According to facebook.log.com in February of 2010, 80 million people around the world tended their virtual crops on FarmVille, making sure not to neglect their artichokes and tomatoes. By October that number was down just under 54 million virtual farmers. And that’s not the only social game that’s taken a hit. Zynga, the maker of FarmVille and other popular social games like Frontierville, has seen a drop in its other games.
Does that mean social gaming is on the decline? Hardly. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry with Zynga being worth more than $4 billion.
Furthermore, in a recent report from the NPD Group, 56 million Americans play social games,10% of them have spent real money while playing and 11% indicate they are likely to make purchases.
With those kinds of numbers and that kind of monetary conversion rate, digital marketers would be foolish not to consider promoting their brands through those games.
Think Real World in a Virtual One
Many have already read about the Cascadian Farm blueberries that were promoted in FarmVille. When faced with growing a generic vs. branded plant, more than 500 million chose Cascadian over something else. According to Zynga, unaided brand awareness increased 550% as a result.
- The lesson here is that if you can get your brand involved in the game itself, you will harvest a bountiful crop of brand awareness.
Crossing Between the Virtual and Real Boundaries
7-Eleven offered Farmville, Mafia Wars and YoVille-branded products that unlocked virtual 7-Eleven branded items in those games. According to Mashable the branded ice cream surpassed the brand’s sales forecast within the first week and more than 3 million codes were redeemed.
- The lesson here is that cross promotion works in the real world (we all know that) as well as in the virtual one.
Behind Every Virtual Farmer is a Real Player
When Bing advertised in FarmVille, it offered virtual currency. The result was 400,000 Facebook fans in one day. It followed up with those new fans with updates suggesting that FarmVille fans try using Bing to get the most out of their crops and animals. That resulted in 20,000 click throughs.
- The lesson here is that the same rules that apply in marketing in the real world apply in virtual game worlds – relevance and value still engage consumers.
Trials in the Virtual World Can Lead to Sales in the Real One
Farmers Insurance offered virtual crop insurance (known as ‘wither protection’ for crops) for free for 10 days for FarmVille users. Knowing how people can get involved in their virtual games, you have to believe that those who took advantage of the insurance thought better of Farmers Insurance, and who knows how that might translate down the road when those people are considering their next auto insurance carrier.
- The lesson here is that creating brand allegiance in any form pays off.
Are there any social gamers out there who would like to add insight into advertising in social games? What promotions did you react to –favorably or unfavorably?