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Virtual Zippo Lighter iPhone app surpasses 5M downloads

Zippo Manufacturing Co. claims that its Virtual Zippo Lighter is the most popular free, branded iPhone application ever.

The lighter giant tapped Moderati Inc. for the creation of the application, which is available in the App Store for the iPhone and the iPod touch. The Zippo application has notched five million downloads and is extending its European tour with releases in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

"As a mobile entertainment agency, our job is to help brands make their marketing dollars work harder by launching branded mobile content," said Jon Vlassapulos, CEO of Moderati Inc., San Francisco. "Fast forward a few months since the launch of the Zippo app and we've reached 5 million downloads, and the success is due to the app's simplicity and the iconic nature of the Zippo brand.

"At the moment the app is branding tool for Zippo, but the next phase, now that we've got a decent global audience, is to start monetizing it," he said. "We'll be doing a commercial store where consumers pay to trick out their Zippo, customizing the lighter's skin by adding company or team logos to the lighter.

"We're also thinking about doing a concert feature letting users know what music is playing when, because Zippo has become synonymous with music, so it's a nice brand match between the lighter enabled within the application and finding music concerts nearby you can go and see."

Based in Bradford, PA, Zippo manufactures an average of 11 million windproof pocket lighters each year for a total of 450 million since the first lighter was created in 1932. Its lighters are distributed in more than 150 countries worldwide.

Bellrock Media's Moderati is a digital content agency that helps brands connect with their consumers through entertainment experiences.

Moderati partnered with wireless carriers since 2001 and has backing from talent management and production agency Yoshimoto Kogyo.

This collaboration with Moderati represents the Zippo's first cooperative foray into downloadable applications for mobile devices.

The Virtual Zippo Lighter, which brings the look and feel of Zippo's iconic lighter to the iPhone, ranks in the top 20 iPhone apps of all time, according to comScore Inc., which rated the Zippo app No. 18 out of all applications worldwide.

The Virtual Zippo Lighter features a selection of designs to customize the skin of the lighter, as well as an animated flame that reacts to movement of the phone.

The virtual lighter opens with a flick of the wrist and lights with a turn of the flint wheel, and the truly windproof flame sways as the device is moved back and forth.

The Virtual Zippo Lighter lets Zippo fans experience the virtual flame for free by holding their mobile phones aloft and swaying to power ballads at concerts.

The application takes advantage of several features of the iPhone and iPod touch developer platform, including the accelerometer to enable movement of the flame in response to motion.

Realistic sound effects highlight the action of the lighter when it opens and closes, and the vibration feature lets users know when the flame is upside down.

The iPhone app has brought new relevance to the Zippo brand, according to Moderati. The vendor claims that mobile applications such as this one represent a new frontier in advertising in the age of DVRs and browsers with ad-blockers.

This fall, Zippo and Moderati will release a premium version of the Virtual Zippo Lighter app to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Virtual Zippo Lighter launch.

Users will be able to choose between the classic or buy the new $0.99 version that lets users personalize their lighters with a variety of downloadable skins, designs and images.

Zippo has plans to support other smartphone platforms before the end of the year.

"The challenges for a brand such as Zippo is trying to reach a new demographic, so we addressed those challenges by conceiving, creating and marketed the iPhone app, and we contributed to the viral spread of the app with a YouTube video that stirred downloads and our PR efforts," Mr. Vlassopulos said.

"In the beginning it was one of those perfect storm events," he said. "The Apple guys decided to take it on as the flagship icon of the Lifestyle category, so it became a self-perpetuating feature in the App Store.

"Virtual Zippo Lighter has become synonymous with iPhone apps."