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Published: Wednesday, 4/24/2013

Smith Dairy reveals mobile app aimed at new consumers

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The Smith's Dairy's mobile application game features five superhero bovine characters that have special skills for fighting evil. The Smith's Dairy's mobile application game features five superhero bovine characters that have special skills for fighting evil.
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Chris and Tyler Parkinson thought their mobile application had the potential to be a cash cow. They just needed to find a dairy that agreed.

The Ohio brothers, who grew up on a dairy farm in Utica, a small town northeast of Columbus, had developed a puzzle game called Mars Needs Milk and were looking for someone to help bring it to the masses.

They went to several dairies, but kept getting shot down.

“I think they might have misunderstood the concept, that it was a marketing opportunity,” Chris Parkinson said Tuesday.

Then they pitched it to Smith Dairy in northeast Ohio. The folks there thought the idea was udderly perfect.

“We've been around for over 100 years, and we wanted to find a way to connect a 100-year-old brand with the consumers of today and tomorrow. We wanted to get our name out there,” said Jerry Cosentino, marketing services manager for Dairy Enterprises Inc., Smith Dairy parent company.

Mr. Cosentino said Smith had not considered a mobile application, but found the marketing behind the idea too good to pass up.

Smith had some character concepts, so instead of using Mars Needs Milk, they asked the Parkinson brothers to develop a different game featuring crime-fighting cows.

That turned into Herd of Heroes, which Smith launched for Android and iPhone applications this month.

The game has a superhero theme, with five hoofed heroes banding together to save the world's milk supply from an evil cola-addled villain. The full version sells for 99 cents through the Apple Store and Google Play, though there are free demos available, as well as a free desktop download from Smith Dairy's Web site.

As far as mobile apps go, the game is fairly complex, especially for first-time game developers.

Chris Parkinson, a 27-year-old whose day job has him working on application development for Discover Card, did the development work, while his 25-year-old brother, Tyler, did the art.

“It ended up being a huge undertaking,” Chris Parkinson said. “It was an aggressive timeline, an aggressive size of game. Most game developers start out with checkers or chess. We decided to make a platform that is probably one of the most difficult games you can do staring out. I personally think we nailed it.”

Smith said the application gives them a fun way to get their brand out there. Chris Parkinson said mobile applications are a perfect way to do that, especially to companies that want to rejuvenate their brand among young consumers.

“Tyler and I would argue every young consumer out there has a smart phone or tablet and what better way to reach them than a mobile game,” he said.

Smith Dairy Products of Orrville, Ohio, about 60 miles south of Cleveland, sells dairy products across Ohio and parts of Indiana, Michigan, and West Virginia. The company has a distribution branch in Toledo that employs about 15 people.

Mr. Cosentino said the company plans to use characters from the game in other marketing endeavors, including on packaging for its 8-ounce school milk cartons.

Mr. Parkinson said he and his brother hope to parlay this break into releasing more games, including their original Mars Needs Milk concept.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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