Behind the Branded App: Expedition Timberland

Mullen's Katelyn Nugent Talks About How the App Was Conceived

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Recently Timberland joined the ranks of brands in Apple's App store, with "Expedition Timberland" -- a mobile app meant for city dwellers who need a dose of the great outdoors. The app, which works on both iPhone and BlackBerry platforms, is a big piece of the brand's fall campaign, with Mullen's Mediahub and Ansible handling media creative, respectively.

The company wouldn't disclose exact download numbers, but it is getting a big push from a dedicated e-mail blast the brand sent to its e-mail list and placement on the Timerberland home page. Average usage time is more than 20 minutes, most of which is spent looking at urban expeditions and playing the in-app game.

We put five questions via e-mail to Katelyn Nugent, emerging media strategist at Mediahub about how it was conceived and where it goes from here.

Ad Age: What was the purpose behind the app?

Ms. Nugent: The mobile app is called "Expedition Timberland" and the general concept is to reach people who live in major cities and have a passion for the outdoors. It's all about discovering adventures in their metropolitan neighborhoods. While other outdoor-oriented brands have dabbled in the mobile application space, it appears Timberland is the first to use the medium as a bridge between the outdoors and casual, adventurous urban lifestyles.

Ad Age: The app seems to have a lot of components -- gaming, m-commerce, music, navigational. Why include all of these things? How do they fit together?

Ms. Nugent: The idea was to give adventurous, outdoor-loving, urban-based consumers a wide-range of experiences, information and functionality to keep them engaged with the app and the brand. Consistent with Timberland's brand identity, the app is meant to be sustainable rather than disposable. This app is built to last.

The key component of Expedition Timberland is a customized city application available in six U.S. launch markets: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Denver and Minneapolis. Expedition Timberland guides users to hiking trails, neighborhood walks, secret spots for relaxing and the best city views, among other outdoor oriented activities. Driving directions are included.

Additional creative elements for the application, relevant to consumers in any market, include a game for the iPhone called "Timber Trail" that invites players to select the appropriate Timberland gear in order to overcome various obstacles; a music component for the iPhone that creates an adventurous playlist and updates with fresh music selections each week; a gear section that provides product information; and a WAP site with a full Timberland product catalog featuring mapping and search functionality. Both the application and WAP site have click-to-call functionality that makes it easy to buy Timberland product and locate stores.

We've specifically included elements like a game (which, as you know, has proven to be the most successful app function among men 18-to-34) and music, which is a core brand value for Timberland.

Ad Age: What's the long-term strategy for the app -- how do you see it evolving?

Ms. Nugent: Ten additional markets will be added to the "Expedition Timberland" application beginning in November 2009 and into early 2010. Through a voting mechanism built into the application, consumers will have a say about which pre-selected markets and expeditions are added to the app.

Ad Age: What are your plans for marketing the app? How does it tie into the broader campaign?

Ms. Nugent: As you know, mobile application usage is extremely fleeting. You have to build a compelling and engaging experience. You have to give the consumer a voice in shaping the experience. And, most importantly, you have to promote it. No such thing as build it and they will come. To that end, Timberland is putting significant money into mobile media support with two ad networks -- Quattro and Jump-Tap -- as well as in-store point-of-purchase advertising, dedicated email and direct mail and support on timberland.com.

The mobile program is part of an integrated marketing campaign to create a dialogue with young city-dwelling consumers around the world. The campaign supports Timberland's modern, stylish and eco-conscious fall 2009 footwear collections and in addition to the apps, includes interactive billboards; branded videos and commercials on Hulu; customizable Pandora radio stations; reverse sidewalk graffiti; "station domination" out-of-home advertising; in-store promotions and retail windows; and public relations targeting trend-driving blogs and magazines. Select campaign elements launch this month in the U.S., Italy and the U.K.

Ad Age: How will you gauge the success of the app?

Ms. Nugent: Downloads, time spent with the application, unique and repeat users, use over time, measurement of mobile media (CTRs etc), AppStore ratings, and click to call usages (sales). We'll be using Pinch Media for our iPhone analytics.

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