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

Writing skills you can steal from journalists

Adam Fisher 14th January 2019 — 6 mins read
B

ut it is not just those in content marketing who face the pressure of having to write quality content on demand.

Journalists have to create attention grabbing-content every day.

So what skills can we steal from them to make our content better?

 

Keep it simple

One of the lessons I learned as a young journalist which really stuck with me was the need to keep my writing simple.

Good newspaper articles are concise, contain simple language and use basic sentence structures.

The simpler an article is to read the more people will be able to understand what it is saying. The average reading age of the UK population is generally considered to be around nine years.

And this is pertinent to content marketing.

All too often organisations inadvertently opt for content which creates barriers to comprehension and detracts from the message.

Let’s take something I saw from Lloyds Banks just before I settled down to write this blog. It was a quote in a document from chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio.

It said: “Our differentiated, customer focussed business model continues to deliver with our multi brand, multi-channel approach, cost leadership, low risk positioning, investment capacity and execution capabilities positioning us well for sustainable success in a digital world.”

There is so much about that sentence I don’t like. But the key issue is that no matter how often I read it, it does not make sense. And that is a real problem. If people don’t understand the content you produce they won’t stick with it.

So lose the big words, keep the sentences tight.

 

Write how you talk

This follows on quite nicely from the importance of keeping writing simple, because one of the best ways to do that is to focus on using the same language you use when you speak.

If I’m struggling to write something I think about how I would say it.

The other benefit of this approach is that it creates a chatty, informal style and natural flow – something journalists strive for in their stories.

To help achieve this, grammar rules sometimes go out of the window. For example, sentences can often start with ‘and’.

 

Research

In many cases, for journalists, the writing is actually the shortest part of the process of putting a story together.

Reporters spend lots of time gathering, looking at and assessing the validity of information in search of a story. This could be sourcing facts and figures, studying data and interviewing experts.

The more research you put into your content the more it will tell your readers things they don’t already know.

And that is a crucial way of ensuring it will stand out from all the other content which is available. 

 

Interview

Here’s a question. How many blogs do you see which include comments from a real person? How many newspaper stories do you see that don’t feature people?

One of the key differences between content and newspaper stories is that the stories always feature people.

And people are predominantly brought into stories through interviews.

Whether it is people in your own organisation or key influencers in the sector, getting the views, opinions and personalities of other people into your content can offer your readers something strong and different, as well as breathe life and add fresh impetus into existing content ideas.

A journalist’s contacts book is something they rely on heavily. Look through your contacts and consider who you could interview for your content.

You can find out more about using interviews in your content in this earlier blog.

 

Human

The way we consume stories and content has changed. Newspaper sales are in decline and people increasingly rely on social media and the internet to find out what is going on in the world.

But despite this evolution there is a constant – people still want stories about other people.

Human interest stories remain as powerful as ever, which is why ‘how does this affect people?’ is still the phrase you will hear most often in a newsroom.

And it is a key in producing content which draws in readers and keeps them engaged.

 

Inverted pyramid

The inverted pyramid is a writing model used by journalists to show how stories should be structured so that they get the most attention.

Essentially it shows that the most newsworthy part should be at the beginning. So; who, what, where, when, why and how are the questions journalists will look to answer in their opening paragraphs.

The next stage of the inverted pyramid structure is the important details and supporting information, including quotes and statistics. And the pyramid base is the general and background information.

The beauty of this structure is its simplicity which ensures stories are easy to follow for readers. If people can’t follow what you are writing then they quickly lose interest.

The only change to this structure for a content marketing point of view is that the last part of the pyramid should include some form of a call to action.

 

Focus on what’s new

If you consider what makes something newsworthy, then timeliness or topicality would be one of the crucial components.

We want to know the latest news and the latest trends. We are not interested in a rehash of something we already know.

So, look to bring your readers something new. Perhaps some new insight or a new way of looking at things. Or look to use topics that people are currently talking about to show how your product or service could have made a difference.

 

Thesaurus

A thesaurus can be a valuable tool for a journalist, but it’s one that comes with a note of caution.

A good reporter will use it to avoid annoying repetition in their writing, by finding alternative words.

But it is crucial it is not used to find more complicated words to make your writing appear more intelligent.

As a content marketer you are writing to inform and generate interest. But that will not happen if the audience does not understand the words you use.

 

Edit

Always ask yourself whether you could say the same thing in your writing without using as many words.

Journalists look to make their copy as tight as possible and similarly, you should look to edit your own content without fear.

This doesn’t mean you should always produce short-form content. It is about ensuring the words you use are the most effective. For example, the word ‘very’ often isn’t needed. ‘Many’ is tighter than ‘a lot of’.

I don’t think I have ever seen a journalist read their writing aloud in the newsroom, but if you can find somewhere quiet this is a good tip. If you find yourself falling over your words and struggling for breath then you need to simplify and rework your sentences. 

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 a podcast or email marketing.

Aimee Hudson
3rd October 2017 - 8 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.