When the flash mob materialized last February outside the Adidas store in Las Vegas within 30 minutes of being summoned via mobile phones and PDAs, it was pretty clear that Movo Mobile’s technology, headed up by Sarasota’s tech entrepreneur Dan Miller, worked. And when—within minutes—those 200 people bought out every special-edition shoe developed exclusively for the event, it was equally obvious that Movo Mobile, a new acquisition for a Naples-based company called Neighborhood America, would one day make a lot of money.
Flash mobs have been around a while. The term refers to the ability of Internet forums, bulletin boards, e-mails and mobile phones to stir up a crowd on short notice to stage some kind of unanticipated event—and then disappear just as quickly. Last year in San Francisco, some 300 people showed up at The Embarcadero to have a 5 p.m. pillow fight, just in time to entertain home-bound commuters stuck in rush hour traffic.
“We haven’t seen them used for commercial purposes until now,” says Gene Keenan, vice president of mobile strategy for Isobar, the San Francisco-based advertising firm of record for Adidas.
In Vegas, Keenan saw it happen firsthand. The multifaceted shoe manufacturer’s program, tied into the NBA’s 2007 All-Star Weekend, was a thing of beauty. Adidas spent more than $1 million buying digital billboard space around the city and draping hotels with its billboards. The only call to action on its signage was for someone to open his or her cell phone and send a message to the Movo system. What they got for opting in were VIP invitations to NBA-related parties, invitations to exclusive autograph signings and electronic passes to the Adidas store for limited-edition shoe runs. Adidas used mobile marketing to promote its activities, day and night. The payoff? In-store Adidas sales in Vegas increased by 25 times the previous week’s take.
“Adidas was extremely happy,” says Keenan. “As a result, it’s stepping up its mobile program significantly for the rest of 2007 and for all of ’08.”
Movo Mobile—whose prime product is a software application that advertising agencies use to launch marketing campaigns by cell phone—is a success story and a fast-moving one at that, having opened its doors in Sarasota in 2005 and been acquired in October 2006 by Neighborhood America.