multiple emerging markets and expanded overseas to China and Indonesia. It's been tough pursuing as many verticals as we have in such a short time, but we are starting to focus on the things that we are best at."
Founded by Morse and CTO John Greenlee in 2007, Songwhale opened a Pittsburgh branch in 2008 and soon thereafter relocated its headquarters from Minneapolis to its Lawrenceville-based offices. In just four years, Songwhale has become an industry leader in multiple areas of the white-hot, consumer-focused mobile marketing space by creating interactive technology platforms that enable companies and brands to interact directly with potential customers through their mobile devices. With a leading presence in several key verticals including professional sports, real estate, colleges and universities, retail and fast food, Songwhale's market position couldn't be stronger. And, as more companies in consumer- focused markets turn to mobile marketing tactics to engage customers, the demand for Songwhale's technology can only increase.
While Morse is ecstatic about the early success and surging popularity of Songwhale's mobile platforms, he knows a solid foundation, a strategic business plan and strong cash flow are key to the company's long-term vitality.
"Dialing in and staying focused on our core business is much more important now because we have so many people," Morse said. "Last year was exciting for us because we brought so many new people to Pittsburgh, but moving forward, we are committed to growing the business through a greater focus on operational efficiency and platform scalability." Morse pinpointed several focal points essential to Songwhale's continued growth, including expanding the company's SMS (Short Message Service) platform, building out its text-to-buy functionality and enhancing its social media dashboard.
"In terms of scalability, our SMS technology is a main focus for us because anybody with a cell phone can use it," he explained. "Unlike other mobile technologies out there, you don't have to have a smartphone to use SMS. Building out additional functionalities around this platform is a major focus for Songwhale. One huge component that we are currently developing is our text-to-buy functionality. Called PayWhale, it combines payment processing technology with text messaging, enabling people to buy things directly through their phones via a text message."
A Guiding Force
To guide the strategic direction and enhance the operational efficiency of the firm, Morse persuaded Mateen Aini, an experienced mobile media executive from Silicon Valley, to move to Pittsburgh and join the company as Chief Operating Officer in March 2010. Aini's previous experience at mobile advertising leader, 4INFO, has been invaluable to the development of Songwhale's market strategy and many of the company's young employees.
"He knows more about mobile strategy than anyone I know, and his patience, tact, knowledge and passion is infectious," Morse continued. "He serves as a mentor to several of our young employees and always takes the time to educate them and get the most out of people. His style is hands on, and his experience allows him to impart knowledge while at the same time helping Songwhale avoid pitfalls that he has come across in the past."
"Being a leader is never easy, but the talented team we've built makes it easier," Aini added. "We've been able to foster a loyal environment in which people feel they are a part of a family. Our family wants to change the way consumers interact with brands. My role is to shape it but I get plenty of help from the team in figuring out a better process to ensure continued growth and success for Songwhale."
A Sweet Success
More than anything, Songwhale's growth and evolution into a leader in the mobile technology space can be traced back to the decision to move the company's headquarters to Pittsburgh three years ago.
"Songwhale is a sweet Pittsburgh success story, and the city has had so much to do with our growth" Morse said. "I've built my business by hiring people who are smarter than I am, and here it isn't hard with all of the great universities close by.
"I've met so many cool companies and people through my Pittsburgh relationships," he continued. "All of the big contracts we have closed were because of our relationships in the Pittsburgh market."
Look for the company's new text-to-buy component, PayWhale, in June 2011 – Morse is confident that the technology will revolutionize the way people interact with TV to buy products.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The BIG EAST Conference has launched its online coverage of the men’s and women’s basketball championships on BIGEAST.org – and now for the first time, has included an extensive mobile offering for fans looking to bring that coverage with them on the go.
Championship Central Coverage on BIGEAST.org,
presented by Travelodge:
The Conference continues to expand upon an already extensive offering of original and exclusive online content in 2010 for BIGEAST.org, which will include free live video on BIGEAST.tv of the first and second rounds of the women’s basketball tournament and live audio of the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. On the men’s side, fans can listen live for free to the entire tournament, which is being broadcast in its entirety on the ESPN family of networks.
In addition to live video coverage, fans can follow along with live stats, live blogs, check out a cool new interactive bracket, watch exclusive interviews and press conferences with players and coaches and much more. All of the BIG EAST’s basketball championship coverage online is presented by Travelodge.
BIG EAST Mobile Network:
The BIG EAST has launched its new mobile network on BIGEASTMobile.com. Fans should visit BIGEASTMobile.com or search ‘BIG EAST’ in the smartphone’s application store to download the newly launched men’s and women’s basketball championship mobile application. In the mobile application, fans can get live audio, live stats, news, scores, on-demand video, Twitter feeds and much more.
In addition, fans can opt-in to the BIG EAST Mobile Network by signing up for news and scores via SMS text messages. Text messaging service is powered by SongWhale, and fans can opt-in by texting “BIG EAST” to 94253 (WHALE). The BIG EAST’s mobile network is presented by Verizon, the official wireless services provider of the BIG EAST Conference.
Text "PITT" to "WHALE" (94253) and you can sign up for score updates, Panther alerts, or prize giveaways, all via text message to your mobile phone. There are no unwanted subscriptions and the service is free. Standard data and message rates apply.
Receive up to the minute score updates on your phone for football, men's basketball and women's basketball. Football scores will be sent out after each score and basketball updates will be sent roughly 5 times per half. Text "PITT" to "WHALE" (94253) and when prompted, reply to that text with "SCORES".
Receive updates on what's happening around Pitt Athletics, as well as game day notes and important updates on your phone. Text "PITT" to "WHALE" (94253) and when prompted, reply to that text with "ALERTS".
Sign up to win weekly prizes from the Panthers and our partners. Prizes are announced via text each week and the winner(s) will be notified via their mobile phone. Prizes include Pitt experiences, tickets, merchandise, memorobilia, sponsor giveaways and more. Text "PITT" to "WHALE" (94253) and when prompted, reply to that text with "WIN PITT". Click here for official rules.
Presented by AT&T:
AT&T is proud to partner with the Pittsburgh Panthers and Songwhale. AT&T is dedicated to enhancing the fan experience during the game, at the stadium and in any one of our Pittsburgh area stores. AT&T has unsurpassed choice and wide range of devices available to customers. AT&T's 3G mobile broadband network is the nation's fastest, giving fans the opportunity to get Panthers' scores, stats and highlights faster than ever.
Songwhale, a Pittsburgh based company, is a free entertainment service delivering premium digital content directly to handheld devices. Songwhale is proud to partner with the Pitt Panthers and AT&T to bring fans a cutting edge and rich mobile experience. There is no subscription or login requirement to access the Pitt Mobile Network, and Songwhale works on any compatible device regardless of wireless carrier.
Check out songwhale.com for a list of upcoming Songwhale Events!
What a cool site my next interviewee runs. It’s called songwhale.com – a free entertainment service delivering premium digital content directly to your handheld device. Founder Ty Morse has always been interested in music – he’s even written two ROCK operas! When asked who he models himself on, Ty humorously replied “Doctor Who.”
One piece of advice from Ty really jumped out – it is:
Design a compelling brand, and care for your customers. There may come a time when your brand is your last defense.
A little bit more background information on Ty: (Ty’s sense of humor is everywhere ;-) )
How old are you (if you don’t mind answering)? Don’t mind at all. I’m 27 years old. How much do you guys weigh?
What motivates you? Iron Maiden, Horses, Jack Lalane, Tony Little, Richard Simmons
What inspires you? Tall mountains, deep purple sunsets, drum solos, and hard work from my staff. AND–Odd personalities.
Enjoy the interview – I look forward to your comments very much.
Ty Morse Interview
First – some background information on Ty:
I live in Pittsburgh, PA just a few blocks from our company headquarters in Lawrenceville (just a few miles from downtown Pittsburgh). Pittsburgh has easily been one of the most important aspects of our success, as the city is chalked full of talented young people graduating from Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne, and many others. In addition, it’s a small big city so we have built tons of wonderful partnerships within the city that have helped us to grow at a faster than normal rate.
1) Hi Ty, thank you for doing this interview. Our readers will appreciate it, I’m sure. Firstly, tell me about your company: songwhale.com – tell us how the company formed?
My business partner Jon and I have started various companies over the years, but Songwhale was created specifically to monetize digital content through a platform that combines SMS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Direct-To-Device (USB, SD, MicroSD). Initially, Songwhale was created in an effort to generate revenue on music content in the mobile medium, but later we would expand to sports, real estate, retail, and more. Jon and I have always loved music and we own a record label together as well (Royalty, Etc. Records). As the music industry suffered due to declining cd sales we decided to take music content and allow users to access it for free via their handheld devices while supporting the platform with sponsorship and advertising of relevant partners.
2) You have written two rock operas. Are there any strategies you use to create Rock Operas that you now use in your business?
Creative thinking and arpeggios.
3) Can you share some of the biggest lessons you have learned personally and as a business as things have grown? If you were to start again, what might you do differently?
Beware of overselling your business as you grow. You must be able to make decisions about which clients you wish to serve. Make sure your infrastructure can keep up with your sales and any surprise successes you may encounter.
4) You keep the content free to the end user. How has this strategy been working for you?
This is only the case for our American business, and it has worked well in the current market. In our expansion into Asia the mobile market is still a paying market, much the way American mobile business operated 5 years ago–this is the model we are pursuing in those markets. Today, for-pay American mobile services no longer dominate and as such the free content method is used.
5) You’ve grown your business quite quickly. Any tips for young entrepreneurs looking to make a splash in their industries?
Design a compelling brand, and care for your customers. There may come a time when your brand is your last defense.
6) Do you have any suggestions for coping with set-backs, dealing with adversity?
Stay positive, and do not burn bridges. Casting blame has a limited value. After blame is assessed, do not fixate on it but correct it and move on.
7) How do you keep your business focus – Do you have any suggestions for entrepreneurs who are experiencing challenging times?
Get an accountant. Staff parties – Youtube, CDs, video games. Create products that can be used in more than one place. Fire lazy staff.
8 ) Is there anyone that you look up to and model yourself on?
9) Do you have any favorite business related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
The Art of War, the Prince, Bridges of Madison County, Hunt for Red October, War and Peace, Hammer of the Gods, and The Devil is Dead
10) What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Do not burn bridges. Especially the Bridges of Madison County.
11) You have more than songwale. You and your partner have Royalty Etc. Records, a record label; Frankenstein: The Rock Opera, a production company; and Songwhale. How important do you think it is to do more than one thing? (Not keep all eggs in one basket)
It’s great for a financial profile, but do not dilute your primary talents too far, and do not be afraid to pick something and get behind it. Jon and I have always been focused on music, and every company we have started has revolved around music at the core. We started Songwhale so that we could fund recording more records. Musicians don’t make much money.
12) What do you like best about the Internet?
13) What do you like least about the Internet?
Internet Explorer 6! It is the worst thing about the internet.
14) Have you any plans (personal or business) that you can share with us about your future plans / goals / lifetime goals?
Yes. We are going to film Frankenstein: The Rock Opera and present it to the world. We are also going to train and go one on one with US Soccer pro Jay DeMerit. Lastly, we will lose to Billy Mitchell in Donkey Kong.
Name and city and state of marketer:
Pizza Hut, Pittsburgh
Name and city and state of agency or marketing services firm:
Songwhale LLC, Pittsburgh
Pizza for a Year
April 1-29, 2009
Common short code and keywords used:
Text the keywords WIN PIZZA to the short code WHALE (94253).
Pizza Hut needed to make its pizza and pasta dishes stand out among other brands in the Pittsburgh area.
Consumers between the ages of 18-35
The strategy was to quickly build a database through the traditional media of television.
Call to action:
Television spots promoting the shortcode and keyword call to action ran on Fox.
The combination of SMS and great prizes, such as the first prize of free pizza once a month for a year and a second prize of chicken alfredo. Other prizes included Pepsi or a large pizza for forwarding to friends.
Friend-forwarding was also used to further drive participation and put individuals in control of their ability to win prizes, taking the element of luck out of the equation.
By forwarding the text to five friends, they received a free two-liter of Pepsi and by forwarding to 10 friends they received a free large pizza.
Pizza Hut saw more than 12,000 entrants in the first two weeks and more than 3,000 texted in during the commercial alone.
The rest of the entrants were driven by the friend-forwarder.
We currently have ongoing promotions with Pizza Hut and are planning things for the coming months, including a national campaign.
The combination of a great prize – free pizza for a year – combined with other compelling consolation prizes that are easy to attain – free two-liter soda or large pizza for forwarding – with the use of mobile devices led to tremendous participation numbers.
We did not realize how popular and successful the friend-forwarding would be, with participation numbers much higher than anticipated
"The unique opportunities we finally have in Songwhale really activate Pizza Hut mobile marketing,” said Mike Buss, chief operating officer of Aurora Huts, Pittsburgh. “Keep your eye on your phone for some tasty Pizza Hut pizza."
Songwhale is everywhere.
It began with the Steelers. Then the Pirates and University of Pittsburgh signed on. Now the company is global, bringing its free entertainment service and premium digital content to handhelds in far flung places like China and Indonesia, offering partners comprehensive business solutions through mobile marketing campaigns.
"It's been a wild ride," says Ty Morse, panting on the call as he runs to catch the next plane. "It's nuts. Madness. The single best thing I've ever done for my business was to move here from Manhattan."
Since opening its doors in Lawrenceville, Songwhale has grown from two to 100 people with offices in China and Indonesia and expansion plans in the Middle East and Africa. The company recently lured Mateen Aini here as COO, a former exec with 4INFO in the Silicon Valley, one of the largest mobile media companies in the country.
"Our growth will be 20 times what we did last year," he adds. Future hiring will include programmers, sales staff and account managers. The Pittsburgh office employs 25.
Overseas development is critical right now because mobile marketing and branding has a tremendous potential, Morse says.
"It's the one thing everyone has in their pocket, turned on, at any given point in time. You get a return on the investment. China alone has 100 million users, the penetration is intense."
Songwhale will continue working with NFL teams and major league baseball, as well as new sponsors like McDonalds and Caldwell Banker. A recent mobile coupon campaign here drove 13,000 people to access discounts for Pizza Hut in possibly one of the most outlandishly successful quick restaurant campaigns in history. (Yes, we doubled checked the number, outrageous as it sounds.)
"We want to help other businesses from Pittsburgh to expand as well," Morse adds. "There's a lot of partnerships and synergies here that have helped us to grow."
Mobile messaging service 4Info will power SMS-text messaging on mobile entertainment service Songwhale through a new partnership between the companies.
4Info will benefit by being able to offer advertisers WiFi, Bluetooth and direct-to-device consumer outreach as part of integrated mobile campaigns.
Through the alliance, Pittsburgh-based Songwhale plans to expand its portfolio of ad-supported digital content spanning video, audio, text, digital coupons, and sponsored prizes.
Songwhale, a free entertainment service that delivers event-specific content to consumers' mobile devices, has hooked up with 4INFO. Under the partnership, Songwhale will start delivering 4INFO-powered SMS messages. For 4INFO advertisers, this means a broader audience that can be reached by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other means of direct-to-device communication that Songwhale supports.
With Songwhale, folks at concerts or sporting events get interviews, music files, scores and other content sent to their phone or other supported device.
4INFO, a leading mobile media company and pioneer of SMS (short message service) advertising and publishing services, announced today a partnership with Songwhale, a free entertainment service that delivers premium digital content directly to consumer's handheld devices. Songwhale allows fans at venues such as concerts and sporting events to receive event-specific content such as interviews, music files or scores on their mobile devices.
Through the partnership, Songwhale expands their portfolio of offerings with SMS powered by 4INFO. Simultaneously, 4INFO will be able to provide its advertising customers a more integrated mobile campaign offering by partnering with Songwhale for its breadth of cutting-edge mobile technologies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and direct-to-device consumer outreach.
"Songwhale wanted to expand the reach of our mobile entertainment offerings and we believe SMS is crucial to that growth," said Songwhale President Ty Morse. "We chose to partner with 4INFO because they offer media expertise, integrated ad serving, and demonstrated success at serving the largest number of text messages in the industry today."
"We are excited to bring our expertise in SMS message delivery to an exciting and cutting edge mobile multimedia platform such as Songwhale," said 4INFO's vice president of business development, Rich Qiu. "By expanding the reach of their content through 4INFO's industry leading platform, a new and growing audience will see firsthand the meaningful and engaging connections possible with SMS."
4INFO is a mobile media company that connects brands, agencies, and publishers with mobile audiences. With high quality SMS content, targeted mobile advertising, and integrated campaigns across all types of media, 4INFO provides agencies and brands with the means to reach and engage a growing network of mobile consumers. 4INFO pioneered the development of ad-supported text message services and is the largest provider of SMS content and services in North America. As experts in mobile advertising, the company uses SMS as an entry point to drive rich media experiences on mobile phones. 4INFO's consumer services provide real-time SMS information and entertainment messages on subjects ranging from sports and weather to celebrity gossip and stock market news. Headquartered in San Mateo, Calif., with additional offices in Chicago and New York, 4INFO is backed by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Gannett Company, Inc., The Peacock Equity Fund: the joint venture between GE Capital's Media, Communications & Entertainment finance business and NBC Universal, Sand Hill Capital, Selby Ventures and U.S. Venture Partners. Learn more at: http://advertising.4info.net or text "advertise" to 44636.
Songwhale is digital content delivery, free to the end user. Songwhale achieves this through superior applications of current handheld features, attracting sponsors, and escalating the modern event. Events use Songwhale to deliver complimentary video, audio, text, digital coupons, and premium prizes to handheld devices at gatherings of 70 to 70,000. By deploying all popular handheld technologies including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Flash Storage, and SMS, Songwhale creates new attractive inventory for events, generating additional sponsorship dollars. Formed in 2007, Songwhale defined the acceptable use case of short-range digital content delivery by successfully delivering access to emerging sponsorship inventories without disturbing consumers. Songwhale has main offices in Pittsburgh, PA, and Minneapolis, MN. Songwhale is privately funded. Songwhale's partners include The Pittsburgh Steelers, Virgin, Capitol Records, and Carnegie Mellon University. For more information visit www.songwhale.com.
Like many of us, Songwhale first fell in love with Pittsburgh thanks to the Steelers.
Songwhale's co-founders, Ty Morse and John Greenlee, were living in Manhattan and Minneapolis when they started the company, which sends free digital content at events to fans' cell phones and other wireless devices. Shortly after a meeting with the Steelers about a possible partnership, Morse decided to relocate Songwhale's headquarters from Manhattan to Pittsburgh.
“We've grown ten times as fast in Pittsburgh,” says Morse. “It's been an amazing opportunity that no one would expect. The city has really been a catalyst.”
The Songwhale Network is supported by advertisers and free to users. It can be accessed by any device with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Direct-to-Device, or texting. Last season Songwhale brought exclusive player interviews, music and giveaways for free tickets and autographed footballs to fans at Heinz Field.
In the spring they'll provide a similar service at Pirates games and hope to introduce live video in the fall, similar to what Yinzcam does for the Penguins.
They've also partnered with Seven Springs and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, and plan to announce partnerships with several local universities to provide digital content for their sports programs, as well as more academic content like notes, online libraries, and emergency alert systems.
Pittsburgh sports fans who get bored during commercial timeouts and other stoppages in play are getting high-tech options at Heinz Field and Mellon Arena to keep themselves entertained.
Songwhale debuted without fanfare this season at Steelers games as a short-range, digital content service that allows ticket-holders to watch player interviews, music and videos, download ringtones and wallpapers and even get electronic gift cards and concession stand coupons.
"It's another way for the fans to interact with the Steelers, through a service that's so simple to use," said Ty Morse, president of Lawrenceville-based Songwhale, as the company formally announced and further explained its product Tuesday.
SOCCER AND SONGWHALE: U.S. Soccer is introducing the Songwhale Network to fans at the WNT game in Portland. Songwhale is an exclusive wi-fi network that allows fans who attend the match to enter digital raffles for CD's, autographed U.S. Soccer jerseys, and more, from the comfort of their seat. Fans can also view U.S. Women’s National Team video content. To participate, after entering the stadium, connect to the Songwhale wi-fi signal using your wi-fi enabled iPod, phone or other device and log on to www.songwhale.com. Fans can also log on at the Songwhale table on the concourse.