In a word, and a freshly-minted word at that, “Integrativity” could be the most apt marketing term to describe Seattle-based Cozi. The online family “organizing” service works to integrate the scheduling of today’s busy family members by letting moms, dads and kids synch up their activities and errands with an online calendar, shopping lists, to-do lists and messaging, all in a streamlined, easy-to-use interface. Co-founded by CEO Robbie Cape, who helmed Microsoft Money as General Manager, and guided by a stellar lineup of Puget Sound execs like CMO Carl Weinstein, who wrote the Seattle Mariner’s marketing playbook among others, Cozi is “integrating creatively” on multiple fronts in its quest to help manage the chaos of family life.
First, Cozi is driven by the value it provides to families. The firm’s “fanatical focus” is on the intra-family social network – to enable simple, effective, efficient communication that is critical to the functioning of today’s overactive family members and get-it-done yesterday world. Synching the Cozi calendar with Outlook, importing a Google Calendar or accessing the m.cozi.com mobile Web service <http://m.cozi.com> shows off Cozi’s technical integration like no other product can.
But Cozi’s “marketing integrativity” is even more impressive. “The sponsorship revenue that we’re driving across the Cozi service is all about deep feature integration, content integration, and highly relevant advertising integration into the individual areas of the product,” said Weinstein, citing branded efforts for Tamiflu, Nestle and Dove.
We talked shop with the Cozi compadres about their extremely well-integrated family functionality.
Seatttle24x7: Congratulations on Cozi’s success in helping families leverage the power of social networking, and for your recognition in the WTIA Industry Achievement Awards. Can you share your current usage numbers as to where Cozi is sitting in the market right now?
Robbie: We are currently at 2.5 million registered family members on the service and are growing every day. Our most significant increase in the last 12 months has been a result of the strong partnerships that we have put in place. These distribution partners and their very large brands are increasingly successful at driving awareness and registrations.
Seatttle24x7: Can you describe the common demographic of the Cozi user?
Robbie: Sure. Our typical family has at least one child between the ages of 5 and 15. The “average” Cozi family has between two and three kids, is typically a dual income household, although we have many single income households. Typically, the household income is just under $100,000. Obviously, many Cozi families have kids under age 5 or over age 15, and have multi-children households, but the family with at least one child in that range is in the “sweet spot” of Cozi’s value proposition.
Carl: Once kids enter school age, their social calendars and activities get quite busy. That’s when things really turn on for a family’s needs around coordination and organization.
Seatttle24x7: The Internet today is blossoming with social media applications. Cozi seems to be the social media “Intranet” for the nuclear family.
Robbie: Absolutely. We started with what was a very traditional concept, albeit a new concept online. So many applications in the social networking space had done a great job of connecting people who had very little relationship with each other in truth, and yet there were very few tools on the market to connect and enable coordination between the people who lived the closest together, and that is the family. So we started building a set of tools that were fanatically focused on the family unit — the intra-family social network – to enable simple, effective, efficient communication between those family members about the kind of things that they need to communicate about, like a calendar, or a shopping list or a to-do list or messages,. These are all critical to the functioning of the family.
Carl: Over time you’ll see us continue to move more broadly outside the immediate family unit, connecting families to each other around important functional and social needs.
Seatttle24x7: Did you use focus groups to determine how people were going to be able to use the product and how they would adapt to it?
Robbie: Absolutely, in fact, the entire vision for the company and our first product focus grew out of the research that we’ve done and continue to perform. We do two forms of research. Number one, we do monthly “Mom Parties” which have proven to be very effective. These are our version of a consumer focus group. We get together with anywhere between 10-12 moms in a mom’s home in the evening. We bring gift cards for the attendees and wine and cheese from Costco. We sit down and talk to these moms about the “pain points” that they are experiencing within their family life. That is largely how we came up with the original concept of Cozi.
Then, on an ongoing basis, as we develop the product and we develop our marketing materials, we continue to use these Mom Parties as a way to engage with one of the key members of our demographic about the work we are doing.
The second component of research we do is that we actually visit families directly in their home on the order of once every week. We will watch them actually interact with our service and test new features. We will continue to make adjustments to the experience to optimize it for those use cases.
Carl: And, we have actually evolved that in-home usability test over time with the help of technology such as Skype. We can visit homes “virtually” and conduct usability tests remotely with users across the country, not just in the Seattle area, to broaden our understanding of our target consumer.
Seattle24x7: Was the “pain point” that you uncovered in research something that you were also experiencing in your own lives or did you discover it by tapping into the psyche of families across America?
Robbie: When we started, we wanted to leverage the fact that computing devices were popping up all over the home. We had no idea where we were going to end up. Our vision was that technology was moving in a certain direction and we saw a huge void in the area of relevant applications that took advantage of the distributed computing devices in the home. There was not a single company on the market with a unique and singular focus on the family. We had a bunch of ideas about applications we could build for the family. But after we spent about a month and a half talking to families, we discovered that their number one “pain point” by far was scheduling and organization.
Seattle24x7: Is the mobile platform a key enabler for this suite of applications?
Robbie; The advent of the iPhone and the reality of browsing Web services from your mobile phone is a relatively new phenomenon. As soon as that began to happen it became absolutely critical that we have a strong presence in that modality. Mom and Dad are increasingly on the road, they’re taking their kids to activities, they’re going to the grocery store, they’re out and about shopping; those are scenarios that are critical to our overarching experience. Right now our mobile app is broadly available to all handset devices through the mobile browser. If you enter http://m.cozi.com you will find that service. In the last couple of months we have started working on resident clients for the new mobile platforms and we will be submitting a resident app to the iPhone and Android markets in the coming weeks.
Seattle24x7: There’s also the physical integration of technology in the Cozi product line with your integration of Google Calendars for instance?
Robbie: Our core value is around providing a single, integrated, coordinated view that finally enables the family to see all their information in one place. If some individuals in the family are using Google Calendar or Outlook that is not a problem. Our job is to bring the relevant information together in a single place.
Seattle24x7: Cozi has succeeded in building a very strong partner and co-brand program. What can you tell us about it?
Robbie: Our commercial agreements with our partners are distribution arrangements that enable them to offer a version of Cozi to their customers with a revenue share partnership. We build co-branded editions for our partners featuring both brand’s logos, the partner’s and Cozi’s. A good case study is Unilever, a multi-brand company, that took a myriad of highly relevant family brands and showcased them under an umbrella brand called “Making Life Better,” as the core of their Web experience with Cozi. Similarly, withNestle, another powerful family brand, they used the brand name “Nestle Family” as a way to co-brand the product.
Seattle24x7: Can you give us some examples of other innovative integration?
Robbie: For example, with Tamiflu, during flu season, we are running a Local Flu Checker to see what the flu threat is in your area. This is a widget that we built into the experience and that is branded for Tamiflu. We are also doing a branded To-Do List that presents steps for flu season preparation. That is one exciting area of feature integration where we actually branded a ready-made To-Do list for families. We are doing something similar with a resort destination in Florida called Reunion Resorts and Hammock Beach Resorts. We love innovating in the area of integrated advertising. There are a variety of integrated advertising units that we’re creating for the very first time where ads are tightly integrated into our shopping list feature or tightly integrated into the calendar feature.
Carl: With a variety of Nestle products, we implemented for the first time an “Add to Shopping List” ad unit. This is technology that enables us to integrate standard advertising on any website with the Cozi shopping list. You can now add grocery and other items to your personal Cozi shopping list from any website. Without any additional work on the part of the brand advertiser, or their agency we’re able to append an “Add to Shopping List” button on any ad an immediately increase the value of the advertising..
Seattle24x7: Clearly your site does not have a lot of clutter on it in terms of ad units. Is that because of the deeper integration sponsorship opportunities you are developing and deploying?
Robbie: There’s no question about it. We have placed some very limitations on the type of display advertising that we will put in the product. As a general rule, we will only display a single ad unit on a page at one time. In all cases, when we are responding to an RFP, we will always lean towards an integrated, creative, largely innovative set of elements, like the “Add to Shopping List” or the integrated To-Do List that are brand new concepts and deeply integrated into our experience.
Seattle24x7: What’s ahead for Cozi?
Robbie: We have to continue to innovate on two fronts. First, we have to innovate on the value to families – that is absolutely critical. That means new and enhanced product features and new ways to help families communicate, coordinate and simplify family life. But secondly, our revenue model requires that we drive significant innovation in the online advertising front. We all know the standard IAB display ad is largely a commodity unit. The companies that win online are going to be the ones who drive significant, game-changing innovation over how they allow brands to communicate and connect with consumer online. That’s what we’re all about!
Visit Cozi at http://www.cozi.com