One morning final week, James Kuczynski, inventive director of brand name and advertising and marketing at DuoLingo, bought a notice that had nothing to do with any of the same old languages individuals study daily on the platform. As a substitute, it was about Excessive Valyrian, the traditional—and fictional—mom tongue of the outdated Valyrian Freehold on the continent of Essos in “Recreation Of Thrones.”
“I woke as much as a Slack message of a submit on Twitter the place somebody is creating a complete wedding ceremony that’s solely set in Excessive Valyrian,” Kuczynski mentioned. “They actually are saying everybody who’s going to return to the marriage has to enroll to study Excessive Valyrian on DuoLingo to attend the marriage so that you perceive what’s occurring.”
Forward of this previous weekend’s premiere of “Home Of The Dragon,” DuoLingo has been partnering with HBO Max to create a course for the brand new collection, which is predicated on writer George R.R. Martin’s novel, “Fireplace & Blood.” The Excessive Valyrian course, which debuted in 2019, just lately expanded to just about 400 phrases and phrases developed by linguist David Peterson, the constructed language’s inventor. Nonetheless, that is the primary time DuoLingo has formally collaborated with HBO for the present. Once they introduced the collaboration in mid-July, DuoLingo mentioned 514,000 individuals had been actively studying Excessive Valyrian on the platform—down from 822,000 the 12 months it debuted—however the firm mentioned that quantity has elevated by 155% up to now month. The brand new marketing campaign additionally features a challenge with an opportunity to win a life-size “Recreation Of Thrones” collectible metal sword that DuoLingo’s mentioned has an estimated retail worth of $25,000.
HBO Max can be giving Excessive Valyrian audio system a method to apply their new language abilities with a brand new augmented reality-enabled app, which lets individuals increase a digital dragon at dwelling because it grows over time. (The app is powered by tech from the Pokemon Go maker Niantic and makes use of phrases that individuals study by way of DuoLingo’s classes.) Phrases of the settlement weren’t disclosed, however HBO Max and DuoLingo are additionally co-marketing throughout a lot of mediums. New billboards have been teasing out the course with cryptic messages written in Excessive Valyrian. In the meantime, DuoLingo is providing two free months of its paid DuoLingo Plus model to HBO subscribers.
The collaboration is simply one of many some ways the language app has sought to faucet into tendencies as part of its advertising and marketing technique throughout a wide range of platforms—permitting the app to focus extra on natural advertising and marketing moderately than paid promoting. From a wildly widespread TikTok account to experiences on Roblox, DuoLingo is experimenting with methods to create viral content material that each entertains and educates audiences that may not in any other case be excited by ready for winter to return earlier than studying a brand new language.
“We attempt to discover moments in tradition, the place there are these cult audiences — these cohorts of individuals — who’re hardcore followers about one thing,” Kuczynski mentioned. “What we do is absolutely attempt to resonate with them as a result of we really feel like once we can encourage identification with them and our model and what we do as an schooling language model, they nearly grow to be ambassadors for us. That in and of itself is a bit of content material we are able to share and return and have interaction with that group.”
This isn’t the primary time DuoLingo has carried out a cross-promotion for a language and a present. In 2018, the corporate collaborated with CBS to develop a Klingon course for “Star Trek” followers. Final 12 months, it provided aspiring French audio system a free month of lessons to assist co-market Season 2 of Netflix’s “Emily In Paris.” DuoLingo has additionally seen upticks in studying sure languages even when there’s not an official partnership. For instance, it found that extra individuals began studying Korean on the app after the Netflix debut of “Squid Recreation.”
When individuals join DuoLingo to study a fictional language—whether or not it’s Excessive Valyrian or languages from different reveals resembling Klingon in “Star Trek”—43% of them additionally start to review one other language, based on DuoLingo. (For “Home Of The Dragon,” HBO had to return to the language’s creator to develop extra language for the brand new collection since there was extra Excessive Valyrian spoken than in earlier seasons.)
“It has to really feel prefer it’s not pressured and looks as if a fantastic partnership and is sensible with the language and the present about to launch once more,” mentioned Claudia Ratterman, a director analyst at Gartner targeted on advertising and marketing. “It’s positively a fantastic strategic method for manufacturers to be part of the dialog and even improve the potential for virality particularly when it may be arduous when you could have so many individuals competing for people’ consideration.”
DuoLingo’s advertising and marketing technique spans a lot of on-line platforms. Between 2020 and 2021, promoting elevated from $1.54 million to $6.76 million, based on information from the analytics agency Kantar. Nonetheless, DuoLingo spent $1.16 million from January by means of June, down from $3.56 million throughout the identical interval final 12 months. The corporate additionally has shifted spending throughout varied platforms. In keeping with information from the ad-tracking agency Pathmatics, DuoLingo—which started promoting throughout streaming and related TVs in September 2021—has up to now spent $488,000 on OTT advertisements in 2022 in comparison with $325,000 all of final 12 months.
The app has additionally seen early success on different platforms to gamify language studying. Final fall, it went viral on TikTok because of zany movies that includes its mascot and since then has continued to keep up traction on the social video app. Earlier this summer time, DuoLingo made its Roblox debut by creating an expertise that lets individuals check their Spanish abilities in a hedge maze, go to a digital museum celebrating the app’s 10-year-anniversary or purchase merchandise for his or her avatar.
Thus far, DuoLingo’s expertise on Roblox has been visited greater than 10 million instances. It’s additionally begun some early assessments over the previous few weeks on newer apps resembling BeReal. Discovering methods to point out up on varied platforms has additionally been a method for Roblox to rack up views with natural content material. In keeping with Kuczynski, content material from the Roblox expertise has been additionally been considered between 8 million and 9 million instances after movies had been reposted to YouTube and TikTok.
“What we’re enthusiastic about proper now’s driving on this momentum that we’re seeing by way of model love and actually beginning to do some experiments in a few of these areas to see whether or not it’s worthwhile exploring even additional,” Kuczynski mentioned.