Emily Stonham
13th February 2019 - 9 mins read
G

amification is defined by the dictionary as ‘the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (such as a task) so as to encourage participation’. Using games in marketing can therefore be taken literally, with interactive games or apps to promote a service, or in a more abstract way, through gamification.  

Using gaming in your marketing is a fantastic way to tap into people’s natural instincts to compete and win. Psychologically speaking, most humans have an innate desire to compete. Of course, there’s plenty of people who like to just hug it out, but competition seems to be firmly rooted in our brains.

In this blog, we’re looking at everything from alternate reality games to YouTube gaming channels. I’ve collected four of my favourite examples of marketing games and gamified marketing campaigns to help inspire your next marketing move, take a look.

 

Halo 2- I love bees

The first thing that I thought of when researching for this blog post is Halo’s fantastic alternate reality game I Love Bees. This revolutionary game was not the first ARG, but it opened up a new path for creative marketing, and has led to many other innovative games since.

 

 

This game was designed to promote Halo 2, and started off with two key pieces of content. A website link to ilovebees.co was hidden in the Halo 2 cinematic trailer, and some previous ARG players received jars of honey in the post. These two events weren’t connected publicly for a while, but curiosity eventually got the better of players, who started exploring the website listed.

The website, which appeared to have originally been a beekeeping website, was covered in confusing snippets of text and code- almost as if it had been hacked (hint hint). The apparent owner of the site, Dana, posted a blog stating that her website had been compromised. Fans started to realise that this was something that could be solved, and began to work on unravelling the clues.

The premise of the game involved global co-operation between players, with practically no guidance. The players received times and GPS codes, which eventually led them to work out that they needed to go to specific payphones across the world at particular times to answer calls. Some calls were pre-recorded, others were ran by live operators which added another level to the immense detail of this ARG.

Other players worked on the website code, deciphering hidden messages that led to audio files being found that revealed a complete audio drama with the story of the game. The game increased in complexity as time went on, with players being emailed, phoned and invited to real character meetings. It all ended up with players being invited to one of four cinemas, where they could play Halo 2 before the release and get a collectible DVD.

The incredible detail and complexity of this game led to dedicated fans going above and beyond to win. One fan stayed to receive a phone call at one of the payphones whilst Hurricane Frances was merely minutes away from reaching them. I would call it a successful marketing game if players are willing to brave a hurricane, wouldn’t you?

The main thing to take away from this example is that people love games. Obviously, hosting a full scale ARG may not be the best business move, depending on your company. They require a ridiculous amount of planning and funding, and a customer base who’s going to actively engage with an interactive piece of content.

If you do have all of these things, though? Go for it. ARGs are amazing. I’d recommend listening to the podcast Rabbits- it’s one of the best pieces of fiction that I’ve ever listened to, and actually what kick-started my personal interest in ARGs in the first place.

 

UpUpDownDown

This next example is less about gamification, and more about actual video games being used for marketing. Arguably, this isn’t even a deliberate marketing move- but it’s had an amazing impact from a business perspective regardless.

UpUpDownDown is a gaming YouTube channel, run by Austin Creed. Austin Creed, more commonly known as Xavier Woods, is a member of the WWE tag team The New Day. This channel is hosted by Austin, and features a whole host of other WWE stars in every video. The channel is very successful (1.7M subscribers, at the time of writing) and I’m personally a big fan of the content that they produce.

The thing that intrigues me with this is how easily it slots into WWE’s marketing strategy. There’s the obvious benefits of it being a successful channel with a large audience- merchandise, brand deals and brand awareness for WWE. It also provides a more unique form of content for WWE fans, and can subtly encourage more hype around upcoming events, simply by mentioning it in a video.

The channel even has an impact on the TV show itself- The New Day have a set of ring gear (wrestling clothes) which is themed around UpUpDownDown.

When the channel was first created, it didn’t seem to fit WWE’s image so much. Obviously, it’s a project of Austin’s, but I believe the channel does benefit WWE in quite a few ways. There’s been collaborations with one of WWE’s own side channels, for example. Did it really match the theme of a wrestling company to be associated with a video gaming channel? Apparently so.

The lesson to learn from this marketing move is it’s important  to step outside of your comfort zone, every once in a while. Obviously, consider your actions and consider how your audience will perceive them (maybe don’t work with a pizza company if you’re a health food promoter). But do experiment with new platforms and forms of content, to keep your audience on their toes.

 

McDonald’s Monopoly

This is one of the most well-known examples of gamification in marketing, and it’s been around since 1987.The premise is simple- it’s basically fast food monopoly. Players collect tokens with their food purchases, and trade them in for prizes. These prizes can range from free food, all the way up to huge cash prizes.

The prizes for this game are so good, in fact, that there was a huge scandal involving fraud back in 2001. An employee figured out how to cheat the system, and ended up scamming ridiculous amounts of money out of McDonald’s. He ended up with a three year jail sentence, and 50 other people were convicted. Personally, I think I’d rather stick with the free dessert as a prize rather than a jail sentence, but each to their own.

In all seriousness, the longevity of this campaign shows how successful it is. The game encourages repeat business in a short amount of time, and successfully uses both print and digital to drive up hype around the campaign. I’ve even been sucked into this game before at my previous job, where the staff would band together and collect tokens as an entire team. I don’t even eat at McDonald’s regularly, I just wanted to play the game.

That’s the key takeaway from this campaign. If you’re going to use games or gamification, it needs to be simple and fun. If you can’t give a 30 second elevator pitch for the game you want your customers to play, it may be too complex and time consuming to drive any good levels of engagement. Keep it simple and fun, and try to avoid getting scammed for $24 million too.

 

Volkswagen Fun Theory

This final example is iconic in the gamification industry. Volkswagen created the Fun Theory campaign, to show how people’s behaviour could be influenced by adding an element of fun to a mundane task. This is one of my absolute favourites, as all the projects had a great impact on the environment, as well as being interesting from a psychological point of view.

There were numerous projects in the Fun Theory- my favourites being the piano stairs, the 50 foot drop bin and the bottle bin arcade. These were simple yet brilliant ideas, turning boring acts like walking up the stairs or recycling into something fun.

 

 

 

By turning the stairs into a working piano, a large majority of people took the stairs over using the escalator. The 50 foot drop bin and the arcade bin encouraged more people to recycle and pick up their rubbish. The positive effects of this campaign were amazing, and just go to show that gamification can have real impacts on the world.

The main lesson to learn from this campaign is that, generally speaking, people like to play. Gamification offers excitement and competition where there might not originally be any. If you’ve got a product that could stereotypically be considered quite dry or dull, using games in your marketing strategy could be a wonderful way to create excitement about your brand.

 

Overall

Overall, it’s worth your while adding an element of gaming into your marketing strategy. But how should you go about doing this?

If you’ve got the resources to do an ARG- go for it. They’re brilliant for engagement and brand loyalty, and are a great way to attract media coverage too. 

Try to step out of your comfort zone, too. If you always do the same thing over and over, people won’t keep coming back to your content as they’ll know what’s going to happen next. Surprise them. Launch a scavenger hunt, or release a mobile app. Maybe try using an online quiz, if you’re not sure about how to get started with gaming.

Remember to keep it simple and entertaining. If you have to spend more than 30 seconds explaining it, the novelty is gone and you won’t get very high levels of engagement. Add a points system to your game so people don’t have to track it themselves, or only ask people five questions instead of 50 in a quiz. Loyalty cards are another simple and popular way to add gamification into your marketing content as well.

If you’re still not sure about using games in your marketing content, or don’t know where to get started, get in touch with Thirty Seven today. We offer interactive game design services, and also other useful content creation services for gamification like contest or survey design. We’d be delighted to help with your marketing strategy and content creation, get in touch today at hello@thirtyseven.agency or 0118 380 0975.

 

Marketing

Content should be more than just marketing

Tom Idle 29th March 2018 — 8 mins read

I couldn’t bear to sit around on the sidelines any longer while some agencies just messed things up,” is how James puts it when I ask why he’s decided to venture into the world of content marketing.

In his six years as MD of Media First, James and his team have been asked more and more to help with different communications challenges – to present better, to deliver more impactful messages, to shoot and edit film, to hone communications. “We’ve been naturally moving towards helping with content marketing over the years. Now, with Thirty Seven we will get to help our amazing clients in a much more involved way.”

James is joined by Mark, an ex-Microsoft application development consultant, who has been running his own content and design agency for the last five years. Having worked together enhancing Media First’s own content marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) performance, the pair decided to team up.

“We’ve built a loyal following and I enjoy knowing that what we are producing is worthwhile and entertaining,” adds James. “I knew that, so long as we kept enjoying the creative process and stayed true to our journalist-led concepts of always putting the audience first, then there was a good chance that people would continue to enjoy reading, watching and listening to the content we were making.”

Enjoying the frisson of their new business launch, the pair were keen to tell me how and why they plan to do content marketing better.

 

It seems that your decision to establish Thirty Seven was based on a belief that most content marketing is poor. What’s wrong with it? 

Mark Mars (MM): So much content is produced without any strategy behind it and the quality just isn’t there.

When it comes to SEO, there has been such a focus on creating pages that rank for certain keywords. What you often end up with is lots and lots of content which might create a decent search ranking, but the quality is so poor that visitors don’t stick around for long. Google has caught up with that and now has more quality measures in place.

James White (JW): SEO and content are still considered by some agencies to be separate pieces of work. But they need to be considered together. You don’t produce good SEO with poorly developed content; it just doesn’t work.

Also, the content marketing industry seems to be in a race to produce the most amount of stuff. Quality is coming second to quantity.

 

But clearly your customers are increasingly aware of the need to improve content quality. How have you evolved to cope with changing client needs?

MM: A hell of a lot has changed in the last five years. Back in 2014, spend in content marketing was about £125 million a year. By 2020, it is set to jump to around £350 million, so brands really understand that this is the best way to reach their audiences.

There is also more appetite from consumers to digest content in many different forms, which opens up plenty of opportunity for publishers and content creators.

But that is not to say that it is being done particularly well. About 80% of B2B marketers claim to use content marketing. But 70% of them lack a consistent or integrated content strategy—and that’s a big problem. There has been too much focus on quantity over quality.

JW: ‘Quality’ is such a generic term because it’s all subjective. You need to develop the right content, for the right audience, in the right format, at the right time and in the right place.

Brands need to think more like publishers to really get the value out of content.

 

You use journalists to deliver content for your customers. The benefits of doing that might be obvious, but what is it you’re getting from journalists that you might not get from other content creators?

JW: Well, content should be more than just marketing. It’s not just good enough these days to tell good stories. You have to educate, entertain and excite audiences. You have to give people a reason to care.

Journalists inherently get this. They know how to sniff out unique stories that make people stop, sit up and listen. My wife is a journalist and she has a great ability to be brutally honest. I could spend all day coming up with, what I think is, a great idea. I’ll go home and tell her about it and she’ll challenge me by saying something like, “Who cares? Why will your audience give a damn?”

And that’s what’s great about journalists. They can easily put themselves in somebody else’s shoes and work out how people tick. That’s why I’ve loved working with our team of journalists at Media First these past six years.

 

Back in 2014, spend in content marketing was about £125 million a year. By 2020, it is set to jump to around £350 million...

 

All of your customers will have very different needs. How do you approach each piece of work to deliver the best results?

MM: Well, you need to get into the mind of the client to find out what they want to achieve, rather than just blindly creating content. You need to help build a cohesive and coherent plan that includes not just what content you will create, but also how you are going to publish it and promote it.

JW: It’s all about meeting objectives. Is this content to raise awareness? Or is it to convert lurkers on a website into buyers?

It’s also about looking at data to find out what types of content a client’s audience wants and how it wants that delivered.

When we get into content creation mode, we work like an editorial newsroom to script, write, edit and sub-edit. That then goes through a cycle of refinements until we are happy for it to leave our office and reach the client for sign-off.

 

There’s a continuous debate about the virtues of long- versus short-form content. Which do you think is best?

MM: It’s not really about what’s better. It’s about what’s most appropriate.

We do live in a fast-paced world, but to say that nobody wants to read more than 500 words just isn’t true. Long-form content has always received more shares and links than shorter pieces. People do appreciate the time that goes in to creating quality long-form content. And Google does too, with their algorithm generally favouring longer content.

 

So, are there rules for creating great content that you stick to?

JW: We like to use the simple TRUTH test – that the content is Topical, Relevant, Unusual, Trouble (solves, raises awareness of or discusses) and importantly, contains Human interest.

But it has to be delivered in the right format as well. Many people were surprised to hear that Media First and Thirty Seven have joined forces to create this magazine. Yes, it might seem a bit retro but not all audiences are the same; not everyone wants to read a blog or get their information from social media. I have a Kindle and iPad at home but still buy books, newspapers and magazines.

 

The General Data Protection Regulation is coming, giving individuals more control over how their personal data is collected and used online. What will it mean for the content marketing industry?

JW: It’s certainly something our clients need to be aware of, not least because the new regulation is so far-reaching. It will affect not just marketing but internal comms and even supplier contracts.

You can either hide under your desk and pretend it’s not happening. Or you can see it as an opportunity to be proactive.

I personally think it’s a great thing. I will have more control over my data and who markets to me. And as a content producer, I will know that we are providing our audiences with information they want.

 

So, what does the future look like for content marketing?

MM: We are drowning in content and it is getting harder to get results. The average number of shares of any content has been steadily falling over the last few years. So the whole practice does need to evolve.

That means content marketers need to be a lot more strategic about the type of content they create, backed by better research. And instead of asking inexperienced or new writers to churn out low-quality pages of blogs for long-tail keyword targeting, content teams will be comprised of creative designers, developers, AI experts, videographers, as well as plenty of experienced writers and journalists too.

JW: We also know that it’s going to be important to work closely with our customers’ teams. I hate the concept of a full-service marketing agency, where everything is outsourced. I hate to see comms teams dwindling in size. We want to support our customers to retain in-house teams because we’ve seen just how important they are during the last 35 years working with Media First.

 

What’s with the name, Thirty Seven? How did you come up with that?

MM: Well, if you ask somebody to pick a random number between zero and 100, a disproportionate number of people will choose the number 37. The more you delve into the number – the fact that it appears more regularly than any other number in films, for example – you realise just how special it is. It’s attractive and we’re in the attraction game, so it made sense.

 

What’s it like working with each other? Do you always get on or are there things you disagree on?

MM: We’re very similar. We’re both ambitious and want to succeed.

But our work lives have been very different so we have different ideas about how things should be achieved.

JW: Sure, sometimes Mark and I approach things from a different angle. Occasionally this leads to disagreements. But we complement each other. If we were both the same, we wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as a team.

Ultimately, we both want to deliver projects that excite and motivate us. That’s the reason we get out of bed in the morning; not to just earn money to pay the mortgage. It’s about more than that.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper. 

James White
5th June 2020 - 4 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.