North Sydney company scores Nokia emo coup

The North Sydney-based company moodmessaging has pulled off a rare coup, striking a deal to have its 'IamEmo' multimedia messaging product pre-loaded into a forthcoming Nokia phone model.Moodmessaging's IamEmo brand features an animated chameleon lizard character, called Emo, which uses colour to help convey a range of emotions.

The North Sydney-based company moodmessaging has pulled off a rare coup, striking a deal to have its 'IamEmo' multimedia messaging product pre-loaded into a forthcoming Nokia phone model.

Moodmessaging's IamEmo brand features an animated chameleon lizard character, called Emo, which uses colour to help convey a range of emotions. The company has developed eight animated greetings, which depict emotions such as happy, angry and cheeky. These, plus two short IamEmo videos, two screen savers and other content, will be included in the multimedia gallery of Nokia's model 3220, due out globally after September.

The chief executive officer of moodmessaging, Kevin Brough, says that although his company is supplying its content to Nokia free of charge, it hopes that doing so will spark consumer interest in paying to download additional animations. These are already available on the Nokia Web site. Moodmessaging is signing additional distribution deals with telecommunications companies and other Web site operators, including BlueSkyFrog in Australia and ZTango in the United States.

While the company launched in 2003, it has followed a circuitous path into existence. The concept for the brand was originally developed in 1998 at the New Zealand paper products company Carter Holt Harvey by moodmessaging's founder, Simon Rupapera, as a means of marketing a range of coloured paper products.

"We came up with this brand concept called Moods, about using colour and emotion," Rupapera says. "And we had this little character that changed his expression depending on what his mood was. That's where the idea originated from".

The Moods concept caught the interest of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, whose Auckland and New York offices began researching its potential in other applications, such as e-mail. Soon after, the group was introduced to Macquarie Bank, who suggested the company focus on multimedia messaging. Both Macquarie and Saatchi & Saatchi are now part-owners of moodmessaging, alongside 14 other investors. The company has raised AU$3.5 million, and Moodmessaging hopes to be cash flow positive by the end of 2004

Brough says moodmessaging looked deeply into the cultural associations of colour, using focus groups to ensure that the Emo animations would appeal globally. A mime artist was employed to act out the different emotions, and storyboards created. These were then handed to a professional animator, Maurice Giacomini, to bring Emo to life.

Moodmessaging has also signed a licensing deal with the developer of Nokia's accessory products, Swedish company AGO, to create a range of IamEmo-branded merchandise, such as snap-on phone covers. Brough says moodmessaging intends to expand the IamEmo brand into other fields, including potentially an online comic strip, and says other Emo-relaterd characters may be introduced. Monthly download rates for the IamEmo products are now in the thousands, and increasing at 15 percent to 20 percent per month.

"We're very lucky to be where we are, because it is very audacious goal to think that you can create a global brand," Brough says. "And our initially play is to create a brand through MMS. Most people would have already created a brand that they bring in through MMS. We're trying to do it in reverse".

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