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Jen Grenz joined Zlango in 2012 to lead global marketing and content for and open the US office in San Francisco, CA. Jen has been leading marketing teams in the consumer mobile space for the last decade. Jen has dedicated her career to creating and bringing to market Tier 1 mobile apps that reach the top rankings in the relevant app stores, creating stickiness in their user bases and unveiling new ways to bring revenue generating channels to the mobile app market.
Zlango turns plain texting into an image-rich expression of what you really mean to say. Even when words are enough, Zlango turbo-charges traditional messages with advanced texting features.
MO: Why does the team at Zlango believe that soon, we’ll look back on traditional plain texting like we do black-and-white TV – fondly and nostalgically?
Jen : Each way we have invented to communicate with each other has improved over the years until it becomes the new ‘norm’. Remember when T9 was invented and we all thought it was revolutionary texting? T9 became the norm and shipped in millions of devices. Then the touch screen was invented and T9 is a nostalgic thing of the past. Zlango is similar. Texting has become a primary form of communication between people- friends, family and business. The number of text messages sent grows dramatically each year. People like personalizing their messages, just as they do with abbreviations, LOL, BRB etc and slang. Zlango allows people to send images with their text messages that add color, attitude and personal style. Sometimes tone or intention get lost in texting, Zlango fixes that and ensures each text has its intended meaning through images, not just words. We believe this will become the new ‘norm’ in texting.
MO: What are some of the advantages of using Zlango over regular texting?
Jen: It is about personalization and being relevant. Zlango offers ways for a user to chose different images to express themselves. This shows the receiver more about that person’s interests and who they are. The advantage of being individual and understood over text is huge. All the major consumer brands are leading with personalization. Think about Nike ID, or Oakley customized sunglasses. Pick your shape, color, add your name etc. People love being unique.
MO: Can you talk a bit about the development process of behind the Zlango icons? What have been some of the challenges in designing something that reflects spoken language, slang and culture?
Jen: Zlango’s differentiation, primarily with emoticons, is that we introduce language to the image. Our images have several words attached to them so that when a user is texting a specific word, we offer different visual representations that word could be associated with. We also have a ‘core’ language with images that are standard in the Zlango experience. Developing these images that cross cultures and genders has been a process. We find that because relevancy is key, the visual world is constantly evolving creating the need for our images to evolve. We also work with different brands to offer images that people are familiar with. Charuca for example is one you may or may not know by name, but you have probably seen one of their characters before. Offering that familiar character is a way people can add something they want to identify with to their text messaging.
MO: What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?
Jen: Our biggest risk has yet to be realized! We have taken a strategic decision as a company to begin producing more relevant content on a weekly basis. We haven’t started with that engine yet, but it is a risk to believe people want weekly or daily content to share in their texting or social media posting. We shall see!
MO: How is Zlango using animated text-messaging to become a new resource for branding and marketing?
Jen: Similar to the example of Charuca above, a branded pack of images offered for purchase in the virtual store, branded images are growing in popularity. We can take animated, or non-animated content and turn it into images that people can then use when sending texts or posting to Facebook. We have the ever-popular Walking Dead and Terminator as examples where people can ‘show’ their friends what they mean, rather than just ‘text’ it. Brands all over the world can open a new revenue stream by offering images for social engagement on the Zlango platform.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Jen: I Love Mobile. Just a big geek really! Professionally, my field has expanded leaps and bounds since I was trying to get people to download apps back in 2004 before the iPhone or appstores ever existed. That is exciting. To see the evolution of apps and the overall mobile experience is very personal for me. Professionally, I want to continue to be at the forefront of creating the ‘norm’ or the standards people come to expect with their mobile experience, even though at the time, it is seen as pushing the envelope into something revolutionary!
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