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Chicago Gaming Startup: KBooM! Games

KBooM! Games is a social media gaming company that allows companies to integrate their branded content into games without disrupting the user experience. Jennifer Amdur Spitz from KBooM! Games answered our questions.

TINC: What growth phase is your company in currently?

Series B

TINC: Give us your Elevator Pitch.

KBooM! Games is a Chicago-based social media gaming company that creates custom games for brands that engage and entertain their customers while deepening relationships. Brand-relevant images, themes, actions and rewards are integrated into the game, creating an opportunity for real-time feedback and consumer engagement on multiple levels without the consumer having the feeling of being sold to.

TINC: Can you tell our readers more about the process and reach of the product or service you provide?

KBooM! creates brand-centric games experienced via the Web, Facebook, Google+, iPhone, iPad and Android that are engaging, simple to play and created within a rapid-fire development and deployment cycle. The company provides a number of diverse services for clients, including hosting, regular game updates, community management and retention and Social Media Optimization (SMO).

The most effective explanation may be by highlighting an example of what KBooM! can do for a client. The company recently launched its first title, Sound City, in collaboration with Chicago-based music licensing and technology company Music Dealers, LLC. Through the partnership, Sound City users will have access to Music Dealers’ technology and 150,000 songs from its extensive catalog.

With Sound City, KBooM! designed a game that effectively fulfills three key goals from Music Dealers’ creative brief:

  • Screen shot from Sound City by KBooM! Games

    Music discovery: The game promotes Music Dealers’ artists and creates a fun way for fans to discover new music. It connects artists to new audiences.

  • Crowd testing: Players rate the music in the game, providing valuable feedback to marketers. In addition, KBooM! designs custom missions in the game that make crowd-testing songs part of the game. In this way Music Dealers can offer its clients real time crowd testing of chosen tracks to inform their decisions.
  • Put fans to work as A&R: KBooM! will create missions in the game based on client briefs so fans can suggest just the right music for a brand or popular TV show.

In conjunction with the release of the game, KBooM! launched a free mobile music trivia app for iPhone to add another dimension and platform to consumer interaction.

TINC: What industry would you most closely align your company with?

Advertising/Social Media/Engagement marketing

TINC: How is your product different from the other guys? What makes your company unique to the scene?

KBooM! is unique in that it offers a custom-made, immersive experience for brands to reach consumers through social gaming. The company creates a full custom user experience for players as opposed to attempting to interrupt the gaming experience by shoehorning in a brand or product. KBooM! provides  a channel for a brand to express its identity and values while keeping users entertained.

As more and more brands look to the incredibly popular platform of social media gaming to reach new consumers, KBooM! is fulfilling that need by a creatively integrating brand messages into a gaming experience in a holistic way that  fans enjoy.

TINC: How many employees do you have on board right now?

KBooM! has 15 employees, with headquarters in Chicago and production offices in Qingdao, China.

TINC: Who are the founders and CEO’s of your company?

Like an intrepid voyager leading a team of trusty sled dogs across the Arctic Circle, Dan Amdur sought his own trail through the exciting and increasingly relevant world of social media branding. He launched KBooM! games in 2010, and brought on one of the Midwest’s top international product branding experts, Steve Gradman, and an ace team of developers in Qingdao, China, for the voyage ahead.

An alumnus of the University of Illinois and the Olin College of Business at Washington University in St. Louis (MBA), KBooM! President Steve Gradman has never shied from trying new things, from working on a music industry start-up to projects for the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce and Purina Pet Foods. Upon completion of his MBA, Gradman accepted a marketing role with Energizer Battery in St. Louis, most notably blending entertainment and branding with an in-pack promotion and partnership for the ActiVision Spider-Man video game.

Prior to joining KBooM! in 2011, Gradman worked in marketing for Kraft Foods in Chicago. Later, as the global marketing director for Newell Rubbermaid Office Products, Gradman tested non-traditional advertising tactics including Facebook promotions, DRTV and TV drive to digital on brands like Sharpie and Uni-Ball.

TINC: When was your company established? What is the official founding date?

October 2010

TINC: Tell us about development platforms you may be using, or what you’re coding this in.

We code in multiple platforms (Java, Flash, HTML5, Unity, etc). However, what makes KBooM! different is that the approach to our technical product starts with the consumer. We begin with a creative brief to understand the marketing challenge our game needs to address. From there, we look at what consumer behaviors we need to change and then we create a development document. Then, and only then, do we decide upon the platform for each game as well as the tools we will use to create it to ensure the best overall consumer experience.

TINC: What is your technical approach that makes your software better? How are you getting the details right or working in a more optimized way?

Before we get into production, we ensure we are 100% clear on our documentation internally and with our partners. This is the most important part of our technical process, given our teams work across the globe and our clients’ needs are our top priority. We secure a united front among the teams before we even discuss technical challenges or products we will use to create the projects. We use new technologies to vet each and every one with an eye on how it will impact our end user. Before jumping into the latest programming language or platform, we ensure our consumer experience will be flawless (no additional downloads, hiccups, etc.) before testing the application.

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