Over the past few weeks, the global media has taken turns issuing this-is-crazy-is-it-real? hot takes on a new mobility startup called Cangoroo. What makes this newcomer more newsworthy than the swarm of e-scooters or bike shares popping up in urban centers around the world is that its first product is . . . a freakin’ pogo stick.
That’s right, just like dockless scooters like Bird, you can unlock the pogo stick with the mobile app and pay to bounce by the minute. The sheer madness of a pogo-sharing service immediately sparked equal parts rage and delight, and its peak hipster vibe certainly contains more than a whiff of extreme artisanal pickling and putting a bird on things.
Cofounder and CEO Adam Mikkelsen swears Cangoroo is a real thing to anyone who’ll listen, including me. But he also says it was created to use all the media attention to launch a more traditional mobility brand. “Based on trends in social media, going to extreme lengths to stand out is a common strategy,” Mikkelsen admits. “You see it in media, in fashion, and in the end, we’re very serious about the product. We see people using the pogo sticks, but it’s also for us to have room to further develop products in the micro-mobility space.”
See, Mikkelsen is not only the cofounder and CEO of Cangoroo, but also Malmo, Sweden-based ad agency The ODD Company. Over the past few years, the agency has created or partnered on a number of projects–a huggable trench coat for H&M’s Monki, a personal relaxation tent for the office called a Pause Pod, a sustainable bike cafe, a mustache protector–all projects tailor-made for maximum media attention.
One look at the agency site for any of these projects makes clear that the motivation behind and goal of these projects was media coverage, not sales.
The Pause Pod (aka a small tent) is currently sold out. There’s no record of the Monki Hug Trench ever being for sale. Wheelys Cafe hasn’t posted to Instagram since February. But all their media hits are chronicled: The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Esquire, The Colbert Report, and yes, Fast Company (though our Pause Pod coverage was decidedly skeptical).
For his part, Mikkelsen is willing to acknowledge that getting attention is half the goal. But he’s committed to the bit that the shareable pogo-stick startup is not a stunt. “Our background is in marketing, so getting this reaction was intentional,” he says. “That attention is great because then when we launch people will be surprised that it is for real. As our first marketing campaign, we wanted to divide the crowd, tell people we’re serious, and people who still think it’s a joke will realize it’s not. That’s definitely part of the strategy.”
It’s really a win-win for Mikkelsen and the agency: Get enough attention and it might actually become a real company. If it doesn’t, it’s a fairly cheap case study on the agency’s ability to harness attention and bucket-loads of earned media.
Here’s betting that after a while, the culture’s attention will be snagged elsewhere–and Cangoroo will have lost its bounce beyond Odd’s own pitch to brand clients.