Emily Stonham
5th November 2018 - 10 mins read
W

hat better way to mark Bonfire Night than to ‘remember, remember’ some digital marketing and advertising stories which went up in smoke this year?

We’ve picked five of the most spectacularly misjudged efforts from 2018.

Some of them are simply ridiculous, others are just offensively tone-deaf.

 

Mastercard Football Tweets

Starting off with a social media campaign that it’s hard to believe ever got approved, cast your minds back to May. Mastercard announced a two-year campaign on its Twitter feed that offered to donate the equivalent of 10,000 meals to the World Food Program.

It sounded nice in principle, until the next part of the paragraph which stated that the meals would only be donated if footballers Messi or Naymar scored a goal.

Understandably, people were outraged online. Why should the starvation and malnourishment of children be left down to a glorified game of fetch? (Sorry football fans - Ed)

There were surely good intentions behind this campaign, but the stunt did nothing but wind up social media users and paint Mastercard in a bad light.

If an organisation has the ability to donate such large amounts of money, it seems like a better idea would be to donate the money rather than publicly flaunt it online for the sake of a football match and a bit of misplaced PR.

 

IHOP/IHOb Name Switch

In June, the American brand IHOP (International House of Pancakes) announced to its distraught followers that they were changing their name to ‘IHOb’ and invited everyone to guess what the ‘b’ stood for.

It caused a lot of dismay with its audience, and earned them a lot of sassiness from other brands.

This stunt seems to have been a lot more trouble than it was worth. After a month or so of IHOb drama and many ‘b’ related tweets, the company announced that the ‘b’ stood for burgers.

I think Mashable put it best when they called the stunt ‘thoroughly underwhelming’. A brand’s name is a huge part of its identity, and the month long change doesn’t seem to have had the desired results for IHOP.

H&M Sweater

Moving on to a social media crisis that should really have been anticipated, H&M found itself in hot water due to one of its clothing adverts. The image depicted a black child wearing a sweater that said ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’.

 

Social media users were immediately enraged - citing the fact that the other white models were wearing different sweaters, and questioning how this photo got approved by an entire team.

This particular controversy caused a lot of debate. Some people immediately declared this a racist act, with celebrities such as The Weeknd publicly breaking any ties that they had with the company. Consumers boycotted the brand, and stores were even faced with vandalism in response to the advert.

 

Here's a video of the protesters destroying a store, via EuroNews on YouTube.

 

However, some determined that this was not at all a racist act, including the boys own family, who said that it did ‘not ring alarm bells’ and they didn’t deem it offensive. Other social media users defended the company’s actions, questioning whether a large company would have deliberately tried to offend people in this manner.

 

Heineken Light Beer

Continuing the theme of unintentional offensive advertising campaigns, this particular one had critics wondering whether Heineken had deliberately created a racist advert in order to attract more attention.

The advert in question is for their light beer, and features a bartender sliding a beer bottle down the bar. It passes several black people, and ends up being picked up by a light skinned woman - with the tagline ‘sometimes, lighter is better.’

People were fuming. The ad suggests a preference for light skin, and the tagline comes across in a horribly offensive way.

Chance the Rapper, a popular musician, branded the advert as ‘terribly racist’ on social media. He also opened up an interesting discussion about whether brands were deliberately using racist imagery or offensive slogans to gain more media coverage.

Shortly after, the advert was pulled, and Heineken issued an apology, announcing that they ‘missed the mark’ with this advert.

 

Snapchat Rihanna Advert

The final example we have today is an advert that caused a lot of distress and outrage online.

For those who may not know, the singer Rihanna was a domestic abuse victim at the hands of her ex-partner Chris Brown. The case is understandably something that Rihanna has tried to distance herself from.

It’s therefore a shock that Snapchat would allow a game to promote this advert on its ‘story’ feature.

The advert was for a ‘would you rather’ styled game, and presented the option to slap Rihanna or punch Chris. Social media users called it ‘tone deaf’ and ‘awful’.

As one user pointed out on Twitter, adverts on social media have to go through an approval process. This means that multiple people looked at this advert, thought about it and said to themselves ‘yes, this is fine.

Rihanna herself condemned this advert, wiping over £700m off of Snapchat’s parent company's value in the process. She discussed the ad on an Instagram story, saying it was ‘intentionally shaming domestic abuse victims’.

 

Snapchat immediately pulled the advert and issued an apology, saying it had been put up in error, but it seems the harm had already been done. Countless people were upset by the fact this advert had ever been created in the first place, regardless of Snapchat’s insistence that it was a mistake.

 

Overall

Overall, there’s been some pretty poor advertising and marketing mistakes this year. From the ‘simply underwhelming’ to the ‘disgustingly offensive’, there hasn’t been a shortage of questionable campaigns to learn from.

So, what can your business learn from these examples in particular?

Firstly, and I know it sounds obvious, but consider carefully how people will react to your campaign. This is especially important if it features something sensitive, e.g. poverty, discrimination or politics.

For example, there were undoubtedly good intentions somewhere in the Mastercard football campaign, but the delivery and perception of it online led to it being seen as something twisted and ugly.

Using crowd feedback to gauge responses on topics like charity can be a great way to prevent things like this happening. Try tools like Instagram or Twitter polls, or encourage users to submit questions or statements - perhaps which charity they’d like your business to support.

Another important consideration is how social media will impact your campaign. I’m sure that the H&M photo didn’t seem like a huge issue at the time to the photographers and creatives, but once social media users got hold of it, the story took on a different turn.

Consider how your campaign will look out of context. Does it still make sense? One of Dove’s ads from 2017 shows the importance of considering context more carefully. A sequence of 4 photos were taken out of the whole advert, and they spread like wildfire.

Here’s the sequence of 4 photos.

 

And here’s the full advert, from Business Insider's channel on YouTube.

The set of four photos looks to be implying that dark skin is dirty and that white skin is pure. It’s crucial to make sure that your advert can’t be taken out of context and be given a whole new meaning.

The final thing to consider is using humour. It might be hilarious to you and your team, but jokes in marketing and advertising can often be lost in translation, especially if it’s dark/offensive humour. If you’re not sure, it’s best to leave it alone.

What’s the worst example of marketing or advertising that you’ve seen this year? Feel free to let us know on our Twitter at @37agency.

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, informative and shareable so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

Pixel perfect- 4 brilliant examples of games being used in marketing

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.

 

Adam Fisher
6th July 2018 - 3 mins read

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

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