Startup Upstart: 4 Tips to Launch like Mad Men

Even by startup standards, I've had a strange commute to work lately, shuttling between 1966 and 2012 for my client Memoir Tree. Though it seems counterintuitive, a throwback to the 1960s provided the momentum Memoir Tree needed to launch into the modern app marketplace. There was a method to our madness – and thanks to Memoir Tree's open-source approach to marketing strategy. I'm free to share it with you.

1) Pick your moment, instead of letting Apple choose it for you.

When you finally get App Store approval after months of product development, the natural urge is flip the switch immediately and broadcast the news far and wide – no matter if it's midnight on a Friday, when skeletal weekend crews run major media outlets and even bloggers are asleep. But then a chilling thought occurs: what if you throw a launch party and no one comes?

Everyone who's launched an iOS product knows that App Store approval is a nail-biting process. The wizards behind the curtain take their own sweet time, then come back to you with left-field questions. In the case of Memoir Tree, we had to clarify that email registration was necessary for secure login access to private stories, and that we weren't harvesting addresses for nefarious spamming purposes.

But we weren't phased. Instead of trying to plan a launch around Apple's arbitrary App Store release date, we'd timed Memoir Tree's launch to coincide with two real-world events of peak interest to key Memoir Tree target market segments.

2) Build a better bandwagon.

From Pew Charitable Trust smartphone research, we know that smartphone users over 30 are urban, affluent, and college-educated – which also happens to describe the core audience for the AMC series Mad Men.  Set in the 1960s, Mad Men has also already conquered Memoir Tree's key marketing challenge as an oral history app: making history hip.

So once the March 25 Season 5 premiere of Mad Men was announced, we knew that a key Memoir Tree demographic would be glued to Mad Men coverage in March. Rather than compete with Don Draper & co for target audience attention, we created original Mad Men content for release before the premiere, followed by a release inviting iPhone users to "Make History like Mad Men." 

Beyond standard press coverage, our interviews with original '60s Mad Men Bob Pritikin and Jerry Gibbons became the talk of Mad Men forums on Slate,, New York Magazine, Washington Post and even New York Times' automobile section, attracting influential, socially active early adopters to download the app. The influx of new visitors to the Memoir Tree website doubled our monthly visits within days, with an average visit of 4.5 minutes.

 3) To stand out, take a calculated risk.

Memoir Tree also plotted a Mad Men-themed booth at the March 28-29 Aging in America Conference, where we knew that the growing numbers of Baby Boomers nearing 65 would be top of mind - and an entertaining hit of '60s nostalgia would stand out amid somber talk of medical devices. But would retro revelry seem inappropriate in a crowd of senior service providers?

Evidently not. Even attendees who weren't Mad Men fans responded to the '60s music, Mad Men fedoras and cocktails. Among the crowds thronging the booth were senior center execs looking for new ways to serve tech-savvy Boomers entering their '60s, as well as Gen Xers facing the double burden of child and senior care. These are key Memoir Tree market segments - and beyond the obvious bump to app downloads and website visits, the event yielded prime strategic partnership opportunities.

4) Prove your versatility, not just your concept.

Before launching like Mad Men, Memoir Tree already made history with bluegrass musicians, museum-goers, and celebrated winemakers. In the coming weeks, we'll continue to diversify our outreach, and make history with the San Francisco International Film Festival, young poets of WritersCorps, fundraising marathon runners, and new families on Mother's Day. Now that Memoir Tree has proven its concept, we're out to prove something much bigger: Memoir Tree's indispensability in the marketplace.

Author Alison Bing is a paid consultant to Memoir Tree, who have graciously allowed to be included as the topic of her series Startup Upstart. THE FIVE receives no payments for these articles.


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