A new guerrilla marketing campaign from a small British start-up leading to a success story.
Imagine this. A stranger comes up to you outside a flagship Apple Store on iPhone X launch day. He takes a newly-purchased iPhone, casually clads it in a case and invites you to hurl it at the sidewalk. How do you feel?
I mean, it’s not your iPhone, but do you really want to be the one to shatter a $999 piece of technology on the ground?
Fortunately for everyone concerned, the handset was housed in a protective iPhone X case from a plucky British start-up whose founders have gone from working on a Chinese factory production line to banging on the door of Best Buy.
The men and women behind Mous were almost bankrupt, living off noodles and sleeping in cockroach-infested hotel rooms, after giving up everything to study the mass-manufacturing process first-hand in Shenzhen, China.
After developing its own patent-pending material and becoming a YouTube sensation for seeming to destroy devices, Mous raised $2.5 million through 50,000 backers on Indiegogo, making it the most crowdfunded phone case company ever.
This material, called Airoshock, contains micro air pockets that act as springs to dramatically dampen the impact of falls. Airoshock features in all the company’s cases. These add 2.3mm to the thickness of compatible Apple and Samsung smartphones.
Mous went viral through video storytelling after repeatedly throwing that iPhone X in the air. It was outside Apple’s Regent Street store in London on launch day last year and it landed unscathed every time. This was one of a series of stunts posted on the video-sharing site, YouTube.
Sales continue strongly, despite no traditional advertising, instead opting to connect to a global customer base through digital and social platforms to build ties to the brand.
Originating from Ipswich, Suffolk, in the UK, the company is led by a collective group of friends in their mid-twenties and early thirties: James Griffith, 28, Josh Shires, 27, James Day, 25, Will Mullen, 31, and Lucy Hutchinson, 28.
‘When the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign launched, it initially started off quite slow with sales slowly trickling in. We felt like we were beginning to plateau until something incredible happened,’ says Day.
‘On the fourth day of the campaign, James Griffith ran downstairs and yelled to me that something was happening. I didn’t believe him, but the next day we were sat in McDonald’s and our phones started pinging like mad.
‘Within 10 minutes we’d sold 10 phone cases and it just continued and continued. That’s when we knew we had something special.’
You know how you feel at the thought of that thrown iPhone X. So, how did it feel to the guy actually doing it?
‘Incredibly nerve-wracking,’ says Griffith, he who did the chucking. ‘Someone from the crowd grabbed the phone out of my hand and threw it 15 feet in the air. It was the first time we had tested our cases to these extremes and we did it live in front of a crowd of Apple fanatics. Thank goodness the cases stood up to the test.’
Mous is set to take on its biggest test yet – persuading the biggest retailer in the US to stock its products – and in true viral style, the brand has exclusively told me its latest guerrilla marketing tactics ahead of knocking on Best Buy’s door.
IPhone cases are pretty boring so we’re trying to add a bit of excitement and as usual, we intend to do everything differently,’ says Griffith. ‘We’re starting the meeting with a bespoke video that messes with your head a bit as it shows us walking into their head office.’
‘We have an idea of how we can drive people into Best Buy stores and spent a day speaking to staff so they understand what Mous is about. We would like to invite everyone from its CEO to the whole Best Buy family to be a backer.’
‘Our backers are clearly gunning for our success, but retail is struggling with the online market. However, there are certain things you cannot do online. For that part you’ll have to wait and see when we launch in Best Buy in September – that’s if they say yes.’
We’ll find out soon enough, I imagine.
As well as Airoshock, Mous cases come with built-in magnetic plates to work with a number of accessories, including car mounts and wallets, as well as wireless chargers.
A screen protector made from a blend of TPU, PET and silicone is also bundled in the box and is said to absorb three times the impact of normal protectors. Finally, the cases are finished with 100% real materials, such as aramid carbon fiber, leather, wood and even shell.
The start-up has operated from a WeWork Lab since its inception and even developed an exclusive removable, micro-suction version of its card wallet for members so they can keep their key card close to their phone and wirelessly charge it. It’s since become a sold-out product on the Mous website.
One might expect the success of Mous might mean its founders have been able to leave China behind. In fact, Shires still resides there, although living conditions have improved somewhat.
‘Working in China is something you have to experience to understand,’ says Griffith. ‘You can’t read a single sign, we never knew what we were ordering on a menu and it was a struggle to communicate with people.’
“We would play rock, paper, scissors to decide who was going to attempt to order the drinks, it was so different from the lives we knew in the UK. Our every day became waking up in the cheapest hotel room with cockroaches decorating the floor, eating packet noodles and obsessing over phone cases. It was intense.’
To say the least.
‘We knew we needed to learn and it was very inspiring knowing we were improving our future through being there. It enabled us to speed up our development time significantly, we could prototype products, review them, drop-test and feed right back to the factory face-to-face.’
These are exciting times for a sparky British company with a strikingly good product and an intriguing approach.
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