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Punchbowl wanted characters that would help fill some of its gaps, and appeal to teenage boys
Punchbowl is already the preeminent digital greeting card company out there, with deals to showcase characters from everything from Sesame Street to Transformers, as well as My Little Pony, Star Wars Rebels and Hello Kitty. The company even signed an exclusive deal with Disney last year.
There are always new categories and demographics to conquer, though, and now the company is setting its sights on a customer: teenage boys.
Punchbowl announced three new deals on Tuesday, the first with Activision Publishing Inc. to offer an invitation collection inspired by the characters and storyline of Skylanders, which Punchbowl CEO Matt Douglas told me is, "the number one video game for teens right now."
The second deal is with Nickelodeon, which will allow the company to offer online invitations featuring characters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and more.
And, finally, it has teamed up with World Wrestling Entertainment for an invitation collection featuring WWE Superstars, including John Cena, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Randy Orton®, and others.
By adding these new characters, Douglas told me, it allows Punchbowl to fill in some of the gaps it had been seeing in its branded marketing.
"Since we launched Disney, we have been a booming business. There is no doubt that branded charatcers are what moms and kids want," he said. "We have branded content for kids birthday parties, but we recognized that we had gaps in our branded collection. If you were a teenage boy, there wasn't a lot on Punchbowl for you."
By adding wrestling and Skylanders, Punchbowl has created a line that will cater to that demographic. With these latest collections, Punchbowl now offers dozens of different franchises
"When you look at girls and boys, ages 3 to 6, and 6 to 9, what are characters they are most interested in? Now we have a collection that includes everything from wrestling to Stars Wars to Mickey Mouse to Spongebob to Frozen."
These additions make Punchbowl the biggest collection of branded characters for invitations, and each one represents "substantial new reach and revenue" for the company.
"It's hard to say how much revenue these new lines will add, since it so early. One of the ways we monetize is a subscription, premium model, where certain content or features are only available by upgrading your account. That is a sizable business for us and these new channels will attract people who never heard of Punchbowl before," said Douglas.
"These are Not small companies, and we have no competition in this space. With the market shifting from paper to digital, it is ours to win."
Until now, it has been a mix of Punchbowl reaching out to brands, and brands coming to them. But Douglas expects it to now go mostly in the second direction, and for Punchbowl to be in more control over which characters it puts on its products.
This is a pretty important pivot point for us; now that we have our full collection, we can barter with lots of other brands, and now we can be choosey," he said.
That being said, Punchbowl works closely with its brands, many of whom have final say over every aspect of how their characters are represented.
"It's a big job. We have many people inside Punchbowl managing that, and getting approvals through. This took months and months of preparation and companies have strict brand requirements and approvals," he said. "Up until 24 hours ago I was not sure we were going to have all the final approvals. To get massive companies, and get them aligned, and all the approvals through, that is non-trivial. It is a big part of the workforce."
Every since signing with Disney last year, Punchbowl has growing 'tremendously." While Douglas would not give any hard numbers, he did say that the company's birthday category alone grew seven times in a single year.
The company has also been making a bigger push into mobile, making a big update to its iOS app in recent weeks, along with plans for a release on Android in the near future.
The Framingham, Massachusetts-based Punchbowl, which was founded in 2005 by Douglas and Sean Conta, has raised three rounds of fundraising, most recently raising $1.5 million in October 2012, bringing its total to $4 million. It is backed by Contour Venture Partners and Intel Capital. The company is now profitable and doesn't have plans to raise another round anytime soon.
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Punchbowl is a technology company that builds products for the celebrations market. We create best-in-class online invitations and digital greeting card for events and life milestones. We believe that the details matter, products should be easy to use, and design separates great products from good ones. We’re proud to have received widespread acclaim and industry recognition. In addition to coverage in leading lifestyle, technology and business press, we’ve been honored with numerous awards and accolades. More than 45 million people a year use our products: Learn more at https://www.punchbowl.com/company
Joined Vator onMatt Douglas is an entrepreneur, investor and startup advisor with 20+ years of experience in product management, marketing and software development. He's the Founder and CEO of Punchbowl.com.