Friday, November 13, 2015
Interview with Marc Mitchell, CEO of Lootsie
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
If you're a mobile app developer, who do you keep your users engaged and returning to use your app every day? One technique has been creating real life, loyalty and rewards to users for their activity. Culver City-based Lootsie (www.lootsie.com) has createe a product which ties together those loyalty reward programs with the advertising and marketing efforts of brands, to help both those mobile developers and marketers. Our interview this morning is with Marc Mitchell, the company's CEO and co-founder, who told us more about the company.
How does Lootsie work?
Marc Mitchell: We are a loyalty and rewards technology for mobile apps. We are a white label solution that allows any developer to have an end-to-end, loyalty rewards program inside their app. Similar in the way to credit card reward points and airlines reward points, we've seen that consumers love having a reason to use something, are looking for a reason to use an app. For developers, we're able to help them drive engagement and retention, as well as revenue, by providing this tool.
Our new product is a white label product, which allows developers to customize the look and feel of the loyalty portion of their app. It looks just like their user experience, and fits into what the users are already doing. It's a much more elegant solution. For brands, it's a way for them to get in front of the user in a much more efficient and data-driven way. We work with a lot of brands who have tried advertising on mobile, but wanted a better solution than what's out there now.
What's your background, and how did you get into this?
Marc Mitchell: I grew up here in Los Angeles, and I have always been involved in media and entertainment, After Los Angeles, I went to Stanford during the first tech boom. I saw that happen, and then I went to New York to go to law school at NYU. I knew I wasn't going to practice law, even though I ended up practicing for a little while. I had the opportunity to work for Universal Records, at a label called SRC, which had David Banner, Fat Joe, Terror Squad, and we sold lots of records. We created a marketing company side by side with the label, and we were doing marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 brands, helping them to reach the same kids who were buying our records. Brands like Nike and Burger King would use us to reach college and high school kids. I saw how important that was, and where this was all going, so my next company, UrbanDaddy, we did a similar thing, matching brands with very targeted campaigns. I was COO of UrbanDaddy. We did that through email, and eventually mobile. I was then on the board of advisors of Refinery29, and also an early investor in that company, which was in a different genre and different audience, but it was the same idea, reaching a specific audience on behalf of brands, and doing that with really good content. What we're doing with Lootsie comes out of that, in a way. We have a new content delivery system, your mobile phone, and we're trying to provide value to a user, and match brands to a targeted user. It's a similar idea, but just in a different space.
What kinds of brands does this work best for?
Marc Mitchell: We work across every vertical you can imagine. We are in health and fitness apps, we are in games, and we have a big segment of games that reach moms,which allows us to do cool campaigns related to that group. One of those that is live now is with Toys R Us, for example. However, we really can touch any group, and work with any brand.
Why is it that brands see that apps are better than mobile ads?
Marc Mitchell:It's three things: engagement, retention, and revenue. Instead of just bombarding a user with display ads, for example, we are able to give user the choice of going into a marketplace, and choosing a brand. It's a much more elegant experience. They do this all on their own time, never have to leave the app or game, and they feel like they are playing towards something. A developer can pick and choose achievements that make sense for the game. Game developers are trying to extend the time that people play, and they can pick specific achievements: for example, if they are seeing drop off between level 4 and level 5, you can address that. Or, if you're a health and fitness app, you can encourage users to log their workouts, or share your app on social, or open the app three days in a row to earn those achievements. Whatever the behavior that you want is, you an create achievements to help with that. It's all about how to keep a user there, excite, and keep them playing.The other part is revenue. We coexist with ad networks, but some of our developer have ripped out those ads completely. We help them create an experience which has less dilution.
What platforms are you on?
Marc Mitchell: Just about everything you can imagine, including iOS, Android, Unity, Coco, Adobe Air, quite a few.
That's quite a lot of platformss—what hat was the thinking on supporting all of those?
Marc Mitchell: It actually started with Unity. It's because so many games use that platform. Because we started our focus just on games, it became apparent that we needed to support this across different apps, and not just in games. So, we evolved and started rolling out new technology..
What has been the biggest challenge you've had to overcome to create your product?
Marc Mitchell: With what we do, there are a lot of moving parts. There's the end user, the developer, and the brand. It's all about synching all of those offerings, and making sure their needs are met. That's been the biggest challenge to this point, which is something that we've figured out. We're up and running now, but it's one of those things where in order to get a lot of brand interested early in the process, you need to have significant users. There is a lot of chicken and egg in getting those brand in front of people, and the developers, who want to offer compelling brand rewards. It was a lot of chicken and egg in the process of building this.
What's the next big thing for you now?
Marc Mitchell: It's continued growth, it's a really exciting pipeline of partners who have integrated into different stages in the process. We now have visibility two quarters for now in terms of partners. We're continuing to do big brand campaigns, and internally, we're growing a lot. We're also continuing to hire, and continuing to expand our capabilities internally.