You are in the city for just two weeks and one night you get robbed all your valuables. A mysterious man turns up and hands you a mobile phone. You´ve got four pounds left in your pocket. Can you make it to the top?
This is how Barclay’s free online game 56 Sage Street begins. It is Barclay’s intent to engage teenage customers who are otherwise hardly interested in financial services and hence, would normally ignore any form of traditional marketing. A mix of the popular games Grand Theft Auto and Sim City was the company’s approach to creating awareness among the targeted audience.
Gamers have to complete different challenges related to earning and investing money. Moreover, they can advance faster when they choose to collaborate with their friends by connecting via Facebook. The final task however, can only be solved by a larger group and thus, fosters even further word-of-mouth and direct recommendations from players.
In the first month of the release back in July 2010, the online game designed by BBH attracted some 55,000 players. The game received over 2,300 “likes” on Facebook, 2,277 tweets and 35 Google +¹.
Unilever took a very different approach to promote its Degree Men deodorant by launching “the adrenalist” website. Players of social games can choose to watch a two-minute video staring an extreme-sports figure like Darren Berrecloth (mountain biker), Bear Grylls (adventurer) or Miles Daisher (BASE jumper) to earn points for the game they are playing.
According to a recent New York Times article, most gamers who choose to view the clip watch the complete video and “are more likely to take an action, like commenting or downloading information afterward”². After watching the clip, players have the opportunity to access the microsite theadrenalist.com where additional content such as videos, articles, or product reviews are available.
The article states further, the video was reproduced 9.1 million times in the first week with 93% of the gamers watching the entire clip. Goal of the “Masters of Movement” campaign is to target an audience of 18- to 35-year old male by engaging them emotionally. The extreme-sports athletes were selected as they represent not only an adventurous lifestyle but also because of the careful selection of their “equipment“.
Another very different approach is taking Fantasy Shopper, a social game launched in the UK last year. Gamers can shop in over 300 real boutiques all around the world for virtual clothes. They can then choose their favorite dress and wear it at virtual events. Completing different challenges, players can increase their fashionista reputation to unlock real discounts for the brands participating in the game³.
As one of the hottest start-ups in Europe, Fantasy Shopper recently attracted some 15 high-profile angels investing some $3.3 million. Although “figures aren’t available on numbers of users, (…) the startup claims to have increased its user base by 200% month over month, with members spending an average of 28 minutes on the site per visit”⁴. Shopper Fantasy so far received some 1,986 “likes” on Facebook and recruited 1,367 followers on tweeter.
Social gaming is a powerful marketing vehicle as it is more likely to engage customers than other passive media (i.e. television commercials), lets gamers choose to communicate with a brand, and educates them on the product in a playful way. Consequently, social games result in higher viewer interaction, increased brand recognition, and eventually improved recall and intent to purchase².
Nevertheless, to be successful, social games must fit the demographics of the targeted audience, match the brand image, and most importantly, be fun to play. As social games might be costly to develop, their use should be carefully evaluated. Yet, as the above-mentioned examples demonstrate, the rewards can be gigantic.
Can your company’s social game make it to the top?
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