Being Game

Michael Matthews
Monday, Sep 12, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Michael Matthews is a New York-based mobile marketing consultant who is a regular contributor to Forbes and Mashable. The founder of The Mobile Culture consultancy and president of Columbia University’s Mobile Marketing Club, Matthews shares with the Microsoft Tag blog the importance of gamification in the mobile universe.

Marketing brands via mobile face two difficult challenges: First, gaining consumer attention on their personal and user-controlled devices where they act as singular gatekeepers; and second, ensuring ongoing consumer engagement.

So, what content best succeeds the two-pronged challenge?

The answer: Games. Simple, non-console, instantly-accessed, incrementally-played, games.

Between 70 to 80% of all mobile downloads are games. The entertainment and challenge of games help us fight boredom, kill time, stimulate our brain capacity, socialize our networks as well as reach achievements and gain rewards. This would explain why Rovio, the Finnish creator of Angry Birds, is valued at $1.2 billion and Zynga, the creator of games such as Words With Friends and Mafia Wars is on track for $1 billion in sales this year.

In fact, beyond mobile gaming we're seeing the "gamification" of all things in relation to marketing. A Gartner report this past April concluded that, By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application."

The convergence of gaming and brand communications are also reflections of today's shifted consumer expectations from passive to interactive brand experiences. Brands that afford greater levels of consumer involvement deride higher levels of loyalty.

The following are seven innovative opportunities for brands to enter the mobile gaming world:

1. Rewarding > Redeeming

The initial temptation for brands is to insert themselves through in-game marketing or banner ads (which from an impression standpoint are valid options). But more impactful is rewarding consumers with "real rewards for virtual achievements." Think of the shift in consumer response when they’ve earned a product coupon as opposed to simply redeeming one given to the masses.

Consumer response: “Don’t interrupt me during game play, reward me with a product discount for passing level 10."

Example: Kiip


2. Real-world gaming

Remember when you were watching TV and your mom told you to go outside and play? It's funny how technology can now serve as the instigator of outdoor exploration.

As an annual event for the past three years, Tony Hawk hosts the global Tony Hawk Treasure Hunt (#THTH). Tweets with clues to the locations of 100 boxes hidden anywhere from the United States to South Africa containing either Activision's Tony Hawk: Shred video game, skateboards, bikes, helmets, clothes and various food and drinks are sent out. Whoever discovers one of the prizes tweets Tony a picture with prize in hand. Not only do you keep the prize, but your social capital rises as more than 2.6 million Twitter followers view a congratulatory tweet from Tony himself. An additional benefit for brands is that unlike most consumer databases, Twitter followers can be repurposed for future campaigns as well as build a community of ambassadors.

Consumer response: "Give me a rewarding reason to explore."

Example: Tony Hawk Treasure Hunt

3. In-app placement

Instead of creating expensive games from the ground-up, such as Audi or Red Bull, consider theme or character-based placement within popular applications. Not only is it more cost efficient, but you now have access to an already existing user base.

Consumer response: "I don't mind my favorite brands being part of the fun."

Example: Angry Birds & Fox animated motion picture Rio (10 million downloads in 10 days)


4. Transmedia Gaming

Consumers are multi-screen-tasking when watching TV.  According to a Harris Interactive survey, 56% of Americans watching TV concurrently surf the Internet, 40% visit a social networking site while 37% are busy texting. Brands will never win the fight of dedicated attention to one screen as consumers are no longer programmed that way. This forces brands to work harder to ensure they aren’t just “present” across devices, but that all these devices are seamlessly talking to each other as the consumer influences the content.

Consumer Response: "Let me continue game-play on any device I choose."

Example: Mattel's "Reuniting of Barbie and Ken"

5. Compliance/CRM Gaming

A major concern in the pharma/health industry is compliance of product usage. A common reaction from marketers is to set up voluntary email or text reminders. But what tends to happen over time is the consumer becomes annoyed by standard messaging that merely reminds them they're deficient. Not a mood any brand wants to be associated with. What if the industry could move consumers from a feeling of "I'm different" to "I'm special" using games?

Bayer introduced the Didget blood glucose meter that plugs into a Nintendo DS and rewards kids with games for consistent testing. So, when a 14-year-old boy who's recently discovered he's diabetic experiences feelings of inadequacy and even daily compliance refusal sets in, a brand stepped in to make him feel exclusive. Think how your brand can use gaming to keep your loyal customers over-time.

Consumer response: "I'll stay loyal knowing that with repeat usage or purchases of products I'm getting more than just the product."

Example: Bayer Digit's Blood Glucose Monitoring System & Nintendo

6. Location-based gaming platforms

The most consumer-responded mobile marketing campaigns are those that use all three unique capabilities of mobile devices: GPS-enabled, camera-ready and tied to social directory/network. As we've seen, gaming is not always for private consumption. It can enhance social experiences by being virtually present at the very location where consumer groups happen to be and even direct purchasing and behavioral patterns.

Consumer response: "Everyone with me has a phone, give us virtual challenges that we can access with what's around."

Example: Buffalo Wild Wings & Scvngr

7. Digital Out-of-Home Gaming

In March of this year, the CEO of billboard advertising company Clear Channel International said, "Ninety percent of outdoor advertising will be delivered digitally by 2020." This means you'll see fewer breakfast menu items advertised during dinner hours as content becomes more relevant. In addition, these digital screens placed in such places as coffee shops, airports, cars and by highways will allow for public game play.

Example: McDonald's "Pick n Play"

What other ways can you think of to enter the mobile gaming world and how could Tag be used to help implement that? Let us know with your comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Recent Comments
  • Kate Morris

    09/13/2011 , 10:13 AM
    Love the angry birds twilight saga video. Thanks!
  • Mike Matthews

    09/14/2011 , 9:13 PM
    Agreed Kate! With over 10M downloads in the first 10 days it shows that as long as you don't interrupt consumer game-play, they're OK with it. Last I checked there's 450K apps just in the iTunes store. If you sell flea killers, I guarantee there's a fun game out there of flea's dying that you could skin with your brand. Thanks for reading! @mobilematthews


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