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Agency profile: Rokkan strives for human touch in mobile marketing


The Chipotle mobile ordering app

From a Jersey City, NJ, living room in 2000, Rokkan, now a part of the Publicis Groupe, has advanced into a digital agency with three United States offices and international aspirations.

With mobile work for Stoli Vodka, Chipotle and Hyatt under its belt, Rokkan has been expanding its reach into luxury and healthcare. A focus throughout is creating mobile solutions driven by the consumer mindset.  

“Digital was the hottest thing and we just jumped into it,” said John Noe, CEO and managing partner at Rokkan.

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“When we think of mobile we really think about the human behavior through their mobile device,” he said. That is inherent in anything we do.

“It is almost impossible to launch anything just for desktop, for so much traffic today is driven through mobile. We approach projects with that consumer mindset.”

Areas of strength
Mr. Noe recalled that along with a couple friends, all of whom had no clients or connections, they decided to blindly follow “a point of passion.” The name Rokkan is Japanese meaning to have a sixth sense.

The early work focused mostly on digital production and trying to make things look pretty online. Today, the agency’s long client includes names such as JetBlue, Amex and Hyatt.

Mobile was added more or less circa 2007, following the creation of a mobile tool for Virgin America enabling passengers to see available seats before booking.

A majority of the 100-plus staff is in New York with smaller offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. While there is a dedicated team for app development, primarily mobile is fully integrated throughout client work.

With clients such as the Atlantis Resort, Princess Cruises and Aer Lingus, travel is a strong suit. Financial is another with campaign work previously conducted for Citi, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse.

A video about the Recapp app for Stoli Vodka


Strong niches also include video gaming where Rokkan has helped with the launch of new titles by developing apps that drive early interest and purchase commitments. Emerging areas include luxury with the signing of Mikimoto, and health care with WellPoint.

“We now represent almost every consumer segment, including automotive,” Mr. Noe said. “Our ambitions are to be a very inclusive agency, a comprehensive agency.”

The agency’s acquisition by Publicis a year and a half ago has given it more financial backing to expand.

Work is sometimes for internal operations and sometimes consumer facing while paid media is an area Rokkan has been digging deeper into, with a dedicated group leader on it for the first time.

“We are interested in a holistic digital strategy,” said Mr. Noe.

Work Examples
Early this year Rokkan launched an app for Stoli Vodka called Recapp, through which users can link all their social media feeds. Think Facebook meets Twitter meets Instagram all in one stream.

At the end of the evening the user gets a high production video or all those posts – essentially a reel of the night out with your friends.

“It would include whatever they wanted to scrape from their social footprint into a fun video,” said Harley Block, senior vice president, business development and marketing at Rokkan.

Another creation of note was a mobile ordering app for Chipotle.

“It enables the customer to build their burrito on the way to the store,” said Mr. Block. “Over time the application gets smarter about the customer’s choices and payment methods.”

Rokkan tests and then retests its apps with focus groups to iron out kinks, and then reviews analytics to see what worked best and what did not

“We want apps to be as responsive as possible,” said Mr. Noe.

Areas of Development
“We are trying to add more integration,” said Mr. Noe. “Clients are becoming savvier about launching mobile within the mobile community because it is very expensive to launch their own software.”

Experiential marketing, where a consumer is touched by a brand in the physical realm, is also becoming a bigger interest.

After a total brand refresh Hyatt wanted to get the word out and bring its authentic hospitality mantra to life. The `In a Hyatt World’ campaign involved hotel associates in 31 cities performing `random acts of kindness’ to `surprise and delight’ people around the globe.

Among the good deeds, associates opened doors, gave out umbrellas in the rain and created a lounge at New York’s Food & Wine Festival.

Posts were shared via a custom Tumblr. The effort also resulted in one million video views on YouTube and 18 million impressions across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This type of activity is becoming more important for Rokkan.

“We want to do more involvement in digital and social interactions in the physical space,” said Mr. Noe. “To be there for when a person touches a brand for the first time.”

Business writer Laura Klepacki has covered retail and consumer products marketing for leading industry publications for several years. She is also the author of a book on the Avon Company.

Related content: Advertising agencies, Rokkan, John Noe, Harley Block, mobile marketing, mobile

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