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First fruit of $45M investment in Vibes is acquisition of mobile firm Red Fish Media

Nutrition Smart

Red Fish Media's campaign for health food store chain Nutrition Smart

Vibes, the mobile marketing platform supporting brands such as Chipotle, Gap, Old Navy, Home Depot, PetSmart, Foot Locker and Allstate, has bought mobile specialist Red Fish Media in its first acquisition after a recent $45 million investment from Syniverse.

The move by the Chicago-based Vibes comes as the mobile marketing and technology space experiences a wave of consolidation among smaller and bigger platforms. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  

“We’re actively looking at ways to grow the company and scale quickly,” said Vibes cofounder/CEO Jack Philbin. “Acquisitions are certainly part of that. 

“There is consolidation going on in the industry right now, and our goal is to be out in front driving that strategy,” he said. 

Based in Miami Beach, FL, Red Fish has developed and executed mobile marketing campaigns for such clients as Procter & Gamble, Nutrition Smart, Mars, Starbucks, DKNY and Ralph Lauren. 

The decade-old shop specializes in mobile strategy, analysis and optimization, bringing along proprietary technology such as Text ER for marketers in the healthcare business. Indeed, healthcare is a new area of focus for Vibes.

Red Fish founder/president joins Vibes as vice president of direct sales. His team will become part of Vibes as well.

Vibes’ Catapult mobile engagement platform allows marketers to manage all mobile communication channels including text messaging, push notifications, Apple Wallet, Android Pay and mobile Web campaigns via a single interface.

In this Q&A, Mr. Philbin discusses the rationale for the Red Fish deal, the integration of the acquired technology, Vibes’ future plans and the state of the mobile marketing business. Please read on.

Why buy Red Fish?
It’s really about their team, technology and the traction they’ve made in certain verticals. 

Matt and the Red Fish team have been in the mobile space for years, and they understand our core mission at Vibes: using mobile to engage consumers in ways not possible in any other channel. 

On the tech side, they have some specific products and features that will allow us to quickly add new use cases into our own platform, Catapult. 

In terms of their customers, they have made significant traction in verticals like healthcare, which we see as a big growth opportunity for Vibes. 
 
What need does it fill for Vibes?
We see immediate growth potential. 

Red Fish works with a great group of brands that will now have access to the full suite of Vibes solutions. 

We think that’ll help their customers expand their mobile engagement. 

In addition, by adding their technology into our stack, we’ll be able to offer our current clients something we didn’t have before. 
 
Is this the start of an investment spree after the $45 million infusion by Syniverse?
We’re actively looking at ways to grow the company and scale quickly. Acquisitions are certainly part of that. 

There is consolidation going on in the industry right now, and our goal is to be out in front driving that strategy. 
 
How will Red Fish work with Vibes and its clients?
The Red Fish team will be joining Vibes. This means that we’ll be working with their current clients, and making sure they understand all the new opportunities open to them.  

The larger Vibes team will also be using pieces of their technology to help us approach new clients and new verticals..
 
There haven't been many acquisitions in the mobile marketing space in the past couple of years. Why is that the case?
I think we’re seeing a swing from ad-tech into mar-tech [marketing technology]. 

Software to manage mobile engagement at scale is more critical than ever, creating powerful interaction as a complement and sometimes alternative to apps and ads. 

We’re at a unique point in the evolution of mobile where almost every major brand will acknowledge that mobile is critically important, but there is still some uncertainty around how they should approach it. 

We help marketers figure this out as the No. 1 pure-play mobile engagement company. 

We’re being very aggressive to ensure we own that position, from raising the $45 million last summer to making acquisitions. 
 
What is the state of mobile marketing?
Mobile marketing has proven itself. We’ve moved beyond the early-adopter phase and we’re now clearly working with the early majority. 

Mobile marketing is better than ever. 

With more channels in which marketers can engage consumers, marketers also require a more robust management of these interactions. 

As a new technology like mobile wallet comes to the forefront, marketers have the opportunity to see consumer engagement at levels never seen before. 

Mobile is proving that it can blow away what we’re seeing from email and other marketing channels. 

Watching 5.2 million Chipotle offers be distributed to consumers’ mobile wallets and seeing 67 percent [3.5 million] get redeemed in-store in a matter of days was truly a milestone moment for a new phase of closed-loop mobile marketing.
 
Vibes is one of the pioneers in the mobile marketing space – and one of the survivors. Secret sauce?
People and technology are the secret sauce. The team is the foundation for the many things that have made Vibes successful and our technology keeps us innovating and scaling. 

We’re constantly improving our tech stack because it’s so important to stay ahead and out-innovate the competitive landscape. 

We’ve been very focused on mobile engagement since 1998 and have been out in front of many waves in this specific space – the emergence of text messaging, the launch of the iPhone, and now we see a big potential impact happening with Apple Wallet and Android Pay. 

Attribution and trackable redemption is what the space has been waiting for for more than 15 years.
 
What strides has Vibes made in the past 12 months?
It’s been a great year for Vibes. 

We continued partnering with leaders in the marketing cloud, such as Marketo, to help them offer mobile to their customers. 

We’ve run what we believe are some of the most successful mobile campaigns of all time with brands like Chipotle, and we’re continuing to invest heavily in our mobile wallet solution where we see real market demand.
 
How would you describe this past year for Vibes?
It’s been a great year for Vibes, and we’re more bullish on the opportunity in mobile than we’ve ever been before. 
 
What's next on the agenda for you?
More growth. 

We’ll be expanding internationally in 2017. More to come on that very soon. 

We will keep innovating our products and platform, which will enable us to grow our client list and continue to expand into new verticals. 

We are looking to scale, both organically and inorganically.
Jack Philbin

Jack Philbin is cofounder/CEO of Vibes

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Editor in Chief Mickey Alam Khan covers advertising agencies, associations, research and mobile marketing issues, as well as column submissions. Reach him at mickey@napean.com.

 
Related content: Q&A, Jack Philbin, Vibes, Red Fish Media, Matt McKenna, mobile marketing, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, mobile, technology

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